I can’t really point to a reason for this neurosis: There’s the once-natural smile, held too long; being at the mercy of a once-enthusiastic and creative soul reduced to crutches of standard poses against unimaginative backdrops; the once-hidden moment that is now forever captured. At some level, it’s the blunted truth captured by a mechanical eye. I am the subject which becomes the object.
I also have a pathological distrust of photographers and a deep-seated dread of cameras: photographers are evil and cameras are the work of a malevolent being.
In other words, I simply don’t photograph well.
In many pictures I look like an Ewok with thyroid issues as drawn by James Gillray. Other times I look like a maniacal motivational speaker who specialises in presenting to sadistic dentists and their overly Botoxed, gold-lamé sandal wearing assistants who own their own tanning beds.
That ain't pretty. Not that I do pretty.
My recent need for a head shot was met my usual apoplexy: knotted stomach, quickened breath and more than a touch of “just let me do a line drawing likeness of myself and be done with it.”
After meeting Jay, I could see why my best friend recommended him. He captured gorgeous, light-filled natural images that radiated her personality. His online portfolio drew me in with snaps of spirited moments, thoughtful compositions and unrehearsed expression. Our pre-shoot meeting confirmed my initial impressions of him formed from those images: approachable, perceptive and receptive.
Truth be told I think he got more than he reckoned…Others would have stared blankly or nonchalantly (or not so nonchalantly) looked for the exit as my tongue unfurled non-profane bluntness and free-wheeling adjectives and adverbs. Him? He rolled his eyes several times with an impish grin and, unlike others, he very deftly handled my pronouncements, concerns and meandering tales while reassuring me and talking through the nuts and bolts of the photo shoot—duration, colours and apart from lippy, no make up.
The session itself was very unlike other photo sessions I’ve done. Those were mechanical and processed. This was like spending the afternoon with an old friend…except, of course, for the honkin' huge camera, massive light reflector and the occasional crowd that gathered to see what was so special about this short chick in pink that she had an incredibly tall stalker photographing her every step.
The shutter clicked more than 200 times, but it didn’t feel like it.
There were more than two dozen useable images. Heck, there were more than dozen good images. From those, these two were chosen, each imparting a different facet of my personality:
According to my friend Gin, I can no longer claim to not photograph well.
Begrudgingly...I think she’s right.
Quite honestly, I think Jay is the reason there were so many good images. It goes beyond the facts that he has a good eye, understands light, composition and movement. It’s because he made me feel comfortable and forget that I was being stalked by an incredibly tall man with a soul-stealing camera.
Good gravy. That’s a revelation on par with Herschel’s discovery of Uranus.
Seriously. It’s THAT big.
And it must be noted.
What appeared from my kitchen was this peach upside down cake, inspired by Ontario’s August peaches. I gave it to him when I selected the images. It wasn't a total surprise as I emailed quesitons about allergies and preferences. But he and his family appreciated this small bit of thanks, asking for the recipe. And that, to me, is all I could ask for.
This cake is the progeny of several different recipes (but my main inspirations were recipes by Rose Murray, as blogged by Charmian, and Canadian Living). It’s deceptive in that it looks as if it should be treacly, but it’s not. The caramel is light and tamed by a pinch of salt; it melts with the peach juices into the cakes soft crumb. If you’re in midwinter and can’t get in-season fruit, drained, canned peaches work just as well and is a delicious way of bringing back summer in the midst of dark and cold days.
Peach-Almond Upside Down Cake
Yield: one 20cm/8" cake
For the topping:
100g (0.5c) brown sugar
45g (3Tbsp) butter, melted
4-5 peaches, peeled, sliced into 0.5cm wedges
For the cake
90g (6.5Tbsp) butter
2dspn (1.5Tbsp) flavourless oil
120g (0.66c) sugar
1tsp almond extract
1tsp, rounded baking powder
0.75tsp bicarbonate of soda
130g (1c) cake flour
125ml (0.5c) milk/cream
125ml (0.5c) vanilla yoghurt
A handful of toasted almond flakes
Preheat oven to 170C/350F. Butter a 20cm/8" springform pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment. Wrap the tin's outside in tin foil to keep the caramel from leaking (and burning) in your oven. Line a baking sheet with tin foil as well. Set aside.
Sift together the baking powder, bicarb, flour and a quarter teaspoon of salt and set aside. Mix together the milk and yoghurt; set that aside too.
Melt brown sugar, 45g butter and a pinch of salt until bubbly. Pour into the prepared pan. Place the peach slices in the caramel in whatever configuration you wish. Set the tin on the lined baking sheet and set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the oil. Add the eggs one at time, beating well between each addition. Pour in the almond extract and mix again. Scrape down the bowl's sides with a rubber spatula.
Add the flour mixture and yoghurty milk mixture in the usual alternating way: flour-milk-flour-milk-flour--scraping down the sides between additions. Give the mixture a gentle turn with the spatula before turning the batter into the prepared, carameled and peached pan. Evenly spread the batter before popping it into the preheated oven. Depending upon your kitchen's temperament, bake for 45-60 minutes. When done, an inserted skewer will come out clean-ish, with a few crumbs adhering to the stick, the cake will spring back to the touch and pull away from tin's sides. It will be a golden tawny colour.
Let cool for at least an hour before unclipping the sides. Invert onto a cake plate, so the peachy bottom is on top. It's easiest to remove the parchment round while the cake is still warm, to preserve the loveliness of the peach pattern.
Strew with toasted almonds and serve the cake warm with or without ice cream or whipped cream.