I believe in photographs.
My parents have a picture of me grabbing at a camera my dad was holding. In the picture, you can see two-year-old me sitting on the floor of our Atlanta townhouse with my dad’s foot between my legs, pushing me away with outstretched arms. This picture leads me to believe I have always subconsciously understood the importance of capturing a picture.
Some cultures believe that a photograph steals a soul. I believe that a subject gives the photograph a soul of its own. A snapshot of a child playing on a playground with a huge smile on their face is capable of revealing the joy that child has at that moment. It does not hold the child’s soul among the ink and developer on the paper. Instead, it takes on a new life. There could be miles of pain behind that smile, but in that particular frame, the photograph holds reminiscence a joyful soul.
There is little I enjoy more than looking at old photographs. They are the pauses in history that will forever be documented on a small, glossy sheet of paper. My grandparents’ pictures of their youth are my favorites. Behind those wrinkles and half-crescent eyes, there is a history. I love pulling out old photographs of my family only to be told the stories behind them. My mother and I could spend hours looking through pictures of her college days, and I could spend hours listening to her tell me the stories behind each and every one of them.
The first death that affected me was of my Granddaddy Laslo. Four years after his death, my mother and I went to Arkansas where he and my grandmother lived before he died. We ventured through old letters and relics. Among these, there were photographs of his childhood. There was a picture of him dressed as a little man standing beside his older sister and brother in inches of snow. This picture brought tears to my eyes. His grin was as wide as his face, and he was happy. Almost all of my life, he was such an unpleasant man. I hardly saw him smile, but when I did it, was beautiful. The weathered picture captured a second of his happy little soul, and allowed me to replace all of the sadness his aged eyes had shown with a wide-mouthed grin.
I believe pictures can reveal history, but I also believe pictures can begin new journeys. This past summer at a retreat, a picture of a small, tan boy wearing white over-alls and hair combed neatly to the side caught my attention. With a pair of beady, brown eyes in the foreground, I could not look away. He was a three-year-old Peruvian boy named Jack. He was being displayed at the front of a thick packet of paperwork for sponsorship. If it was not for his hopeful face on the front of that packet, I would not have picked it up. He is so young, but already, he knows faith. I have sponsored him for five months, and still his eyes fill my heart with purpose.
For the rest of my life, like the beginning, I will have numerous collections of timeless little documents. I hope one day I can sit with my children, laughing and crying at the life I have led. I plan on spending limitless hours explaining the importance of the soul each picture contains. To this day, I have not comprehended the technicalities of the camera. However, I have come to realize and accept that sometimes it is necessary to allow things to make no sense in order to do what they are made to do.
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