Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Men I Love: Happy Father's Day

A few weeks before school ended the other kindergarten teacher at my school invited me to come to her room and see the gifts she bought for her niece's birthday (her niece had been one of my kindergartners four years ago). When I went in the room she began pulling items out of decorated gift bags and unwrapping the tissue paper. In the tissue paper were frames and a photo album that had pictures of her niece from her circus performance that takes place every year at our school. These were her gifts to her niece. What was so special to me was that I had taken the pictures. I felt so honored that the photos I had taken meant that much to my friend and her family.

Over the past year I've been taking pictures of our church construction. It became this desire to document the past, preserve the progress as our church structure changed beyond anything I could have imaged from simply seeing drawings. In the process I saw the immense precision, creativity, art, and beauty in construction. Due to the kindness of the construction manager, I've had the opportunity to see/photograph lots of the inside structure during the construction process, take action shots as the construction workers and subcontractors worked, and this person has taken the time to explain a lot of the work that was going on (HGTV only takes you so far). For a girl who absolutely doesn't like surprises this has been a phenomenal opportunity to see the church structure change and grow.

I began burning copies of my photos for the construction manager and Monsignor. I've received numerous compliments and thanks from them. It's wonderful to get compliments even though my motives were predominately personal. I really like taking pictures, am fascinated with the construction process, the subject; our parish church is a deeply personal entity of my life, and there is the desire to document where we have come from. As our memories will blur once we are sitting in nice new pews, with reliable a/c, in a beautiful spiritual environment I wanted us to remember the road that we took to get to that point. From experience I knew how soon we would forget the details of this long road. My sister calls me the memory keeper, since I have a wealth of multi-generational family photos, and usually can quickly lay my hands on what she wants or needs. I'm sure there's a bit of couch therapy related to being the memory keeper so those compliments are always a welcomed bonus.

How does this all relate to the men I love? Well, I began thinking about my love affair with the camera. When did I start taking pictures? Why? As I looked through a couple of albums that I have from my early teen years, I see that I took awful pictures. Most are blurry, the lighting is poor, and the subjects are too far away. Why would I have moved beyond just taking the special occasional family event photos? After some reflection the answer was that my fascination with photography is linked to the men I love. Three men in particular.

I remember my dad telling me stories of the the pictures he took with his little brownie camera. He even explained the science of how the camera captured images. Until I was a teenager we never had a sophisticated camera but we always had a camera in the house. I remember the insta-matic cameras and the Polariods. In those days you had to have film and flash bulbs. You sent or dropped off you film to be developed. It took days even a whole week to get your pictures. You paid for all the pictures you took (even the bad ones) and you ended up with negatives that had to be stored if you ever wanted more pictures. I don't remember needing batteries, probably because there were dials and cranks that we had to advance every time we took a picture. My dad took photos on vacations and at our school events. We're mostly glad we have those photos today.I think I was in high school when dad bought our 35mm Pentax camera. You still had to buy film and with this type of camera you had to feed the film just right into the cylinder of the spool that would advance the film. You needed batteries and you had a flash attachment. My junior and senior years of high school I used the camera a lot; as I took pictures for the high school year book. My dad took me to many events and coached me as I worked on getting shots. I had some stumbling blocks along the way like not having film in the camera, having not fed the film in properly and the film crunching up, then getting exposed as you opened the camera to fix the problem, and dead batteries.

The next man in my life is my uncle. I can't imagine my uncle without a camera. Every get together we had involved a camera, camera bag with lenses, and a tripod. Some of my fondest memories are those group shots where my uncle would set the timer so he could be in the picture with us. It was almost magical. Sometimes we waited and waited and ...waited for the click. Just as my uncle would leave the group to check out the problem... CLICK. Sometimes as he was running to get in the picture... CLICK. I know that there exists a picture or two of Uncle Charles running to get in the picture as we are all gathered in our group pose. What I would give to have one of those pictures! My uncle would persevere and we'd get that group shot. I remember walking beside my uncle listening to him talk about the pictures he had taken, watching him as he took pictures, and anticipating seeing the pictures in a few weeks. The times when my uncle set up the slide projector for us and showed us the photos he had taken were the best.
Although my uncle says different, I remember several times as he excitedly talked about getting more pictures out of a roll film than was advertised. (Most of the time film provided 10, 15, 24, or 36 possible pictures. You had the buy the particular roll of film you wanted.) In my uncle's case he might get 38 pictures from a 36 roll of film largely due to how you loaded the film onto the spool. Now on those rare occasions as I walked beside him he'd exclaim that he was on his 40th pictures only to realize later that there was no film in the camera. I found this immensely funny. Eventually I had my share of "getting more" out of a roll of film. That moment of deja vous had me checking my camera to discover no film.

Last but not least in my love is my husband. I first met my husband because of a camera. My college of education, elementary education team (the group with whom I would complete my undergraduate program) decided that we needed a group picture. The gal that organized our group picture knew that Doug was good at taking pictures and asked him to take our group picture. At the time neither she nor Doug had a camera. So I borrowed my dad's camera and met the group at USF. I met Doug had a nice conversation with a little camera talk. Then weeks later met up with him at a party planning party and the rest is history.When I met Doug he already had a keen interest in photography, had taken a class, and certainly had the the knack and patience to take great pictures. We have had many numerous relaxing and joyful outing where we've just gone out to take pictures. Doug has been a great teacher, challenged me, and has supported all my photographic endeavors. Since our marriage we have owned numerous cameras, taken a wealth of photos, and debated style. Obviously our vision, perspective, and style are somewhat different. Yet I still look to Doug for help in capturing that perfect image. I can always count on him to lighten my load and carry the camera bag.In the last eight years Doug bought me my first digital camera. Since it was our only digital camera I began carrying it in my purse so I would have it handy for both school and home. It's been great because there have been so many moments when I didn't think I would need or want a camera and was glad I had one tucked away in my purse.

Since that first camera Doug broke down and bought me a 35mm camera with interchangeable lenses. It's simply fantastic. We both have had so much fun with this camera. The only drawback is that it's cumbersome to tote the bag back and forth to school in addition to a backpack and purse. So this Christmas Doug bought me a new "baby" camera since my first one had begun to be selective in it's desire to work. I've found that a good camera is a lot like a good ball glove. It's hard to equal or replace the well worn favorite. I still struggle with mastering my new light weight camera and I sometimes sneak my old camera away from my daughter.

Even with the digital age I have my moments. How about leaving to take pictures and the battery is dead. How about having a memory stick that is full when your ready to take that very special picture (happens less nowadays with the large memory that the cards contain). Here's the best; downloading pictures and deleting them from the camera and then the computer crashes or they become corrupt.

These men taught me much about family, the joys of preserving moments in time, as well as photography. So to these three great men I love: I love you and thanks for the memories.

Happy Father's Day to my brother, brother-in-laws, great-uncle, uncles, and cousins. I love you too and you never know when you might be the subject of my blog.

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