If you’re a regular reader of Inkmusings, you know that Gary recently posted a photo of the giant “Elf” ad in New York’s Times Square. Because I’m all about meta-blogging (or, more accurately, meta-blogger-ing), I didn’t take a picture of that same ad. Instead, I took a picture of Gary taking a picture. As much as blogging about oneself is fascinating in a narcissistic way, blogging about someone else is fascinating in a voyeuristic kind of way.

You have to admit that blog-reading has a hugely voyeuristic appeal. If you’ve ever felt the entirely human temptation to eavesdrop on a conversation or take a quick peek into a neighbor’s window, you know how tantalizingly delectable it can be to have someone actually invite you to peer into their private life. Although I’m not an honest-to-goodness voyeur–I don’t regularly peep into windows, nor will I rifle through your underwear drawer while visiting–I find that I typically read blogs out of a desire to know more about their authors: who is the person behind the words, what are they like, what sort of life do they lead?

So having another blogger come to visit over the holidays–and traveling to New York City with said blogger–has been an interesting experience, something like the blogging equivalent of VH1’s Behind the Music. Many times when I see an interesting photo (blogged or elsewhere), I wonder about the context of the photo: who took it, what were they thinking when they took it, and what was going on in the background? Any given photo shows a scene within a frame…and I invariably wonder about what was transpiring outside that frame.

Touring Manhattan with another digicam-wielding blogger was a double-delight. On the one hand, I didn’t have to squelch my own photo-snapping tendencies as I do when I walk around with normal (i.e. nonblogging) folks. On the other hand, I was able to see the context of another blogger’s blogging: I could see what sorts of things Gary chose to notice, what things he stopped for, what things he photographed. At times we both snapped photos of the same things; at other times I’d look in one direction while Gary looked (and took pictures) in another. Blogging is a kind of hunting, and hunting with a partner provides another set of scoping eyes. Big prey tends to attract everyone’s attention, but smaller prey can slip by unsuspected unless you have a team of hunters on the lookout.

Snapping pictures of posing tourists is easy; hunting a hunter is much more difficult. While walking the streets and museums of Manhattan with Gary last weekend, I repeatedly tried to snap candid photos of my partner-in-blogging, and I was repeatedly foiled. Like a schoolmarm with eyes in the back of her head, Gary seemingly knew (miraculously!) right when I was poised to snap the shutter on a particularly interesting shot…and he’d move, turn, or walk away right in time. Although posed photos have their place, I prefer the caught-in-the-moment variety; for all the times that Gary lent a hand when passing tourists asked one of us to snap their picture, we never asked anyone to return the favor. For all their eagerness to capture other people’s candid moments, photographers (I find) tend to be shy about being so captured. Asking a photographer to pose for a photo will likely garner a rolling-eyed smirk or a quick duck behind the closest available shielding object.

Although bloggers necessarily share part of themselves with their online readers known and unknown, each blogger defines his or her personal boundaries and comfort zones differently. Both Gary and I post our full names and photos on our blogs; my blog-buddy Kathleen, on the other hand, is careful to protect her identity online. Although I know Kathleen’s last name, the town where she lives, the place where she works, and other details she keeps veiled on her blog, I won’t share these since she herself keeps them top-secret, and I believe in protecting other people’s boundaries. I once posted a photo of Leslee photographing Kathleen photographing a row of port-o-potties, but that’s as much “inside dirt” I’ll dish (visually, at least) on Kathleen. While in Manhattan, Gary and I met up with Annette, but you won’t see her photo here: when Gary tried to snap a picture of Annette and me talking over dinner and drinks at the Empire State Building, Annette promptly hid behind a menu. Yep, I’ll take that as a declaration of boundaries, so although I’ll share that Annette was kind enough to bring chocolates and stylish enough to wear fabulous pointy-toed shoes, you won’t hear any of Annette’s martini-eased secrets from me.

Gary, on the other hand, is entirely on limits when it comes to my shutter-snapping ways. Although he shot a mild glare whenever he saw me pointing a camera his way, he never expressly said I couldn’t snap and then post pictures. Just as I posted pictures of Fred First when I met him back in November, I figure any blogger who posts pictures of himself and his family on his blog is hardly a shrinking violet: if you’re an online celebrity walking about in public, you should expect to face the attention of online fans and even paparazzi. And since I’ve already confessed my tendency to watch people’s reactions to the art in museums as much as I look at the art itself, Gary really should have known I’d be walking around the Cloisters taking pictures of him taking pictures of Medieval artworks. When you dare to blog your life, you should expect to face the consequences; when you agree to walk around undisguised with a fellow blogger…well, really, I can’t be held accountable for whatever might appear…

At the end of the trip, this was my favorite behind-the-blog photo: a sneaky snapshot taken amongst the pre-Christmas throngs at Rockefeller Center. Knowing Gary, he’ll groan when he sees this photo of himself with a candid expression and a much-needed winter hat: he didn’t pose for this photo, nor was he expecting me to take it as we nearly got separated near the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. In my mind, though, this photo nicely sums up the mood of our trip: how many travel buddies do you have who could keep their cool in a massive crowd and muster a goofy grin when you unexpectedly aimed a camera at their mug?

Yeah, the danger of blogging a blogger is that they’ll blog you back: I never hid behind a menu, so Gary’s got a handful of pictures of me scoping the sights in New York that I suspect will be appearing soon at a blog near you. I’m prepared, though, to face the consequences: as long as bikini shots of Yours Truly don’t start showing up on the grocery check-out tabloids, I’m comfortable facing the press, so to speak. When you blog your life, you have to expect that people will want to learn (and yes, even see) more; at the end of the day, you have to decide what boundaries you feel comfortable with and then wield your digicam (or your menu) accordingly. Hit me with your best shot, G-man…and since I always carry my digicam with me, don’t forget to say “Cheese.”

    While I’m on the topic of blogging bloggers, let me offer a belated welcome to the blogosphere’s newest celebrity: Orion Eduard Cenkl, born to my former officemate, Dr. Pavel Cenkl, and his wife, Jennifer Schoen, on December 14th. You can follow Orion’s budding story on his blog, Orion Rising, which I’ve added to my sidebar list of “Personal Blogs.” Be sure to check out the photo montage of Orion’s newborn expressions as well as the wonderful picture of father and son at the bottom of this post. Congratulations, Pavel and Jen…how wonderful to watch Orion’s new life from afar.