I believe in pictures. Photographs. The stilled characters of my life frozen on 4 by 6 rectangles. A good picture can capture the depth of a person, the very definition of her existence, preserving it forever between two frames. It’s not what you actually see in the picture. It’s who you see.
When I was making a calendar as a Christmas gift for my parents last year, I sorted through box upon box of countless pictures. Each roll documented a different era of our lives, each photograph a different moment. Our pictures were clearly meant to show the characters of my life in a heavenly light: to preserve my sister and her volleyball team, each ironically wearing her hair in lovely long locks when she was about to play hard; my brothers together dressed as 1950s Greasers, clearly anticipating the moment when the camera would turn away and they could release their embrace; me shaking Governor Ernie Fletcher’s hand as I graduated from the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program, the two of us clearly doing the “grip-and-grin” for an unseen camera. Everybody was posed. Honestly, how am I supposed to remember anything about people, except that they won some piece of paper or another, went to some dance, got some present for a birthday? None of these pictures would suffice for a calendar meant for everyday use, the good days and the bad days alike.
Amid the angelic, overly happy poses of vacations, dance recitals, graduations and birthdays, there was one box marked “Etc.” Naturally curious, I peeked inside. This was the forgotten home of all those last-three-pictures-of-the-roll arbitrarily taken just because. Here was my great-grandfather silently offering the camera a black and white dollar bill. There was my great-grandmother, or rather only the left half of her, sitting in serious thought in the ally near her Great Depression home. My aunt in another, nuzzling her newest-born son in the way only mothers can do. I was in the box too, a blissful 9-month-old smiling with an extended middle finger, apparently already too outspoken.
I guess you have to really know who you are to be in a true picture. I never knew my great-grandfather or my great-grandmother, but apparently they knew themselves. Or at least tried to, hence her contemplation. After discovering those photos, though, I feel like I at least can say I know something about each – about his personality, about her inner strength. The photos corresponded only to the event of life in and of itself, the people taking part in it. Life! that most touching, painful, hilarious, and real event of all.
A year of life. That’s what will be in the 2007 calendar. A year of Life. Since my discovery of those photos, whenever a camera turns on me, I do not ask myself if my hair looks alright. Instead, I ask myself, “Who am I?” I feel this philosophy always depicts my best side: the real me. I believe in pictures. Real pictures.
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