I don’t even remember what it was – the brand, the model. I don’t think I ever knew. But here’s what mattered: my father knew me. He knew I wasn’t camera shy. He knew I loved the way a camera’s buttons and dials felt under my fingers. He knew I loved the sound the shutter made. He knew I loved picking up developed photos as much as I loved Christmas morning. He knew I was like him. It was blood, our blood. So he put a camera in my hands.
He actually did it twice. First it was my freshman year of high school – an old SLR that used film and film only because back in ’01, what else would it use? That’s all there was, to our knowledge. He taught me how it worked, he taught me about lenses (even though I think I only ever had one or two), he taught me about the differences in film type and he taught me how to develop. We’d develop images in our home-made darkroom, listening to the water run, watching a photograph bloom onto a piece of paper. Developing film became my favorite. I thought I’d never leave it behind.
Then, when I graduated high school, my dad handed me a digital camera. It was a point and shoot, but it changed everything all over again. When digital cameras first came out I didn’t understand the hype. When I played with the one my father got me, I understood it completely.
“So which do you like better – teaching or photography?”
People ask me this sometimes, because I’ve chosen two fairly different career paths instead of one and have a rough time sticking to a singular path. I don’t want to answer it, usually because the former is the more noble answer and I want to chose the noble answer even if it isn’t totally honest. I don’t want to answer it, because I want people to think I love both equally – and I do love both very much. I don’t want to answer, but I answer anyway because I KNOW the answer. I’ve known the answer since I was very young, since a camera was placed into my hands, since I developed that first roll of film of pictures I had taken. I chose two paths but there is only one path I’d give my life to, one path I gave my life to a long time ago.
It was with a camera that these very precious images I have came to be – how all my favorites came to be. I will always carry a camera as my parents did. I will always strive to capture for others what some one captured for me, even before I knew what a gift those photos would be for me, years down the road.
My father gave me a camera because my father knew me. And I could never, not in one million years, ever, ever, ever thank him enough.
Dad: you gave me my blood, my heart, my soul: my art. Everybody needs their art. I would be lost without mine. I have you to thank for the breath in my body, in every sense.
your Sweet Pea