Just got a new camera. An upgrade of my old one, a Kodak...new one has twelve times optical zoom, image stablization, manual focus. I don't think I'm the only one in the world for whom taking photos is important--just look at the proliferation of photo upload sites, sharing sites, image manipulation software, printing options. Photos have become something different from what they were--when I was a kid, my dad loved taking slides but very rarely he'd spend the time sorting them into slide trays, setting up a screen and projector and putting on a show. So rarely, I have only vague remembrance of maybe one.
What that meant was that my childhood is largely just a shadow. I don't have any visualization of myself in, say, first grade. Or second grade, or third. There must be photos of me--or slides, somewhere in the collection of stuff my sister sent me from clearing out my parents' garage after their passing. But where? How do I sort through everything, or use the gadgets I bought for digitalizing what I find? I have a old few photos...I have one on my desk, with my mother standing in a pool, holding me in the water...my face looking down, mostly the view of a helmet of brown hair. I look to be about five or six.
Who was that person? I can't remember those days; where I was, how I really felt. But if I had photos to bring back those moments, I could recapture my childhood, and the relationships that formed me.
And that is why I am a fanatic about photography. I want to capture, to freeze-frame, the moments of my life. To document, to preserve. I don't want my children to grow up, leaving me only shadows of their lives, and I don't want them to find themselves like me, feeling warm and nostalgic and yet only having some fuzzy intangible, a few distorted scene fragments, to cling to. I want to remember especially my children, my moments with them, my youth, my time of health and energy, because I don't want to let it go.
And yet...when I see my photos of years ago, the small children who reached for me, who craved me and who cried when I left them with caretakers, I am sad. Where are those children? I felt at the time that no mother could feel closer to her children, could have a more solid, indestructible bond, than I did with each of them. But, I was deceived. Each one grew, each one took a different direction, and needed me less and less, until now, viewing those toddler times does not bring joy in the past experience, but sadness in the loss of it.
I still take photos. I can't help it, because I still want to capture my life, to keep it from moving on. But more and more, I find myself an observer, capturing my surroundings for others. I take photos at a friend's wedding, documenting her moments of happiness. I take photos of visitors, delighting in viewing our city through fresh eyes. I take photos of trees and flowers and sunrises, because they are beautiful, and I want to remember their beauty, and yet, they mean little ultimately because, after all, I can always download beautiful trees, flowers and sunrises from the Internet. They may not be the flowers in my yard, or the azaleas at my park this springtime, but who can tell?
So far, I'm thrilled with my new camera. I'm in its learning curve, but eager to fill up another 2-gig photo card, download my pictures, and perfect each one with my software. Still, I see that at this late time of life, I can't take photos of my babies; there won't be more snuggles with my children eager to cuddle Mommy, and while I'm proud of what each of my children has become and hopeful about what each will accomplish, it's just not the same.
Still, my life is much more vivid because of my photos. With digital, I relive happy moments each time my screen saver slide-show kicks in. Sometimes I delay going out just to see a few more images on my screen, just to enjoy the colors, the composition, the recollections even of the last three years since I got a digital camera. Because of these innovations, I get far more pleasure out of my photography than I ever have. And that is something that makes me happy--admiring the world a second time; being brought to places and people and joy in a way unlike any other, because when triggered by a photo, I am there again. The people at my son's bar mitzvah. A day at the beach with a city backdrop. An array of hydrangeas excited to bring summer
There's a downside and an upside to photos, but on balance, it's better to savor and capture life than to let it fade. Now, if I can just get my children to be less weary of posing....