Tuesday, March 9, 2010
I looked at the clock at 2 am, after waking from a very strange dream. Gussie raised her head (she sleeps next to mine), giving me a quizzical look...I rearranged the pillows, and accidentally knocked Raisenette off the bed...Figured I'd read for awhile-couldn't concentrate...I kept thinking about the "lecture" I gave to a group of high school students earlier in the day, at the request of their art teacher. The subject, "Why I became a photographer"...She and I were in my favorite bookstore (The Dog-Eared Bookstore), in the Art and Photography Section....It's a used bookstore..which I love. We struck up a conversation, and I shared that for twenty years, I was a photographer....anyway, I ended up speaking to seven students (it's a small, Christian Academy). I lay there for an hour or so, thinking about how it went, and decided I may as well get up and write about it....(now, it's 4:42 am).
I took samples of my work..some of my very early work, along with my hand-colored, black-and-white Civil War Reinactment photos (long story), some of my portraits of children (also hand-colored), and some of my more recent, digital work...My digital
camera is dying, and I have a new one..(that's another story)...So there I was, all ready with my "Do what you love" lecture..but, what came out was this:
"During the Viet Nam War, I worked as a volunteer in the amputee ward of an army hospital in Denver. I was a single mom, with a two-year-old little boy, and I lived with my grandparents. I tended bar at nights, went to school part time, and I was at the Veteran's hospital because the only person I knew in Denver was a fellow I had known in high school in Kansas...he had lost both his legs when he stepped on a land mine. In the bed next to him was a young man (I was only in my early twenties, as well), who had lost his legs, and the use of one of his arms. On his bedside table was a Nikon 35mm camera that he had bought on R&R in the Phillipines..not long after that, he was so badly injured. We talked, and he said that I should try shooting some film, as in his condition, it was useless to him.
I bought some film, took my son to the park, and took some photos of him (I still have them). After I put him down for his nap back at my grandparents, I just started wandering about the city, shooting things that caught my attention...All the worries of the world fell away, and I was in my world; a world seen through a lens...There was no more war, no more worries about how I was going to support my son, no pain from a painful divorce..just me and this camera....and so my journey and love affair with photography began.....
I had other "careers" - visual merchandising for twelve years, and then, I started the Civil War photography, then, portraits of mostly children.
I eventually went into interior design, but have always loved photography, and now, with my shiny-new digital camera, and hopefully, a new computer, my love affair continues.
After a time, I bought my own camera and returned his to the young man.......
I found myself in tears today, these fresh faces looking at me as if I were a thousand years old. I told them to find a dream and follow it, and that I was crying because I don't even remember that young man's name...and I wonder what his life has been like. I owe him such a debt of gratitude....