Since the advent of our granddaughter, our daughter and son-in-law have done an amazing job of documenting the life of our granddaughter through photographs. I feel for the second grandchild to arrive from these two . . . it will be impossible to produce the documentation of the first. But, that is not the point; the point is that they take a lot of pictures of our granddaughter . . . of which the family is grateful. Recently they took a trip to Yellowstone National Park, of which, they took a lot of pictures of the natural beauty and our granddaughter.
While there, they encountered an older couple, who commented about their photographing the granddaughter: “You know, people are probably seeing you take these pictures with your baby, and wondering what you are doing. She is so little she can’t possibly know what is going on. What they have yet to realize is that just maybe you aren’t taking the pictures for her. Maybe, those pictures are for you . . . because, down the road, when you look at them it will be because in that moment you were there . . .”
“Whoa, dude!” as my granddaughter will eventually learn to say, even if it is the death of me. This guy was pretty wise! He got it even though most of us never get it . . . it is about being there. It is about being in the moment.
I love photography. I have several cameras from which I take lots of pictures . . . lots of pictures! Thousands upon thousands of pictures. I love to take pictures of the world around me . . . and, I rarely delete too many of them. Because of this I have several hundred photo files stored on my computer, and many more stored on an external hard drive. I pity my family when I die . . . they will have the arduous task of going through those multitude of files to determine what is worth saving and what is not. But, in the meantime, I have thousands and thousands of pictures . . . many which have never been viewed by anyone other than myself. Lots of people asked what I do with all of those pictures.
Well, some of them end up on Facebook. I do not do much personal posting on Facbook . . . you won’t find me postulating on heavy topics on this social network. Instead what you will often find from me on Facebook are photo essays . . . photo blogs, in a sense. Basically I attempt to use this social media as a means of sharing my thoughts and feelings through the photographs I take. I use my photographs as a means of telling a story. I don’t know if I am successful, but that is what I attempt to do. That is probably the best place for people to see my photographs. Otherwise, they are for me.
That old guy (probably around my age) who shared his wise remarks with my daughter and son-in-law understood. He understood that those photographs that they were taking were not so much for the benefit of our granddaughter, but for their own benefit. It was to allow them, whether they understood it or not, that they were there . . . in that moment . . . in that place . . . and, they will remember.
I performed my daughter and son-in-law’s wedding ceremony. In that ceremony I shared with them a quote from the movie, Shall We Dance? Maybe you know the quote, but if not, here it is: “We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'." This powerful quote affirms the need to know . . . to know that one was connected to another time, place, and person. Photography does this.
One of the rules we have had since moving to Montana is that only photographic evidence is proof enough to claim at seeing a particular critter in the wilds. No one can claim having seen a bear, moose, or wolf without photographic evidence. Why? Because a photograph proofs that one was there.
I was there.
I do not fret about death . . . I am not worried about dying, but what I catch myself fretting about is whether or not anyone will remember me. Oh, it is probably part of the curse of being an introvert; but, I do often think whether or not anyone will remember my presence in the world or even in their lives. Yeah, I know . . . stupid. I have done enough dumb things that no one will ever forget me, but will they really remember me? Will they remember the real me . . .
So, I take pictures. Pictures affirm that I was there. Pictures prove that I was there. There is no denying it . . . the pictures prove it. We want to know that we were not alone . . . that we were a part of something that was bigger than we are or were . . . that we existed and made a difference and impact upon the lives of others. So, we take pictures . . . pictures that prove everything. We all want to know that we were there. That is why we get married . . . so someone will remember us. That is why we take pictures. In the end, we all want to make a difference in the lives of those we love . . . in the lives of those we work with . . . in the world in which we exist.
I love photography. Each day I learn a little more about what it takes to be a good photographer. I relish the learning. But, I did not take up photography for others; no, it was a more selfish reason. I took up photography so that I could remember. So that I could remember those moments in my life . . . those places where I had been . . . and, those experiences I experienced. Surprisingly, I also took up photography for the purpose of helping others remember . . . to remember a communion of a moment . . . to remember the beauty of a place or time . . . to remember a feeling or emotion . . . to be remembered. To be able to say, “I was there.”
Yeah, that old guy that the kids encountered understood. I think that I understand, too. I want people to know that I was there. Isn’t that what we all desire?