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Friday, August 01, 2014, 5:53 p.m.
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Asking strangers instead of taking selfies

By Tammy Keith

This article was published May 18, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

Everyone’s taking selfies these days, but I prefer to ask total strangers to take my picture.

When my husband and I went to New Orleans in March for him to present a paper at a journalism conference, I took two cameras, plus my cellphone.

It was our first time in Louisiana, and I took pictures from the window as we were coming into town, right by the Superdome.

When we got to our hotel, the room was really nice, so I took pictures of it, too.

I took my smaller camera some places when I didn’t want to lug the bigger one, which is my son’s that I bought for him and have since commandeered.

When we went to lunch one day, the restaurant had great drawings of famous people, as well as the artist’s children. The waitress said a New Orleans firefighter had drawn them.

I asked her to take our picture, and we moved to a table under the drawing of Ernest Hemingway.

When I tried to explain to the waitress what I wanted, she kept interrupting, and she finally said, “Stop — I’ve got it.”

She had it, all right, plus half the ceiling, which I really didn’t want in the picture, while my husband and I were specks in the distance. I’ve never had such a strong-willed volunteer photographer in my life.

Next door in a park, I asked a handsome man to take a picture of my husband and me. He happily obliged and did a perfect job — nice framing, statue visible behind us.

He happened to be a New Orleans firefighter, but not the artist from the restaurant.

In the hotel, I wanted a photo with a piano painted with the famous blue dog, the work of George Rodrigue.

First, I took my husband’s picture. He took mine. I asked someone to take ours together, and it became a joke. I’d approach someone; he’d take the picture. I’d thank him, look at the picture and realize it wasn’t good. So I’d ask someone else after waiting for the first person to walk away.

I went through about five people, including a poor woman with an eye condition that I didn’t notice until I’d already made my request. Finally, finally, a woman from Michigan did it right.

It’s not that I didn’t appreciate all the other helpful strangers, but I didn’t want random people in the background of the photo or have it taken from 12 miles away or the blue dog on the piano to not be visible in the picture.

In Emeril Lagasse’s restaurant, I asked two different waiters to take our picture, and both did an excellent job.

On Bourbon Street, I did not know if anyone other than us was sober, so we did take a couple of selfies. My 6-foot-3 husband is better at it because his arms can go out like Stretch Armstrong to get a good angle. It’s actually one of the best photos of us from the trip.

Then, I took one of myself on a balcony in natural light when I was shopping alone. It is terrifying — the before photo on a plastic-surgery wall. It’s the last selfie I’m taking. There’s always a stranger somewhere willing to help.

I saw that a new sitcom called Selfie is coming to TV. It’s about a narcissistic girl who wants to make over her image after a public breakup goes viral. Wow. I don’t think I’ll be wasting 30 minutes on that one.

I read an article the other day that offered a tip: Stop taking so many pictures and just enjoy the moment. A study showed that when we’re snapping pictures, our brain doesn’t form detailed memories.

Just another reason to approach strangers on the street instead of doing it yourself.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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