Today, I’ve been presented with a thought that, while it’s not a new one, has taken on new significance. What is it about photography that draws me in? Is it the click of the shutter, the thrill (or agony) of seeing the results of those clicks, the endless array of challenges presented each time I pick up my camera and try new things? Or, is it something more deeply rooted that that?
Many times in the past few years I’ve experienced the mad array of all the emotions I just mentioned above. I’ve photographed some high school senior’s who are on the brink of moving into the vast future with all it’s hopes, dreams, and possibilities. I’ve photographed families who were gathered together for celebrations (including my own family), capturing memories for them. I’ve photographed two weddings, literally praying my way through each step of the day in the hopes that I wouldn’t mess up too badly. I’ve photographed youth events, cooking classes, musician portraits, and a wide scope of “random” theme’s that stretched me beyond any shred of creativity I thought I had. Every time I pick up my camera, I find that I’m involved in a search for something. I’m searching to find a purpose, to capture a story, to fully document the breadth of whatever I’m witness to at that moment.
For me, photography has given me an outlet to create a story. Some write putting pen to paper. I write with my camera. I find that my deepest desire is to find the story around me, to capture every large and small detail and I really don’t want to miss any part of it. I also have come to realize that, while I may find much fault in the technical side of what I’m doing, my greatest joy is when others are blessed by something I’ve been able to document for them. I’m also frequently surprised that I was actually able to pull it off! Ha ha!
So why am I finding today to be a reflective pause in my life? A couple of years ago, I was asked to photograph a large family while they were all home at Christmas. One of the granddaughters was going to be getting married the following summer and the grandmother, who was a friend of ours, asked me if I’d be willing to do some portraits for them as it would likely be the last Christmas they would all be together for the holidays. I took the pictures and when I began editing them I could just see flaws everywhere in what I’d done. Things “growing” out of people’s heads, arrangements that didn’t look all that great on camera, poses that weren’t as flattering as they could have been. I reluctantly gave her the photo disk, feeling as if I’d not given them something as great as I’d hoped I could do. She, on the other hand, was thrilled with them and said it was the best Christmas gift I could ever give her. She was so happy to have family portraits that documented their family that year before the big changes began. What she didn’t know was that the biggest change they would encounter would be her own passing. 5 months later, she was gone. It was the last family portrait in which she would be present.
More recently, I volunteered to photograph a very special early Christmas for a little boy with cancer. What a joyful day it was and what a moving experience to be able to tell the story of that day in photo’s. Each surprise of the day was captured, many gifts that were opened caught on camera, and a myriad of expressions and family moments documented. Cyle, the little boy whom all the celebration was for, wanted to live until Christmas. It seemed that he had only a short amount of time left so some wonderful people stepped up and threw him the most wonderful Christmas celebration ever, complete with “snow”. People who didn’t have a lot of excess themselves contributed not only with their time but with their money and, more importantly, with their hearts. It was a true celebration which, in Cyle’s own words was “Just exactly like I thought it would be!!”
This morning, while most of us were asleep, Cyle lost his battle with cancer. In the process of contemplating the impact of the loss to his family, I was struck by another thought. Giving that family a disk with photo’s from the last celebration with him, capturing family moments, excitement, tiredness, joy, and love is what makes me feel fulfilled. They didn’t care that some of the pictures weren’t up to “snuff” for my own standards. They were just blessed that they could have photo’s to remember the day by; to remember Cyle by.
What draws me in to photography? The insatiable thirst to document the memorable moments in the lives of those around me. The image of little Cyle, cuddled in his blanket at the end of the celebration exhausted from the activity yet filled with joy over having experienced Christmas. For Cyle’s family, I hope and pray that they will find the photographs from that day a treasure to their family, a chapter in the story of Cyle’s short life.