Were it not for me, there would be no photographs or albums or souvenirs in this house. I am a documentarian. I document everything; record every event. Make certain that we never have the usual posed photographs where everyone has a frozen fish-stick smile on their face but instead, that they look natural as they are speaking, moving, gesturing.
I do all of this through the use of a Nikon telephoto lens that I have, as well as the zoom function on my HP Photo Smart Digital which is okay, but will never match the same effect or quality or fineness of actual film. That’s just my opinion and perhaps with a better digital, I’d be surprised. But for now, I work with what I have. Digital just lets me down in some ways, which shocks me because I’ve always been a tech-geek girl into her “all manner” of tech toys.
I hate to say digital photography has let me down because digital is supposed to be better. You can get more detail, I’m told, and you can get better shots and truer colors. Yet I still find my Nikon and regular old film get the best shots we have going.
The one thing that I do have to do, because otherwise I am, for periods, wholly absent from the photo albums and scrapbooks, is to take photographs of myself and develop those. It would not occur to my husband to pick up the camera to take a shot — not because he does not love the way I look (he does), but because he says he has “the real thing”, so why bother? It’s an interesting way of looking at it, I suppose, but yet when I am old I want to remember and I want him to remember us as we are now – vital and young and in the prime of our lives. I want him to remember that, just the other day, he said “Jesus, you still have the body of a twenty year old.” I want for that to never be lost.
And so it was, for Christmas and the holidays, I made for him a video out of a series of photographs (the photo above being one of them and then set the whole video to music – “All the Air That I Breathe” by Bread – it was fitting, so there). I also made him a beautiful album with photographs of the two of us; an album that is just for us and for our eyes only. It has photographs of us through the last year and even more from the whole twelve years we have now been together.
To be a good documentarian you have to have a good eye for things and you have to be able to know what to capture and what not. I am regretful that nobody documented my fight with cancer because hell, it would have reminded me how very far I have come. Yet no matter who I asked to do this, nobody had the heart to pick up the camera and take photographs of me in my wheelchair, leg up and wrapped, my IV trailing behind me, and so on. It was just too horrible, yet it felt necessary to me that we record this event because it is, or was, a part of my life that was key. That helped define me for a while and that is important. One cannot just document weddings and birthday parties and get togethers, or one can, but it won’t tell you the truth of your life.
I recently put together a book for those who care when I die. The book is entitled, “Un Jour De Ma Vie. A Day in My Life”, and it is literally a little black book with black pages and on each page, a photograph that represents a different section of the day – for instance, waking and what I see. What I look like upon waking; the dresser top where I put on my perfume and find my clothes and the like. Then my car, a shot of the side view mirror as I drive fast toward wherever I am headed on that particular day – work, a museum opening, a friend’s house, etc. You get the idea. But for each part of the day there is a shot and each shot captures the mood of the hour or the hours, for mood is important.
It wasn’t vanity that inspired the book. It was a way for me to share my life with our son, who can, in turn, share it with his children, and more, it helped me realize what a great and blessed life I truly have. How beautiful my life is when I see it lain out before me in photographs, it doesn’t look bad at all. No, it’s not all roses – there are thorns, and sickness is the largest thorn of all, but we deal with that and even the EEG read-out of my epilepsy is included in the book as a reminder of seven to nine hours of seizures back-to-back. I don’t want to forget that this happened to me because, even though I do not remember the day, I know that I woke up at 7 p.m. and was afraid. That I did not know my own name or my husband’s name. That I had amnesia for a while and that it was feasible that my memory may never have come back. Thank god it did, and so I can do this now, and write my name and know to whom I am married and be glad for all of it.
Perhaps that’s it. Perhaps in documenting, I am looking for those things to be so glad for – and finding them too. Leafing through one of the big albums I see so many things; friends, dinners, my husband’s Roman profile that I have always loved, the self-portraits that I took because nobody else could or would do as good a job and so were reticent, the walks on the beach, the photo of my ex with my current as they stand profile to profile on the great expanse of beach. All of this is my life. Held within this simple frame is my life as it was two seconds ago and, while I do not believe in looking backward, and I strongly believe in looking forward, the occasional backward glance often helps us appreciate the now even more than we think we do already simply because you know from whence you came, how far you have come. Or, the backward glance reminds you of what it is exactly that you do have in the now and while I document everything, even as I do it I am aware of the passing of each second as I press down softly and hear the click of the shutter.
Thanks for reading,