Thursday, July 2, 2009

say cheese

I am not a picture taker. I married one though so at least half of our life together is well documented. The bike riding half. I am not a biker either. See how this works?

I have maybe three rolls of film covering my five years of college experience. That may be a very good thing. One of those three rolls was shot on a single night when I gave an India ink tattoo to another girl down the hall from me in our freshman year dorm. It was a Christmas tree - the tattoo, not the dorm. A Christmas tree fake tattoo. Who does that? (Um, a group of girls avoiding studying for finals).

But who takes pictures of it? (Um, me).

Another roll of film from my college years shows my friend Kate up for a visit. We are sitting on my tangerine velvet couch under my bunk. It was a Sunday morning and while there are no pictures of Saturday's blender of grasshoppers, there are two pictures of us smiling together, waiting for the timer to snap the shutter. The rest of that roll are close up shots of a ripe peach sitting on a turquoise Fiestaware plate in various states of unsliced and sliced.


In high school I took photography classes and independent studies for three years. My work was selected to hang in a permanent spot in a hallway. (I don't know if it's still there). Then I graduated high school and started taking close ups of peach skin. I am not sure what happened.

Now I have a little Kodak digital camera that Justin uses most of the time. The camera rarely does what I want it to do and for me there is little artistry in taking a picture anymore. Sad. So I don't even bother turning the camera on half the time. I say: I am here for this moment, soaking it up, enjoying it. I say: I don't need a picture to remember this.

But there have been a few times when I grabbed the camera to hold the moment, save it for later. I have a picture I took just after I learned I was pregnant. I wanted my baby to know how happy I was so I held the camera arm's length and snapped a shot. I'm smiling a little too big and the angle is wrong but I hope Claire gets it. What she won't get from that picture is that I almost couldn't breathe when that blue plus appeared. I spent ten minutes sitting on our bed crying and laughing, utterly unsure of what came next.

Another time I wanted to hold the moment a little longer, I told Justin to grab the camera.

"What am I taking a picture of?" he said.

I thought it was obvious. "Me. In the rain."


I lifted my face to the rain. This was after a good run, a month or two after Claire was born. My body was just beginning to feel strong and ready again. I remember feeling full and beautiful, energy in my arms and legs. I let the rain cool me. I felt like singing. I was having a moment.

After looking at the pictures I decided I'd better just keep those moments to myself. The pictures didn't look anything like full or beautiful or energy. Justin had cut me off at the ankles (slender ankles: gone!) and I immediately noticed my post-baby belly pooch under the coral maternity running shirt pasted to my body. I stared. But, I thought, I don't feel that way.

So most of the time, pictures just don't capture it for me. I do better with words. But I'd like to change that, a little at least. I'd like to remember to take a few pictures once in awhile. Otherwise, Claire might tell me one day that she feels like that third baby in a family, the one moms and dads forget to take pictures of because they've seen it all before. I haven't seen it all before but I still forget the camera.

Maybe I shouldn't worry too much that the precise energy or mood of a moment isn't always caught in a single frame. Maybe I just need snapshots to say: I was here. You were here. This is what we did.

Yesterday in Best Buy I gravitated toward the cameras. I've been thinking about darkrooms and angles and exposure times. All the metallic colors of the tiny pocket cameras were like candy at the supermarket check out. I was more intrigued by the bulk and lines of the black Canons and Nikons, their wide unblinking lenses. "Next year," I told Justin, "That is my goal." To relearn photography. To find its art again. To enjoy the moments images glimpses I manage to catch with my camera.

I already have a goal for this year. More on that tomorrow.


The Adventures of Lobby Girl ! said...

Hey Sarah!! I am missing you and Justin and that honey bunch of love that I fondly call, "The Claireness". I love these blog posts. I can hear your voice. Just wanted you to know that I'm reading!!

Angela and David Kidd said...

You do have a way of capturing things in words that negates the need for a camera. I was terrible about taking pictures - mostly because I hate carrying a camera around. I love the iPhone camera, I use it way more than I used any camera.