Every picture I’ve ever seen of myself tells a story. Sometimes that story is a wonderful one of redemption and joy, but other times it’s the story of a boy fighting against himself, trying futilely to get somewhere. Still other pictures bring back memories of times and people that have been long gone. Some names I don’t even recall, but their faces ring true all this time later. We had that moment. We shared at least the amount of time necessary to seal that memory behind glass for the world to see.
Out of all the people I’ve taken pictures with, the one who appears the most in those photographs with me is my sister. We are only 15 months apart in age, and many people assumed we were twins back then (much to her chagrin — she’s the older one). But we took a host of photographs together, many that still exist to this day. I think it’s because our parents (but mostly our mother) decided she wanted to chronicle our growing up years. Isn’t that why most parents pick up a camera in the first place?
I have pictures of us from Florida, with huge Mickey ears plastered to our sweaty foreheads. And there are pictures of us at Dutch Wonderland, posing next to Barney Rubble, looking like rubes. Still other pictures are random ones from around the house in Southwest Philly, us posing by not posing. Mixed in are also the stock photographs we would take every few years in the back of the grocery store where the picture people would set up shop. I wore ties for those. I am smiling in all of them. I love my sister, and it shows through even back then when I tried to be mewed up to my heaviness.
The second largest section of pictures of me with others has to be the ones with my children. For years I never thought I was going to be a father, or if I would even make a good father, but the second my first little one arrived in this world, I knew I was born to be a father. Indeed. In every single picture of me with my girls I have a smile from cheek to cheek. The stories these photos tell are ones of overcoming obstacles, of being fulfilled, and of enjoying life. Even things I normally wouldn’t enjoy doing become special when I’m with them.
Then there are the pictures with my wife, she who doesn’t like the camera, or feels like that the camera doesn’t like her (I highly disagree). There aren’t nearly as many of these photographs as any in the other categories, simply because I have to really work hard to get her to agree to even one. In fact, I think the only ones I didn’t have to cajole about were our “wedding” photographs that we took in Ireland. She is beauty personified, and I will keep doing what I can to capture “us” to film. The stories that film could tell would be incredible and diverse.
And, ah, the self-portraits. From the time I was eight and knew what a camera’s function was, I just had to grab the nearest one and snap a picture of myself. Of course this was long before digital anything, so I had no clue how they would come out. Indeed, some of the earliest ones would be of the room behind me, and maybe a piece of my ear as well. I wish I had saved those. However, as I got more skilled I became adept at figuring out exactly where I needed to point the lens. Now I have at least an acre’s worth of those pictures. Me being me, and cheesing for the camera. It’s become easier to do that with my phone, but something is lost in the process as well.
Every picture truly does tell a story, even if I don’t quite remember all of the stories attached to each one. Sometimes I even make up stories to go with those pictures because they call out for personal stories. What I love most about photographs is their ability to capture both what is there and what isn’t. And oh the stories they weave.