Sixteen years ago, if you’d told me that one day I’d be under studio lights with Chris Somos asking me to ‘hold that pose, yeah, just like that’ from behind a camera, my puberty might’ve become a fair bit more confusing than it already was.
But it happened. There’s proof. One surprisingly cold night in October of 2015, I found myself having a surprisingly good time in a photo shoot with one of my oldest, dearest, and surprising friends.
We were at Studio Cozy, right down the street from where I used to live in the Junction; a near-literal trip down Memory Lane. Chris harangued me for ages to commit to a time and date until he wore me down with guilt and the promise of beers afterward. In all honesty, it was only the constant constraints on my time that needed wearing down. A beer with Chris Somos is nearly always worth it.
As it happens, I was available. I had spent the past month discovering new ends of candles to burn while I scrambled to assemble a huge amount of material. I had just come back from Michigan a day or two before, a very successful meeting with Palladium Books and said mountain of material which resulted in some writing and editing work, and my plate was as empty as it was going to get. This is relevant because it was sixteen years ago, shortly after I met Chris, that he handed me a dog-eared copy of the original Rifts Main Book and asked me which character I’d like to play. Of the almost-two-decades I’ve known him, the span of time in which role-playing games has not been among our subjects of conversation can be measured in months at most – maybe days.
I asked a lot of questions during the shoot, mostly about what he was doing with lighting, what sort of techniques he had been developing or wanted to practice. In return for my ‘sacrifice’ as an object of attention for a few hours (oh, stop twisting my arm, please) I would walk out with a fresh round of pictures for my various social media accounts (one of which is, at the time of this writing, right here on this blog). Chris would get some practice from a low-stakes shoot for a low-rent artist’s headshots. What we both got out of it was quite a bit more than that.
It was a joy to watch him work. I’m curious by nature, and he didn’t mind answering questions. Chris photographs like he does everything else – with a blend of exacting technical precision and artistic flair, what you might call swagger if you breathe through your mouth. I’ve seen him play saxophone, negotiate, paint, and do calculus in the same fashion. It’s one of the reasons it’s easy to stay on as his friend despite the time between visits, as your lives diverge.
You might say that I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for Chris Somos. Yes, I’m sure the reverse is true, and spread out amongst all our social connections none of us are who we are by ourselves. Whatever. But where I am in my life right now, for better or for worse I owe some of that to him. More than most people, anyway.
So we talked about being kids. About playing Rifts, growing up, where we are now. Not rose-coloured nostalgia; we’re both disillusioned millennials, after all. But we’ve both stuck to things that are paying off and watching new worlds open up in our futures. It’s an exciting time for both of us. Later, by the time we were drunk, that rose colour descended on us along with a pack of friendly but pushy Russians. But I’ll remember our initial conversation under those lights for years to come.
Chris was right – it was about time that I got some new photos taken. And he knew how to get me there, too. At one point during the shoot, he said he’d been waiting for this because he knew I was the kind of narcissist that wouldn’t be shy about flaunting for the camera. Of course, he also knows that I’m the kind of narcissist that would enjoy hearing something like that, so who knows what he was plotting. But it makes a difference – already I’m noticing more views and a positive increase in responses. So, if you’re banking on the complete vapid shallowness of our society to hawk your wares: get a new headshot.
Listen, that’s the closest you’re going to get to a moral of the story. Just be glad I didn’t talk about what happened after the lights made my clothes way too hot and he gave me the drink that made my head feel funny.
In case you missed it above or were just waiting until you finished this post before you clicked it, here’s a link to Chris’s blog. Here’s his Flickr. Here’s his Twitter. He’s one of my favourite humans.