The Magic of Photographs
I don’t remember exactly how long my boyfriend and I had been dating when we went to the Grounds for Sculpture here in New Jersey. It was early on — maybe just four or five weeks into us knowing each other, before we dared use words like boyfriend and girlfriend to describe our relationship (that came a few months later). But I knew the relationship was something special that day, not only because we were strolling around looking at art together but because, at a few strategic times, he took photos of me.
These weren’t creepy stalker photos. He was documenting our time together, capturing little moments of this day to hold onto.
I personally have never been great with photos, despite owning a fancy digital camera. I pull it out when I’m traveling, mainly to take photos of sweeping landscapes and places I visit. Photographing people — and being in photographs — has never really been my thing.
I appreciate that my boyfriend is the way he is, because we have some great photos together from events we’ve been to and trips we’ve taken. I framed one recently, not too long after he moved in, and stuck it by the television.
Photos have taken on a new significance in my life. There aren’t many photos of me over the years. I wasn’t actively avoiding the camera at all times, but after my high school graduation, my parents just weren’t as fastidious about taking photos as they did when my brother and I were younger. Couple that with the rise of social media and people’s constant selfies and it’s easy to see how you could develop an aversion. I wanted to be there, live my life, and not worry about capturing the moment for some sort of social proof.
At the same time, I missed out on a lot of beautiful moments and opportunities without camera phone or digital camera in hand.
On my nightstand, I have a picture of me and my mom, taken when I was about 12 years old at a picnic hosted by the company my dad still works for. I’m making a funny face and holding a hamburger. My mom is smiling and looks beautiful. That’s the photo I look at every night to remember her.
I don’t have many photos of me and my mom from the past decade. There’s one somewhere in my brother’s collection, from his wedding. That was the last photo we ever took as a family, back in October 2017, two months after she was diagnosed with cancer and had surgery. She didn’t like those photos, and in all honesty, she didn’t look like her normal self. She was thin and sullen and had taken a beating from the disease she was dealing with.
How far back in time I need to go to find another photo of all of us together I’m not sure. Two years? Ten years?
I wish I had more. More of me and my mom. Me and my dad. Me and friends.
There’s a balance somewhere between capturing moments and obsessing over photos in this digital age.
What I can tell you is that I’ll be using my camera a bit more, maybe even asking a stranger or two to take my photo, but most importantly pulling the people I love into the frame with me.