Photo Albums

Jennifer - Columbus, Ohio
Entered on September 3, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
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If ever you want to know who I am, simply ask my mother. She will grab a pristine ten-pound photo album off the shelf and drop it in your lap faster than you can say “Apple Pie?” The first picture she will show you is a Sears portrait studio photo of little blonde haired me and my chubby little brother. She is so proud of this particular photo because it shows how different I really am from my brother. There I am, barely four years old looking away, biting my lower lip obviously mad that I am sitting next to my brother. And then there he is, bright big smile pointing his finger at me, laughing at my frustration. My mother will continue to tell you the story of my life by simply turning the pages, pointing at a photo and remembering every detail of that day. These photos were not your typical holiday/birthday photos. They were everyday, watching TV, cooking in the kitchen or playing cards at the table kind of photos. Page seven, I was wearing my cousins favorite football t-shirt. Pages twelve through twenty, I am always in pajamas and smiling. Page forty-four was my angst years, when my hair was a different shade of either purple or black.

I never understood my mother’s fascination with taking pictures until my parents gave me a professional camera on my thirteenth birthday. It was a Pentax with a few scratches and imperfections around the body, but I didn’t care. I filled my first few rolls of film with pictures of our dog Maggie, but at least they were in focus. When my father saw me, just a kid with an adult camera almost too big for my hands, he would always say, “someday you could be a world famous photographer.”

He always loved the aspens in the mountains of Colorado, so one snowy day in January my father took the family out for a car ride. There was a small town called Cripple Creek. It was filled with old style farmhouses converted into local boutiques and antique stores. My brother and I spent the entire day rummaging through old farmyard equipment and asking our father what it was. He has always been a great storyteller, my father. He would describe the rusted tools in such great detail that they would some how come to life, each with a character all to their own. So pretending to be the next Ansel Adams, I began photographing these decrepit old farmhouses and rusted out equipment. I wanted to capture my father’s stories on film so that everyone could enjoy them as well. During my high school years, I continued to photograph old farmhouses. My teachers would often ask me why and what my infatuation was with these seemingly meaningless structures. I’d always backtrack and tell them about the Sears portrait and all the snapshots taken by my mother. About how these images were like the storybook of my life. I’d then tell them about my father’s stories and how I wanted to illustrate them through my photos. It was then that I began to believe that a photograph alone will not out live us, but the stories we share along with them. Since then, I stopped rolling my eyes in protest when my mom grabs her camera. And when my father tells a story, I pay close attention to every word.