Life in Faded Photographs

Why are photos so important to me? Because they are a link, a link to family who are no longer with me. A link to life before I was born. A link to memories of good times.  A link to places, to people, to life. I started taking pictures when I was about 12. I found my Grandmother’s Brownie camera and asked if I could use it. Much to my surprise she said yes. We went to the local store on the corner, a dingy little place that to my 12 year old eyes, housed all of life’s necessities. Of course it housed film, I mean, why wouldn’t it? We bought RC Coca Cola from the ice chest out front and walked slowly back home, film in hand. It was summer and I remember chatting excitedly about the trip that was coming up. A visit south to see relatives. I wanted to take pictures. I did. I was given a quick lesson in loading the film and how to point and shoot. After that I was on my own. I used up that precious roll of film on that trip. The photos were misplaced somewhere while I was busy growing up.  After my Mother’s funeral a few years ago I was sitting in my sister’s dining room looking in a glass case that housed many small framed photos. There was my photo!! The one I took of a view down a long, wooded hill through a stone arch that framed the scene. Even though it was a small, black and white photo, the memories of that trip came flooding back. It’s the same thing that happens each time I look at a photo. I’m instantly transported back in time. Sadly, my sister passed away not soon after and no one seems to know where that photo went. She had offered it to me that day, but I declined.  I wish now I had said yes. I still see it in my mind, but I would really like to see it in all it’s faded black and white glory.

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My son at Christmas, when he was 3.
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The McCormick boys
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Blue Ridge Parkway, October, 2010

I don’t know when I became the designated family photographer. Maybe I was the only one who cared enough to take pictures. Maybe because my photos were a small step up from snapshots. It’s more likely that holding a camera gave me the opportunity to become an observer. I didn’t have to join in. I could just observe. It was a shield for a shy girl and I took full advantage. Truth. I’m not a photographer. I take pretty good snapshots. I’ve had my pictures developed a few times and wasn’t allowed to take them out of the store unless I could show I had the copy right. Wow. That’s annoying but also a huge compliment. I have to wonder what kind of pictures other people take and if the photo counter employees ask them for ID and copy right information.

I used to scrapbook, back when it was popular. I don’t so much anymore. I still put them in albums, with notes about when, where, and who, but I haven’t pulled out my gazillion sheets of scrapbook papers in quite some time. No one except me is interested in them it seems. And I don’t need fancy paper to bring back the memories. One thing I still do, and will always do, is label the backs of my photos with the details of who is in them, or where they were taken. Nothing pains me more than to look at my Grandmother’s tintypes and old photos and try to figure out who these people were. Why, oh why didn’t she just pencil the names on the back??? As a genealogy lover, I NEED those names. And why, oh why didn’t I pay attention when she dragged those photos out to reminisce?? I was a bad Granddaughter that’s why, a teenager who was “too busy” to pay attention. Be that as it may, I record names and dates now and places so that my Grandkids don’t have to guess. Right now they don’t care.  They’re teenagers. With smart phones. They record every minute of every day. Selfies. Videos. They don’t have time to look at pictures of people they never knew. They used to call them “Scary People Pictures” when they were younger. The faces of distant relatives. I explained that back then people had to stay perfectly still so that the camera had time to record the image. Smiles were hard to hold. They just look at me with confusion. ???  The concept of sitting perfectly still is not understandable. They, who with the constant click of  tiny cameras, record every movement, every minute. It is remarkable. Even to me, the original observer.

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