The other eye of the beholder

I guess I was due. I’ve tortured enough people with my shutter click, click, clicking.
Saturday, it was my turn.
With 100 shutterbugs in town for the annual Eddie Adams workshop, this past weekend was well-documented – including a snippet of the lives of the Sager family.
While her regular subject was missing in action, a Pennsylvania newspaper staff photographer wandered over into our yard Saturday afternoon looking for someone to shoot.
“Don’t let me interrupt,” she said. “Just do whatever you were going to do today.”
I was supposed to be the subject, but I couldn’t turn off the reporter in me.
While she snapped away at my futile attempts to get a ponytail holder in Jillian’s wild mane and my daughter’s glee as I drew an outline of her body in bright-colored sidewalk chalk, I found myself peppering her with questions.
“So,” I started, “where are you from?”
“What do you do? How’d you end up at Eddie Adams’?”
I’m accustomed to being on one end of a camera, my right eye smushed up against the viewfinder, my right hand spinning around my lens focusing, framing.
As a reporter, I hang back, try to be as unobtrusive as possible. At people’s homes, shooting their Christmas photo, I’m in their face, snapping away.
But I’m never, ever, on the receiving end.
A few times, shooting a wedding, I’ve been asked by the bride or groom to hand over the camera and pose for a photo – they take one with their caterer, their DJ, their minister, so why not the photographer?
Usually I change the subject.
But as Emily trained her Nikon on me, I couldn’t help moving and reacting as a photographer.
Not entirely comfortable with thinking of myself as a photo subject, I kept my mind busy anticipating how to help her make her photos better.
When I needed to paint Jillian’s toenails, I parked her right in front of our picture window – for the ambient light.
When Emily insisted I go about my regular routine, I sat on the driveway picking bug-bitten leaves off the herbs I planned on drying with my head down. No sense looking up to smile and throwing off what’s supposed to be a candid telling of the story.
Hesitant when contacted the previous day to be a “back-up” story for the photographers, I found I was intrigued with the idea that the make-up of an every day schedule for me could be turned into something useful.
I shouldn’t have been surprised.
My job is often finding the story – usually through my constant questions. But that old adage about the picture’s worth has proven true time and again – the camera capturing the matted fur and deep wounds on an abused dog or the mega-watt smile on the husband-to-be.
Every time I pick up my camera, I notice a new part of my world. I just wonder what Emily’s camera saw in me.

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