There is a certain type of storytelling in music that I find beautiful but hard to describe. Songs like Terrible Things by Mayday Parade, or Don’t Take the Girl by Tim McGraw. Poetry from Levi the Poet or Shane Koyczan. Even something less dramatic and more ridiculous like 6969 by Ninja Sex Party. Despite the differences in style and content, what these works have in common is the ability to tell powerful stories that span long periods of time and several events in a high-level, summarized, but still relatable way.
When done right, I find that seeing the most important moments of a character’s existence can be just as powerful as experiencing them in media res. But there is a trick to doing that right, I think. What that trick is, I don’t know. This story is my attempt at figuring that out.
What I wanted to show was the long arc of a relationship that society doesn’t approve of. There are lots of stories about forbidden relationships, whether because of race, status, family feuds, or something else. Even human-synthetic relationships aren’t new ground. Identifying those moments that were most important to a long-term relationship between man and machine was my spin, and what I was most interested in.
The challenge was choosing the right moments to summarize the pain, internal and external, of their relationship. When they met, how they fell in love, the trials they both faced in continuing forward despite all logic, the inevitabilities, and the denouement.
From a purely writing perspective, I needed to keep forward momentum and active language to hopefully make the reader forget they’re reading what is essentially a summary of a full arc.
I like the story. I think it’s an interesting snapshot of a unique relationship. It touches on themes of discrimination, language, biology, and the weird habit people have of ascribing feelings and emotions to inanimate things.
Behind the Photo
This was a really difficult image to conceive and photograph. How do you visualize an android that’s indistinguishable from a person, let alone the love that android has with a human? Searching Creative Commons and WikiMedia didn’t turn up anything I really liked, so I knew I’d have to create the image myself.
First, I considered doing a close-up of hands, with the android hand made up to look like a wire was beneath the skin. Unfortunately, I’ve never once used makeup to do anything, let alone a complicated blend. Then, with inspiration from the American remake of HUMANS (specifically this key art), I decided to photograph my wife. She agreed to help (I’ll write about this eventually, but being a creative would be impossible without her support) and do her own makeup. I told her how I thought she should look and what to wear, and she went off to remake herself while I set-up the shot.
We don’t have any professional lighting (or even a professional camera–I take all photos featured on this site with a Google Pixel 3 XL), so I knew I’d have to keep it as simple as possible. I figured we’d shoot a close-up against a black background, with some sort of key light reflecting in her pupils to mimic an internal light source (think TERMINATOR, but not red).
Once I started setting up the shoot, though, I realized that doesn’t hit the domestic themes that are the centerpiece of the actual story. Instead, the shoot would have to be more complicated. Pulling in lights from other rooms, tearing up shirts and cutting cardboard to make diffusers and flags, I had to get creative in order to create the look I wanted.
From there, it was a matter of taking the right photo. We took several, with my inexperience directing and my wife’s perfectionism causing us to try different angles and set-ups. For example, to add contrast behind my wife’s robotic-ness, we thought having one of our cats in the photo would be fun. Of course, cats aren’t the most professional models.
In the end, I chose to use the very first photo we took. It’s not perfect, but every time I came back to it I liked it more. I think the framing is right, the lighting is good, my wife’s expression appropriate for the character, and the overall tone of the photo what I had hoped to capture.
While the shoot was actually somewhat stressful, it was also a lot of fun. I think it’s inspired us to experiment a bit more and upgrade some of our equipment. We both love photography and this blog is a great excuse to invest in it.