This month, I have had the unique opportunity of helping my mother in law, Bev, publish a short book written by her mother. It is a memoir of her life with her husband and his fight with cancer. Grandma said that it was her way of dealing with the grief after he died, but now we are trying to preserve those memories for the family.
Of course, I asked for pictures to add to the book and loved looking at the handful of pictures my mother-in-law sent me. I did notice that there were no pictures of Grandma and Grandpa together when they were young. I asked my mother-in-law if there were any other pictures that she may have missed. What she said made me really stop and think about how I take pictures for granted today. Grandma and Grandpa got married at the end of World War 2 right after Grandpa was drafted into the war. She said that film was very expensive back then and it was a luxury. It was more available in Japan at that time, so Grandpa was able to take pictures when he was stationed there right after the war, but there was no money for film to take pictures the two of them together.
Wow, that made me stop and think. All of a sudden I felt guilty for having a digital camera that sat on my studio shelf ready to take any picture at any time. I have come to take that for granted that I can capture any moment I want by just reaching for the camera. At the same moment I tried to remember when the last time I had used that camera just to take pictures of my children being themselves. Silly faces, dirty hands, messy house, and all. I’m embarrassed to say it has been much longer than I am willing to admit, even to myself. Will I regret that someday? That I didn’t take the time to just capture those little faces that are growing so quickly?
Those thoughts reminded me of my biggest photo regret. As many know, my son Bryce was born with a heart defect that was diagnosed when he was 12 months old. At 14 months, he went in for his first open heart surgery (which ended up being two surgeries due to complications). A camera was the farthest thing from my mind and this was way before I had started in photography. My mom even tried taking a picture of Bryce when he was still in ICU all hooked up and I got very mad at her. (I was very much the momma hen trying to protect my baby.) It felt to wrong to being taking a picture of him all hooked up to that equipment.
It wasn’t until at least a year later that I realized what a mistake that was. Just like his zipper scar, that time was a part of him. I realized that very soon he would ask about his scar and I would have no pictures to show him of that time in his life. Not long after that, Bryce was getting ready for a third open heart surgery and you better believe that my camera was packed and ready. I didn’t take many pictures during that stay, but I do have them as a record of that time and place in our lives.
Through the years since then, I think at times I forget why I fell in love with photography in the first place. I get busy running a studio, trying to make ends meet, keeping food on the table and kids from killing each other. I forget the power in a simple photograph. I forget that the power of the photograph isn’t from perfect lighting, exposure, and processing. The power in that photograph is that it takes you back to a specific moment in time. It is a forever record of my subject.
I am encouraged to photograph more. Whether it is with my DSLR or my Iphone, the important part is that I am capturing those memories for a lifetime. I would rather shoot too much rather than not enough. Is it possible to capture too many memories?