Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Camera Says it All

The camera says it all. It cannot lie. It sees only what lies in front of the lens. It sees more than the focus of the photographer. This morning I watched a segment on George Steinmetz, a photographer for National Geographic. His images are breathtaking and inspiring. Today photos are taken on cell phones and left stored in said phone or digital camera. I have often wondered what happens to those photos if the phone or camera is destroyed. Where does that history go? What has been lost forever?

Many cameras have passed during my lifetime: Box camera, Brownie, Polaroid (black and white photos), Instamatic, etc, etc. The list goes on. I remember finding a dark corner in which to drop a roll of film into the camera, attaching it over little catches then pulling a lever to advance the film. Then drop in film came along. Now we have digital that does it all….except take it off the phone or camera. 

The photographer captures a photo saving the moment. A moment important enough to warrant the focus of the person behind the lens.  I stood at an estate sale looking into a box of old photos tossed randomly and carelessly. My heart ached knowing that no one cared about the past of these people. No one saw the worth in the photos.  I knew that the box would be discarded at the end of the sale. A box of a lifetime of events would be gone forever.

My photos are stored in an old trunk. I call it my treasure chest. It hold pictures taken long before I was born. Pictures taken by various members of my family. Pictures showing me a time when I didn't exist. Being the observer that I am, I find each and every picture exciting. I look beyond the focus which is usually a person or a group of people. I look at the background finding answers and sometimes more questions in the buildings and roads, the rooms and the clothing. I see a progression of transportation from the horse and carriage to the old Edsel my grandfather owned. The farms buildings changed. Gone was the old tobacco shed replaced with a metal barn. Trees stood in places where in my lifetime they were gone. I saw the faces of my generations past.  I saw those I'd always heard about but never saw. Even in those photos where I don't recognize anyone, I have a piece of history. I can't imagine a world without these images. Even the images of someone else would have worth to me. They are the history of all of us.

I love to pick up my camera and have a photo day with my grandchildren. I can teach them to look at more than just the focus of the picture. I can teach them to look beyond what they see. We share time that is priceless and have pictures we look at time and time again to remind us of that day.  Both granddaughters have a very creative eye. They are learning to preserve what they see and not take it for granted. They are the recorders of history. Put a camera in the hands of a child and the world just might someday learn from that child. And….the child learns about this wonderful world. 

 The camera says it all.

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