30 March, 2006

Lens flare-up

As the days go by I'm being forced to confront more and more facets of a corporate culture I'd hitherto only read about in turgid newspaper supplements or seen made fun of on TV by Oxbridge comedians.

First it was words, and their use, or rather misuse, in the name of blarney and bluster. I'm still stumbling upon them, almost by the hour. Not only can things be "incentivised" but their seriousness can be "escalated" to a higher level or put out for "UGF" (user-generated feedback). Not only can decisions be "fast-tracked" but also "through-putted" or, if there's potential for dissent, "roundtabled". It's a syntactical free-for-all, basically, where any noun under the sun can be turned into a verb and to hell with the rules of grammar.

But today things took a different, even more unlikely turn. I had to have my photo taken, not for my ID card or anything understandable like that, but purely for the sake of having my photo taken. "We might as well do everybody, just so we've got everybody's photo," said the person "incentivised" with organising proceedings. Which is akin to saying we might as well jump off this cliff, just so this cliff has been jumped off.

So it was that I found myself being instructed to troop up to the top floor of the building to be "prepared" for the shoot. This turned out to involve a make-up lady wielding a powder puff in my general direction. I got out of there as fast as I could, with only the lightest of dustings to show for it. "Are you sure you don't want a bit more?" she rasped as I fled. No fucking chance. "It's only for the lens flare," she shouted after me, acting like I'd know what that meant (which I did) but hoping that I didn't (more fool her).

Then, caked in horrible brown powder, I had to go back to the office (the shame!) and have to wait to be called again, this time to troop all the way to the ground floor where a meeting room (right by the front entrance, of all places) had been turned into a makeshift studio replete with massive arclights and gigantic white screens.

Lurking inside was a professional photographer who made no attempt at smalltalk and lunged straight into a clearly well-honed routine.

"Sit down first. No, don't face me. Face the wall. Turn the chair so it's facing the wall. Now look at me. Don't look at the wall. But staying facing it. Face the wall and look at me. Look over your shoulder at me. Keep your body facing the wall and your face facing me. Now smile. Keep smiling. Keep smiling. Smile. It makes a difference when you smile..."

Oh, the agony. You try smiling, unnaturally, for anything longer than a few seconds, and you'll see how unbecoming and ungainly you become. You lose any trace of personality (something which these particular photographs were supposed to capture). Your mouth hurts. You feel yourself becoming more and more angry. And you're as self-conscious as you've ever been, yet there's someone shoving a camera straight up your nose.

It got worse, of course. I had to stand up and "pretend to be gesturing" at the lens. A two-fingered gesture seemed to fit the moment exactly, but I was far too polite for anything so predictable. I then had to lean on a table and hunch my shoulders, as if deep in thought. And so it went on. And on.

It all felt so absurd and humiliating. I know full well the end products of the session will never be used. And even if they are I won't tell anybody. I don't like having my photo taken at the best of times, but when it happens under such utterly pointless conditions in such completely unforgiving circumstances, whatever emerges can only be a Bad Thing. Heaven knows how much was spent hiring the make-up woman and the photographer. Heaven knows how more useful that money could have been if it were spent on furnishing our office with some decent computers.

Maybe I should incentivise myself to ask for the subject to be roundtabled so that everyone can throughput their opinion. Or maybe I could just be left to get on with my job.


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