Last month I photographed Cynthia. Among the internet veterans perhaps better known as Miss Lipgloss, but nowadays blogging under the name Cynthia.nl, because we’re all not 15 anymore, and that sticky substance your hair got caught in is more than welcome to stay in the 00’s. So, Cynthia. A surprising development for some, because eh, you didn’t like each other much, did you?
Blogs and forums
Cynthia and I were talking about it, on a bench in front of the Starbucks in Shinjuku Gyoen National Park. It was all so long ago that we didn’t even remember what exactly was going on. Cynthia remembered something about the Viva 400 awards, where she already knew she would win but wasn’t allowed to say anything about it. I had also been nominated for the award, and I already didn’t hold out much hope that I would go home with the prize, but when, on our way out, we got a Viva magazine in our hands that included a photo shoot with all the winners, it was very clear. I spouted my frustration on my blog. Cynthia told me on that park bench that she had also found the situation very unpleasant, because Viva had put her in an impossible position here. But she didn’t dare go against such a magazine at the time, and I can understand that.
Another thing that didn’t help was my own jealousy. We both started blogging very early on, and back then it was really a small world. My ex M. also had a blog, and so “knew” Cynthia from online. But where ex M. had turned his blog into a successful book, and Cynthia was a full-time influencer, I had moved my blog to behind a password due to online and offline harassment. It felt a bit like I had missed the boat, and what could be more satisfying than bitching about others? “Hmpf, anyone can do this, right? How crappy is this! How stupid!” Ex M. (then partner M.) disagreed with me. He said he thought Cynthia was a nice girl and that she was talented at what she did. I pretty much turned green.
What Cynthia and I had long forgotten on that park bench was “credits-gate” – or I don’t remember exactly what it was called, but it must have been something like that. (Credits to Anne who reminded me.) This was an incident where I had shot images as a photographer for a make-up artist, who was then interviewed for Cynthia’s blog. The photos were posted without credits. I was not amused, as this happens to me as a professional photographer just a little too often. I requested Cynthia to fix it, but she was on vacation, so that had to wait. My frustration grew, because who will be reading that article two weeks from now? I expressed my frustration on a forum, where this “gate” was grist to the mill of the already critical group of gals who saw confirmed in this how terribly lazy and not of this world these stuck-up bloggers were, with their trips and designer shawls and “blogs anyone can write.” A tense email exchange ensued, in which Cynthia sarcastically told me to post the emails on the forum as well. Yikes.
Years later, my blog also grew into a successful book, I was satisfied with my career and knew a little more about the life of an online personality, and the misery that sometimes comes with it behind the scenes. I had become a lot milder – maybe just older, too. And then one day Blossom Books asked me if I wanted to take pictures of the team and some of the authors. One of those authors was Cynthia. “Oh shit,” I said, “I don’t think she likes me very much…”
But Cynthia was a professional, I was a professional, and except for a brief meeting at that stupid Viva event, this was the first time we had really talked to each other. And you know what? Ex M. might have been right. Cynthia is really just a nice girl, and it’s neat what she’s doing.
Shoots in Japan
We also seem to have quite a lot of overlap in how we deal with stimuli. I read her pre-Japan blog and totally understood her way of planning. I gave some more tips and suggested we meet in Japan. Missing my photography, I suggested that if she would like it, I could take some photos as well.
So one Sunday morning we walked through the normally crowded streets of Shinjuku (luckily Cynthia is a morning person, haha, really recommended if you want photos at such hot spots), to the park, and then we caught the subway to some more locations. In between, we stopped at Starbucks (and not just any Starbucks, because the pavilion in Shinjuku Gyoen is a work of art!), and walked through the city as if it were a guided tour. Cynthia shared her first impressions and I was able to explain and fill in. I enjoyed it so much!
A few weeks later, just before she left, we did another drink at Haneda Airport. We talked about her further adventures in Japan, how she loved it so much that she is going to make a mini magazine of her trip that includes my photos in it – with name credit, hooray! I told her that I might want to offer such shoots more often, so we low-key brainstormed for a bit about how I should go about it. (Meanwhile, I’ve created a page with information about shoots in Japan, you can check it out here).
Lost and found
Cynthia flew home, and a week later she posted something on Instagram about her new scarf. The cream-colored scarf was from the Acne Studios brand. She had a gray one of that before, but she had left it on the train in Japan. The gray scarf she had had for ten years – I even remember it being talked about on the forum, because the thing was ridiculously expensive and bla bla bla. Well, the thing did last ten years, but that had come to an abrupt end when the scarf had been left on a shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo.
“Oh but,” I said, “it must have been handed in, you know! Should I inquire for you?” I knew from stories that in Japan you can even retrieve your lost iPhone 15 or well-filled wallet in no time. But I had never experienced it myself. So I cast myself as a lifesaver, with only one mission: get the scarf, that iconic gray Acne scarf back to Cynthia.
I filled out a form online with Japan Rail (train number, time, item, color…), and they emailed me back just a few hours later: “We found an item matching the description!” The scarf was originally at Tokyo Station, but since it hadn’t been picked up for a week, it had been turned over to the Japanese police’s lost property office. I hopped on the train to the police station. There I showed the mail from JR and an authorization from Cynthia, then I filled out another form (Japan and paperwork…) and then, a few minutes later… THE SCARF. I will take it to Holland in three weeks, and then it will be back home.