11 February, 2008

Mom and Her Camera

Mom checking in with some thoughts of the camera. What she doesn't say in this little story is that, I think, she was the only woman on this trip, which meant she was getting a CONSTANT ribbing from all the guys on the excursion. In fact, I too remember images from her trip, and I'm actually not sure if she knows that I remember them, but I do.
There is a photo of her sitting on a rock, smiling, as one of the guys behind her throws water on her from one of the coffee cans they used to bail the boats.
And another thing....her nickname is Annie Oakley, and she was, in many cases, the only woman on these trips. Hunting, fishing, hiking, etc, she was there, keeping up with all the guys. In that world you have to earn your respect, and she did.
But, with having said that, she still favors my brother the most, her first child, but denies it to this day!!

I got to thinking about all the photographs I have taken during my seventy years. How much of me is in those pictures? Who will look behind the print? Who will find me standing there behind the camera searching the view finder for just the right mix? Who will wonder who I am and why I took the picture? Who will find me? Who will learn my secret?
My hands first found a camera when I was about twenty or so. My mother-in-law gave me a Graphflex 35millimeter Camera that was totally manual. I studied it for a few days and set out to take pictures. All the settings for the camera were a guess for me. I remember I took a picture of blue, flowering chicory growing along a guardrail next to a road in Indiana and of white Indian Pipes growing near a huge rock in the woods where we lived. When my husband John and I floated the middle fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, I carried this camera in a plastic bag inside my shirt. We started at Dagger Falls, on the middle fork, and floated to the main Salmon River. There were five of us in each small, rubber raft. One was the guide. As we approached a set of rapids I would grab my camera, jump up and click, click. Then I would jam it back in the plastic bag and grab the ropes to secure my position for the trip through the rapids. Luck was with me. My camera stayed dry. We were cold and very wet, but, we bailed the water out of our raft as fast as we could. Big coffee cans did the job well. Everything got wet, including most peoples cameras. They kept them wet so they wouldn't be ruined. We had a lay over day at a spot on the river called Hospital Bar. There was a rock bathtub near the river where hot spring water mixed with the cold water of the river. It was like a bath. John took my picture sitting in the warm water. I still see him taking this picture. I didn't want to leave. After the trip we sent our pictures to many of the people whose cameras got wet. My husband gave a slide show with the pictures at Rotary Club in the small Indiana town where we lived. It wasn't hard to get good pictures on the river. Everywhere you looked it was beautiful.
Over the next few years I took pictures of my family and lots of wild flowers and wild scenes. We lived in a woods and owned an additional area that was the Jean Stratton Porter property. She was an Indiana author. It was a swampy woods, with a creek running through it full of wild flowers. Our neighbor trapped the creek and caught mink. There was an old cabin in the woods near a bend in the creek that the local boyscouts use. It had a wood burning stove. Visiters would sometimes knock down the door to get it. My husband put a sign on it. It said, "The door is open." Spring time was a beautiful time there. I supplied a local artist with pictures of old, fallen down buildings. During the next several years, I took hundreds of pictures at our ranch in Wyoming. I have taken and looked at alot of pictures, but, it wasn't until my sister Nedra sent me a picture her son Tom had taken, that I realized I had been missing something. Tom had taken a picture of Abigail, the blue, cream, persian cat my family had given my mother.
I do alot of thinking in the bathroom. There are times I have revelations during my visits. The claw footed tub is a great place to meditate, as well as other modern conveniences. The cat picture Tom took hangs in this room. It is big and shows Abigails huge, copper colored eyes. They stare at me with great intensity. What are those eyes asking of me? What do they want? What are they telling me? What am I missing? Maybe she wants me to see what was happening at the time the picture was taken. Maybe she is telling me Tom is there with a camera in his hands. He is hoping Abigail will not move so he can get a great picture for his grandmother. They are having fun trying to get this picture. I don't know what kind of camera Tom had. I am not sure I even knew Tom liked to take pictures. Now, I know he did. I am sure glad. I like thinking of them and fun times.
So, now when I look at Abigail there on my bathroom wall, I see Tom and my mother together. A sense of humor was not spared on those two. They were both wonderful human beings and sent joy and happiness to those who knew them. Mom, Tom and Abigail are all gone now, but, this picture holds them for me to find and enjoy. Now, when I look at a photograph, I see the mystery of the story behind it. Not knowing for sure if what is revealed is intended. Wondering if the eye of the camera found the reason for the photo in the eyes of the photographer. Wondering if their photography gathers and holds them in its lights and shadows. Maybe you will see their secret hidden in the stillness when a second of life is stopped on film. Maybe you will see the image of the cold, wet woman behind the camera on the river. Maybe she will pull you in and hold you in the spell of the river that brought her closer to herself. Pictures dance around her like leaves in the wind. They are everywhere. They never stop. The camera in her head is never still. Maybe she knows the secret left behind in her pictures for you.

No comments: