Sunday, March 17, 2013
On Photos, Memories, and a Photo of Lincoln
By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco
Not too long ago, A photography collector identified a photo of President Lincoln standing in front of the White House in 1865. This confirms there were indeed paparazzi in the late 19th century.
This finding is either really cool or a hoax. I haven't made up my mind yet. But it started me thinking about photographs and memories...and the way we take photographs.
As the person that took this Lincoln/White House photo, I am horrible at taking photographs. I've always been horrible at taking photos. I learned this at a young age when I received my first Kodak Instamatic and took it on a third grade field trip. I struggled all day with the camera...loading the film, the proper lighting, getting my friends to sit still while I tried to take their photos. Then there was the whole thing about the flash cubes...I left them at home.
I was all excited when I took my film to the Sav-on Drug Store that first time. I couldn't wait for the week to go by when I would finally get to see my photos.
Finally the week was up and my parents took me back to the Sav-on. The person behind the photo counter gave me my packet back and it felt more than a little light. I should have received 24 photos back...it was a 24 exposure roll afterall. It felt like maybe ten photos in there. And I was right. And the ones that did survive the cut were blurry and out of focus.
This started my life long fear of taking photographs.
It's hereditary you know. I remember my mom and grandmother being horrible photo takers as well. My grandma in particular elevated bad photography to an art form. I always thought she was being artistic with her photos. Like she was the Salvador Dali of photo taking. "Oh Al, look at this photo of Uncle Gene..." And Uncle Gene is all out of focus and he's to the right side of the photo and half cut off.
I wanted to study my Grandma's methods of photography so I could learn to be an impressionistic photographer as well. So I watched her as she took her photos. Basically the secret was...you put your thumb partially over the lense and as you are clicking to take the photo you...snap back real quick...at the last instant creating that blur.
My dad was a good photographer but rarely took photos by time my brother and I came along. It was as if he burned himself out when he was younger by taking all his good photos then. The running joke was that he would take all his expensive camera equipment with us on vacations...but photos were never taken. There are very few photos of the family and I think that this is kind of sad.
It seemed I was heading in that direction as well when I started my family. My family used to always complain that I didn't take enough photographs. I used to rationalize that all the good photos were in my head and I would never forget the best memories. If you hear that voice in your head...don't listen. Take lots of photos. Because like an overexposed Polaroid those memories...the clear images of those memories...do actually fade.
Maybe I didn't take as many photos of my friend Ed who took photos and video everyday of his kids life. In fact you could actually playback everyday and minute of Ed's 21 year old son's life...in real time if you wanted too. There has to be a happy medium when you are taking photos.
I was cleaning out a room in my house the other day and I actually ran across some of my family photos. I have to say I didn't do too bad...I have boxes of photos taken during all the stages of my family....Most of them bad photos..but nevertheless some documentation of each stage of my familie's life. And I have some rolls of film that I never actually took in to get developed. You see, I never forgot that first trip to the photo counter. I am always afraid I screwed up the roll. This is why I have totally embraced the digital age of photography. It saves me the embarrassment of going to the photo store and seeing my bad photos. In the digital age I can see my bad photos instantly.
Every once in a while I treat myself and take one of the old rolls in and get it developed. Yes, half of the photos don't come out but for the ones that do come out...it's like traveling in time to another place and time....Like the photo of Lincoln standing in front of the White House.