Looking At Pictures (Of You and) Me

There’s not a lot of pictures of me that I didn’t take myself.

My mother and father were both born into times that had only a small amount of gadgets at a high price that could record your image. Yet both of them have reels upon reels of childhood videos. Books and boxes of lifetime photos. It should have been, in comparison to the past, trivial to record my youth. Even if it wouldn’t have been at the level of today’s timeline clogging amount there should be enough pictures so that when it comes time to make my documentary, I won’t be stuck with these half dozen pictures – all of them blurry or far away so that my past looks more like an softly lit illusion, or a dream, than a reality.

I know some of this has to do with money. And moving around a few times. And with how my parents are as people. Life was difficult and in turn it was difficult to record. Things weren’t great and no one wants to take sad pictures. Even less than anyone wants to sit around looking at pictures of people in misery. But my parents didn’t seem particularly sentimental about me either. They might have viewed me as unique and special enough to be loved, but they may have well not since there isn’t any proof of that either.

Now that we have cameras that fit in our hands, in our pockets, cameras smaller than our eyes.  Now that we can rapid fire shoot and store buckets and mountains of images trivially,  it feels even stranger to not have pictures of yourself taken by others. It can feel like you were unloved if no one took a second to record you. Worse yet if they took pictures and then never shared, hogging all of the reality for themselves. To not have a picture of something often feels like it never really existed.

If there’s no pictures of me, no record, isn’t that what it’s like to be erased?

I know now that worse than having no pictures of my key moments in life, is that I have so few pictures of you.

In today’s world, without a picture as proof, the two of us might as well have never met. Maybe we didn’t even exist in the grand scheme of things due to the lack of pictures I have of us together. I cherish what I have though, all three pictures. One of them is too heart breaking to be shown to other people. It’s my own reality that I keep to myself, too sad for even me to think about. In the second picture you can’t see either of our faces. We’re obscured by time. As if you could imagine anyone behind those hands, those arms, the tufts of hair spilling around our heads and shoulders all bent forward in a hug. It’s poorly lit. Poorly framed. In some unknown room, in some unknown place, that I know now no one comes back from. It could be anyone but I take solace that, at least, I know it’s us.

In the last picture we’re standing posed together, starring at the camera and smiling dutifully. You look happy but I was happy. Well and truly happy. It was taken so long ago that this picture exists on a printed, worn photograph. It had to be scanned to be properly saved. The physical item measures so small it fits behind the credit cards in my wallet. Which is a mercy, so I can carry you with me. Your smile. A fabrication of you that I can run my fingers over when I need something solid to remind me that you actually existed.

If it were to disappear, I feel as if everything we were would so easily be erased.

This is one of the reasons that I love to take pictures of people and the world around me. I want my friends and loved ones to know that they exist. That they are loved and appreciated and thought of. That someone thinks they’re important enough to be recorded and remembered.

And so when I’m gone they’ll have something solid to hold in their hand to let them know they weren’t alone. That they existed, and even at one time, they existed with me.

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