Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Lens

Cameras. They capture a moment, an image of what the camera eye sees but perhaps we do not. They peek into a moment echoing signs of sadness, contemplation, simple joy. How do we know? A small piece of paper holds tight the image.

Pictures show us a history, stories that we had no part in. The black, grey tintype with ancestors stern in pose and forbearing in posture, tell us of another time when families were patriarchal and children were many. When frivolity was rare and family members knew their places. In one picture a woman is hidden by a black cloth as she sits on a chair. A small child sits upon lap of the darkened shape, a child too small to sit alone. Once when my daughter was a baby, I was asked by the photographer to sit behind her draping her blanket over my hands, balancing the wobbly child. Perhaps times had not changed so much.

The camera sees beyond. Eyes that reflect sadness or pain are easily read. The posture of hands on the hips and a stern face paint a story of conflict. Soft eyes staring into another’s reflecting the same paints a lovely picture of love. Stories without words come from this method of capturing time. People pass from our lives yet we hold their images, hold them dear.

My aunt before she passed, asked me who would want their travel slides when they were gone? Who would care? “I would,” I told her, and I meant it. What I would do with them, I did not know, but giving her a sense of caring was the gift I could give her. I would cherish those pictures because they were hers and of their life. Yet, the slides were tossed and no one there cared.

I don’t know what it is within me that holds so dear those I have in my life, those who have passed before and even those I have yet to know. It is not an easy thing to wear, but it is a burden I cherish. Pictures of places seen 100 years ago, families standing before a photographer looking through a big box under a black cloth, a look of love that passed between two lovers two weeks ago are not only for today, but a history for tomorrow as well. Truly, we pass this way only once. Someone should care. Someone should be the keeper.

Look at picture. Look at the color, the background, the faces, the captions that are missing. Look at day in time the happened for a fleeting moment. We are the keepers.

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