I’m the annoying one in the family that takes the photos. ‘Just stay still a moment till I take your photo’, ‘oh that will be a great’, ‘oh try again’, ‘oops the dog photo bombed’ you know the drill?
On reflection I think it started when my Dad was first diagnosed with cancer. I realised that all our time together was uncertain so we should celebrate good times and remember to capture it on film too. I’m grateful we did. His last years flashed by like glimpses from a train carriage, sometimes just so fast no memory or image remains. His last photos showed the effect of illness and medication and that hurt. But within those we caught one where he sat with the dog at his feet, content with the world. The dog was my families but we all knew really his primary attachment was my Dad! That photo comforted me for many years after his death. It sat on a table by my chair. It’s 25 years now since Dad died but the urge in me to capture special moments remains.
He was always my go to for the political discussion. We cried on the phone together when John Smith died. It took decades to stop the habit of calling my Dad to discuss the latest political twist and turn. I can picture his disgust at our current situation in Westminster. I’ve long since decided he would have turned to voting for Scottish Independence as I have but I can really only guess at that. His was the generation that fought together across Europe, who also fought for a better and fairer world in the elections afterwards too. It was his generation who voted for a better welfare state and a national health service. He would not have sat quietly and seen it all undone.
But I digress, I was musing over photos. As the collector of memories, I’m usually the unseen presence behind the lense. So when I had a professional photo taken for a newspaper recently, I was very uncomfortable. But then he shared them with me and I was taken by the truth he had captured.
In them I saw the effect of medication for cancer, I saw the recent years of pain and sleeplessness. I saw the toll taken by chronic illness but I also saw a fierce connection to life; the part of me that’s grateful for all those years and stubbornly determined to keep going. I saw how really exhausting that is too.
Rather than wish he had touched them up a bit ( well ok, maybe a little bit of me did), I was thankful for my truth to be seen without pretence or flattery. Their beauty is their honesty. And that’s ok.