Photography Helps Settle My Fear of Time

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Somewhere in my collection of memorabilia, is a Polaroid of me from junior high, smiling into my oak bedroom mirror that sat atop my dresser, holding my camera in my hands, the image capturing the burst of the flash in the reflection. It’s straight out of a Stranger Things episode, mostly I looked like Barb. My first camera was a Polaroid and in the 80s this film was a luxury. Once I ran out, it’d be awhile before my personal stock replenished. Truthfully, I think I enjoyed pressing the button, hearing the click and making the floppy film come out more than I enjoyed taking pictures at that time. I remember being amazed at seeing something on film the way I saw it with my eyes so immediately. And I remember the day I took that picture, just like it happened moments ago.

Over the past few years I’ve probably logged over 100 hours of photography and editing classes all working toward a personal goal of being a visual storyteller. I’m not a professional photographer and it actually gives me great relief to be able to pass right over the learning modules aimed at honing in on my money-making photo skills or adding that to the list of careers I’d like to have. I like keeping this one to myself for my own personal benefit.

I don’t always know where to point the camera. What is “worthy” enough to be shot or whether the images will come out remotely close to the beauty my eyes see. I keep picking up the camera to capture the world this way, with its vast beauty. I want to remember every moment so I can stop time a little bit, so I can share a story of a setting, a laugh, a memory. I want to remember the way my son looks when he’s in awe of something, the funny faces my seven-year-old makes, my daughter’s favorite spot on the couch with our pup. I want to feel, when I look at an image that I’ve taken, like I’m back in that moment in time. Like I’m there with them and we’re reliving everything; the smell of the room, the vibrance of their clothes, hearing their laughter, me feeling the weight of the camera and my eye pressed against the eye-piece looking so intently through the viewfinder, waiting for the perfect moment to grab that will tell the whole story.

Time scares me but I’m working on it. I try to tell myself that there are so many more moments to come, so much more to enjoy and that each phase in the children’s development while lending itself to its difficulties also brings such wonderful interaction and playfulness in new ways. It’s a script in my mind and some days, it’s helpful and takes me out of the sorrow giving me so much to look forward to. Other days the story I tell myself carries little weight and those days I put the camera down actually. I hold the boys with nothing in my hands and instead dig my nose into their hair, feel my daughter’s weight slouched against mine, hear their breath.

Time is hard. It reminds me that I’m not in control and this takes my breath away. I struggle with the committee of perfectionists I have sitting at the long dining table in my mind. They talk about the should(s) and should not's of things I could have done better, different or not at all. They critique my every move and are in every lane of my life, including the photography lane. I like that I’m learning how to get a step ahead of these visitors but I can’t always. They’re so skilled in maze running.

I just bought my seventh camera, the one I’ve been coveting for over two years. Buying it was like a rite of passage as I slowly, over 14 years moved up the consumer-grade camera line and into the professional-grade one. I wonder what my photography will look like in another 14 years. I wonder if I’ll still not know if I’m doing it right, have maybe bigger waves of confidence that last longer than moments or more pictures that come out just the way I wanted them to. I wonder if I’ll make better friends with time, if I won’t fear it in 14 years the way I do now. And I hope that I’ll have created stories that can tell themselves.