Why do we love photography?
For as long as I can remember there were cameras in our house.
My earliest memories of photography involved getting dressed up with my brothers and sisters while dad arranged the hot lights in the house to pose us. Damn, I hated to get dressed in my Sunday school clothes. They were uncomfortable. I couldn’t play and get them dirty. It was a chore.
Every Saturday it seemed my mother would put a couple of trays of cinnamon buns in the oven and have friends over for hot buns and hot coffee. I got to play with my friends and cousins while the adults sat in the kitchen laughing and telling stories.
After the company left dad would pull out his dark brown gallon jugs filled with fixer and stop bath and developer. For a few hours the bathroom was off limits to us as dad developed his black and white film or made prints. The house smelled of photographic chemicals. To me this was normal. Every family did this.
Dad died a few short years later when I was seven years old. To help us out financially mom put the camera and darkroom equipment in the newspaper. All that was left of dads photo stuff were a few stacks of photo magazines. I pored through them as a young child. The ads at the back fascinated me. All these lenses and bodies and enlargers. It was a foreign language to me. There was no one to teach me about it.
The cameras changed from very professional looking twin lens reflexes to Kodak Instamatics with the cube flashes on top. Photo processing meant going to the drug store to drop off film and get an envelop back a few weeks later with developed negatives and prints.
There were always cameras around and for that I am thankful. There are albums full of memories of our childhoods, my brothers and sisters, mother, aunts and uncles grandparents and a whole whack of people that I didn’t know.
I didn’t realize it at the time but photography would become a large part of my adult life earning a living for many years taking pictures.
Photography was fun. It was special. It wasn’t until I retired that I realized how special it had become to me.
Photography has become a holiday. A refuge. A source of pleasure. A time to myself. An introspective time.
I swear to God that I have driven home in the morning after photographing the most beautiful foggy summer sunrise that my father was with me. It gave me goosebumps thinking that he was with me during these almost religious times.
You see, the act of being creative for me is at times a primal or visceral experience. Pictures seem to come from out of nothing and every time that happens I am amazed. I am in awe that from something so plain can come such a beautiful experience.
A couple of nights ago while I was wandering the dark, back roads of rural Alberta alone and with only the radio to keep me company I wasn’t really alone. I never feel alone when I am outdoors with a camera. There is a calm standing in the dark at night with a bright starry sky overhead. The sounds of nature around me and somewhere overhead or in my heart is my father keeping me company.
They say that if you train a worm to know that the left door gives it an electrical shock that its offspring will also know to avoid the left door.
Is it like that with photography? Did the joy my father experience taking pictures get passed along to me? It has been over fifty years since he passed but somehow his passions became mine. I love the outdoors. He did. I loved flyfishing and tied all my own flies as did he and on and on it goes.
Are we more the product of our parents than we realize? I don’t know but I do know that although mom and dad are no longer here in the physical form they still remain with me all these years later.