Monday, November 17, 2014

Photography, Time, and Memory

I bought camera gear in Japan in 1981. An Olympus 35mm rig, all manual, a flash, and four lenses, and a tripod. A good friend of mine had gotten serious about photography and we were deployed together. We took hundreds of pictures together. Snapshots sometimes, but often we would bicycle off the base out into Japan and spend the day setting up and shooting images as serious and technically complex as we knew how.

We learned to shoot at night, images exposed for 30 seconds, or two minutes, or four. Learned to focus and follow a moving object, like an airplane, for example. I carried that camera to Korea, and then to the Philippines. Captured my journey. All those slides sit in trays on a shelf, when I occasionally look at them, I can remember the day and where I was, sometimes even the exposure I used.

I came home. When I got off the plane, I came down the steps with the camera in hand. The baby had been 3 weeks old when I left. I had been gone six months. When I called her name, she turned and I took this picture.

She wasn't thrilled that I bought the equipment. We had a child, were living on a sergeant's pay, it seemed an extravagance. It was complex and she never learned to use it much. The time and effort I had put into learning the craft paid off, though. I took pictures of the children. Holidays, beach trips, camping, birthdays, sometimes just pulled it out when I saw them in the yard.

This summer our oldest got married. His future sister-in-law figured out how to contact us without the bride and groom knowing about it. Did I have pictures I would share for a slideshow? I did and sent them in digital format, scanned from slides and uploaded to Picasa (and who could have imagined any of this 30 years ago?).

They were used to make a slide show. One of him, then one of her, from earliest days up to pictures of them together. Put to music. We showed it at the rehearsal dinner. Later, when we were eating, my wife leaned over and said, "I was wrong about the camera."

I was stunned. Even 30 years after the fact, whowouldathunkit?

But it's not the pictures, it's what they evoke. They shake open a memory. Bring back a time. When that picture was taken I was 24, standing in my Alphas, and she was the most beautiful woman in the world. It was winter and we were on the flightline at MCAS Beaufort. The Phantoms stood in rows behind us. I don't know that I could remember it so clearly, but the picture brings it back.


Borepatch said...

Nice story

Goober said...

I cant believe that this hasnt gotten more reaction and comments.

Its really touchung, pal. Thank you for your service.

Goober said...

Your kid and I are about the same age, BTW. I was born in Jan 1980.