Capturing time

We were sitting on the bench at the front of the pond, holding each other's hands, our legs crossed in the same direction, enjoying the warmth of the sun on our backs. A shadow of a hawk flew above us and we tilted our heads up to watch at the same time and my husband said, "That's a good shot." A capture, I thought, that wasn't photographed. 

Whenever I see something beautiful or remarkable, there is an itch to reach for my phone to take a picture. This used to be instinctive but something I notice hasn't been my immediate response anymore. My husband says we have a tendency to want to take photographs because memory is fallible. Sometimes I think that is precisely why I don't reach for my phone, because I want to remember having felt something memorable rather than the actual thing itself. That is not to say that I am not a prolific photo-taker. I recently switched to a new cell phone after holding on to my old Motorola model for six years. The camera on the new phone is impressive and I've been having fun taking photos, in awe of the sharpness compared to the blurry pictures I'm used to. 

Looking through my recent gallery, there are photos of blue skies and tree branches coming in from the bottom, closeups of pink buds on the cusp of opening, a red tulip in macro, a cherry tree with a green house with white window panes in the background, a view of my bookshelf with the string of lights turned on, a Joan Didion book and its title mirrored upside down on the glass on top of the dresser, a sunny side egg and turkey bacon on a plate, a heart shaped pot on the stove with dumplings in boiling water, a round cake with a bunny tail made of white frosting in a display case, the tip of a fountain pen, a Tudor style house with a 19th century church golden in the light to its left, a ginger cat looking out from a window, a tabby cat on a window, the back of my favorite black and white spotted little cat sitting on the sidewalk, my mom taking pictures of me on her cell phone, the picture she took of me that she sent me, my husband's profile while reading a book, a series of selfies of the two of us, a solar powered lucky cat waving his hand in a window with a reflection of me in a baseball hat taking a photo and my husband looking to the side behind me, a window with a large photo of Audrey Hepburn holding a long cigarette in a frame on the wall inside, bare trees reflecting in the glass. 

Why do I take photographs? To capture a moment. Why do I choose not to? To capture it with words. When I was a child I had a tape recorder and then a video camera. I annoyed my parents incessantly with both, but can't remember the last time we rewound those tapes as a family. But when I read a page in an old diary, the memories appear as vivid as any picture - still or in motion. They say a photograph can speak a thousand words, but I've always thought a written record can speak even more and sometimes a sentence is all it takes. I don't remember when or how I changed my photo taking habits. Gradually, over the years, I found I wanted to put less effort into photographing moments and started writing about them instead. I do remember a particular vacation trip when I brought along a larger sized journal, some picture corners tucked in the back, and a glue stick. Instead of taking photos all the time, I became more attentive to collecting little trinkets I could glue in the journal and write around them - pressed leaves, receipts from coffee shops, a torn sugar packet, crinkly candy wrapper, a postcard. Looking back on these entries makes me relive those memories more than their photographs. 

I've come to understand, reliving memories through recording them is what this blog is all about. As tempting as it is to share a photo, I want to write about what it meant to me. I've often wanted to post photos alongside these blog entries but feel it wouldn't be right, because these posts are my way of digging deeper. I want to capture what I see and experience with words. That is why I started writing, that is why I write.


2 comments:

  1. I have a tricky relationship with photographing as well. There are many theoretical books on the correlation of photography and memory (and memory in general), I can suggest you a few if you like.

    ReplyDelete

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