Photographers: You’ll Wish You Had Us When They’re Gone

July 8, 2012 8:15 pm

I think I was 6 when I got my first camera. It was blue plastic, made by Fisher-Price, the kind that required one of those sticks of flash bulbs. You’d take several photos, burning one bulb at a time, then flip it to use up the rest.

I’d buy my flash sticks at the grocery store, thinking I was some big shot.

Most of the photos are long gone. What remains is an almost obsessive relationship with my camera. It’s all documented. The birthday parties. The bizarre outfits concocted by a child with a flair for the unusual. The first tooth. The first friend.

It’s obsessive.
But as I wiled away hours on my computer on Sunday morning, poking through old photos of my family to share with my cousins in the wake of our grandfather’s death, I realized we photographers are historians too.

Without us, there would be no photo of a father cuddling his baby in his arms, of your grandfather grinning out from behind his five sons, your father, your uncles.

The photographer is an annoyance to many — my husband included. He doesn’t shy away; he hides. And I’ve met more than a few over the years, out at the grocery store or on the street, who joke that they’re much happier to see me without my instrument of torture.

More From Inside Out: 10 Things NOT to Say to a Photographer

I wonder what their children, their grandchildren, their great-grandchildren will say to that.

We lost my grandfather last week. He lived a long life, a good life, a full life. He leaves behind seven children, 15 grandchildren, 7 great-grandchildren.

And thanks to various people with cameras over the years, none will forget him. There are photos of him with my beautiful grandmother. There are photos of him with my daughter, the great-grandchild who I fear will one day forget her GG-Pa (like this one, with my grandmother and three of the six other great-grandchildren in our family):

There are pictures that show a regal bearing, that show pride, that show happiness. They are the pictures of family. They are the pictures of our history.

I’m proud to make them.

I’m even more grateful to have them.

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