I was texting with my daughter the other day and we got to talking about some old family photographs I’d recently posted on FB — photos she’d never seen before of she and her late mother.
I could tell she was affected by them and she said happily that it was like rediscovering her childhood.
Of course, being a photographer, and a wedding photographer in particular, this was my cue and my chance to wax philosophical. And I was off and running:
Then there was silence; I guess I might have overdone it a bit. 🙂
But I do feel that way about photographs and photography.
If you’re like me, you have a huge stock of old family pictures (well, perhaps my stock is bigger than some since my father was also a photographer). In my big rubbermaid tub, there are lots of pictures of young grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles. I try to collect all the unwanted photographs from relatives to fill in more of the visual mosaic of my family’s past and connect with these people, some of whom are no longer with us.
It reminds me of that scene in Field of Dreams when Ray sees his ghostly father as a young man.
When as a young child you meet your grandparents, they are near the autumn of their lives. Like in this hugely powerful movie scene, old photographs let you see them when they have their whole lives in front of them and you’re not even a glint in their eyes.
This is the passport picture of my grandparents, Mary and George, newly married in 1927 and about to set off on their honeymoon — kind of fits that description to a T, don’t you think?
That’s the power of the time machine we call the camera. It lets you connect with people and times long gone, and even with parts of yourself that you may have forgotten over the years. It’s kind of like what music does for some people: I’ve heard them say that hearing a piece of music again can conjure up all sorts of memories and feelings from the time it was first (or last) heard. Similarly, old photographs can ground you to your past and perhaps help you remember things – important things – that might have slipped into the recesses of your mind.
I think it’s a similar situation for brides and grooms.
In my very busy and successful five-year run as a wedding photographer in Saint Louis, I was always concerned about doing my best for each couple. So much so that, each morning as I got ready to photograph a wedding, I’d typically say a little prayer and ask for guidance to be able to give the bride and groom images that would help them remember for many years the emotion, the love, and the commitment they shared on their wedding day.
Asking for guidance had become a staple of my wedding day routine. Then, one day, I received this email from a bride on the first anniversary of her wedding:
You can imagine my surprise and gratitude. It was like validation; an answer to my pleas. I guess it’s good to ask for help when you need it.
Memories and connections to people, whether family or friends, ground us and give us roots, give us a sense of who we are and where we came from, and show us what’s really important in life. I hope some of the other friends I’ve photographed over the years feel the same way too.
And now it’s time to quit being philosophical and get down to business. My daughter will be much relieved…