This I Believe

Olivia - Bardstown, Kentucky
Entered on February 14, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: creativity

I believe in photographs. Not the staged, “1…2…3. CHEESE!” kind and not the “I’m going to snap a picture of this person as soon as they turn around” kind either. Rather, the kind of photograph that lets you imagine the way a person was feeling when the shutter clicked. The kind of picture that requires the subject to be unaware that a photographer is even present. I believe in photographs that let you travel back in time.

The best photographs are ones that capture real people, doing real things. An older kid, helping a youngster get a sip from the water fountain. Kids playing in the sprinkler or falling on a Slip-N-Slide. A father, sleeping with his baby on his stomach. These are the pictures that seize the spontaneity that composes our day-to-day lives.

Of course, posed pictures look pretty and everyone looks happy, but that’s not authentic. No one is joyful every moment of every day. Sometimes people are sad, scared, or worried. The list of possible emotions goes on and on forever, so why do people always say “Smile,” right before pushing that button? When I am old and retired, I don’t want to look through my photo albums and only see people with phony smiles, pretending to be cheerful. I want to see pictures that help me remember what my life was like 20, 30, or even 50 years ago.

Recently my cousin gave me some pictures she had snapped of me when I was dancing with her sister at camp. Suddenly, memories of the week came rushing back to me: happiness, exhaustion, friendships, homesickness and sleep-deprivation. I was amazed at how authentic everything felt—it was like it had just happened. Since then, I’ve looked at that picture countless times and each time, I am utterly amazed at how powerful this one snapshot is for me.

Another favorite snapshot of mine is actually one that I took of Sam. Wrapping paper surrounds my cousin, as he tries to pop some bubble wrap after opening his Christmas presents. Even though he couldn’t have been older than six at the time, his face shows greater concentration than anyone I’ve ever seen. He is really putting everything he has, mentally and physically, into bursting those tiny air pockets. Seeing his face makes me want to try my absolute hardest at everything I do. Think about it. If he is putting forth this much effort into popping bubble wrap, I could probably try a little harder at praying for those who anger me.

When I first received this assignment, I was asked what I believed in. After considering this question for several days, I came up with several possible topics ranging from God to the power of bananas. I choose to write about my belief in pictures because they allow you to experience past events of all sorts—joyful, fearful, and sorrowful. Pictures give you the power to relive memories.