The past, it will affect you in ways you never thought it would, therefore, my past inspired me to pick up a camera. I never realized it back then, but looking back now, I realize I had an urge to document my life. I’ve always had a camera. My Dad (I believe it was him), bought me a cheap film camera. I would manually rewind the roll, take it to the drugstore and wait a week or two to see what I had shot. Some of the photos were overexposed, some were underexposed, and there was always a few that were double exposed. I was always taking photos because I always had a film camera. I have boxes of photos from high school and college.
Growing up, there was a lack of childhood photos of my sister and me. There are a few, but not nearly as much as I have taken of my son in the past 12 almost 13 years of his life. When he was born, my goal was that I wanted him to be able to look back at his childhood. I wanted him to have the photos I didn’t have. We went through our first deployment in 2003 my son was only nineteen days old when my husband went to Iraq for the first time. Naturally, I took a lot of photos to send to him, so he could see his son growing up. Technology wasn’t the same back then as it is today. No FaceTime or iPhones. We would go to VTCs (video teleconference) so my husband could actually see his only child. I had a film camera when my son was an infant, so I would take the rolls of film and have them developed in an hour, and put them in a box to be sent to my husband in Iraq. I have so many albums full of photos from that time period. I still have rolls of film from his infanthood that need to be developed. I bought my first digital point and shoot in October 2003, and that just upped my game of taking photos of my son. When my husband came back from his first deployment he couldn’t understand why I was constantly photographing our son.
My reason is and has always been for taking so many photos of my son is this: the lack of photos from my childhood. I firmly believe in memories, not things. The albums I have are full of photos that span from infanthood to toddlerhood, from toddlerhood to childhood. Photos of him seeing his Daddy for the first time, he had no idea who that man was that was hugging his Mommy. Just thinking about the first reunion in January 2004 makes me emotional. There are photos of him telling his Daddy goodbye the day of his third deployment. There are so many photos of one child who is loved so very much.
In June 2014, we went to the X Games because we were still living in TX and it was a once in a lifetime event for us. I took countless photos at the X Games because I wanted those memories to last forever. This year for my son’s twelfth birthday, I printed them out in an album because I knew he would never forget those three hot days due to me taking my camera and snapping photos of him with athletes he’ll never have the opportunity to meet again. We left TX shortly after the X Games and drove to VA to spend a few weeks prior to moving cross country to WA. I took photos while we were in VA so he would remember what his grandparents’ house looked like. I took photos in the hotel room because I needed to document every crazy part of our move. I took photos of him being silly, doing handstands on a bed because he was so tired and when he’s tired he can be crazy. I took photos at a rest stop near Colorado because it was our first time seeing the Rocky Mountains. I used my iPhone when I didn’t have out my dslr.
When we got to WA, I took even more photos. I took photos of our life in an empty house; air mattresses, him playing on his DS, the dogs, my husband. When we met up with my sister two days after getting here, I took photos of her with her only nephew. She hadn’t seen him since he was three. I took photos of him seeing a beach for the first time in his life. He was so happy to put his feet in the Puget Sound; I took photos on both my dslr and my iPhone. When we went to Crescent Bay beach in April that was the first time in his life that he had seen huge waves, he loves the beach. I document our life, at least I try to. Some days it isn’t easy or feasible. I have a preteen boy, he’s grown up with my dslr and isn’t always fond of it.
I decided to document our homeschooling journey when we first started in August 2013. I took photos of the table with the books on them. I took photos of him taking tests online. I have so many photos of him doing his schoolwork. I call it my homeschooling series. The view changes every year and I like to look back, to see how much he has grown since 2013. I photograph his hands, the intent look on his face. I do this for the purpose of memory. More importantly, I do this for me. I do this for my memory as well as his. I don’t want him to forget how difficult yet how rewarding homeschooling can be.
I have recently started shooting film again. Instead of a cheap film camera from a drugstore, I have two 35mm Canon cameras that I’m shooting with. I started out with film in my youth and have made a circle back to it. Film makes my soul happy. I took it with us to Ocean Shores WA in July. I had to document my son’s first time seeing the Pacific Ocean. When he’s older and married with kids, he can show them all of the photos from his childhood and teenage years.
That’s all I’ve wanted since I started my journey with him almost 13 years ago. It is why no matter how much of a funk I’m in; I will continue to document his life, until he goes off to college. I’m not quite sure how often I’ll be taking photos of him once he’s in high school. Maybe he’ll take his camera everywhere with him to document his life. Then what he has seen me do for the majority of his life will be a part of his past.
Photography’s a gift, it gives you back the memories you thought you had lost. I want him to always remember that memories and experiences are far more important than physical gifts. Will he always remember the Nerf Crossbow he got for Christmas? Probably not, but he’ll have the photos I took of him opening his gifts, and the look of pure happiness on his face. This is why I do what I do; document his life and ours as a family. A person can never have too many photos of their life.
Every month I try to make it a habit to either order prints or an album. I’m slowly catching up on years of photos on my hard drive, even the iPhone photos. Tangible prints are so very important to me. There’s a photo I have from my childhood, I’m not quite sure of the year; I know it was the early 80’s. It’s from Halloween, my sister and I dressed up in our costumes, our Dad in the middle of us with a big grin on his face. It was taken in the front yard of our grandparents’ house. I look at it and can remember going trick or treating to our great aunt and uncle’s house, my cousin opening the door with a scary mask on her face and me screaming or crying because I was so scared and had no idea it was her. I remember all of that just by looking at that photo. Any photo can evoke memories; good or bad. Writing brings out a lot of emotions and makes you remember things from childhood. If my Dad was still alive, I would tell him thank you for spending what little money you had on letting me send off the rolls and discs of film from those cheap film cameras, knowing that there were a lot of mistakes on them. Thank you for beginning a lifelong love affair with photography. If you hadn’t bought those cheap film cameras from the drugstore, I doubt I would have picked up a camera in my youth. Thanks Dad!