Everyone who has a camera does it. We stand there, looking around for an image to suggest itself, and, inevitably, we look down at the most ancient fascination of our childhood. The proof that we stand between the sun and earth, and make a difference, however transitory.
When I neared high school graduation, my mother wanted to know what graduation gift I wanted. This was a surprize, since I'd never known that graduating high school merited a present. Despite the fact that my father never made it to sixth grade, and my mother quit a month before graduation to take a job as a seamstress in a truss-making company, my graduation was never held to be in doubt for me. I would graduate, or I would face certain, painful death. No question really, especially since they were paying for catholic school tuition, still barely affordable for the working poor - as we certainly were. I understood the sacrifices being made, and made them myself. I was a teenager with perhaps three music records, most of them from birthday or Christmas, not my non-existant pocket change.
The choice of special but affordable was pretty obvious, I wanted a real camera. So far, I'd only used my mother's Brownie, then the family insta-matic. I wanted to be able to play with the images more, not need a flash inside. My Obviously-I'm-Much-Smarter, and 12 year older, brother asked me what I wanted to take pictures OF. This seemed a particularly stupid question, but I tended not to assume he was wrong at that point. It wasn't that I wanted to take photos of flowers, or just architecture, or any other single thing. I wanted to take better photos, like what my eye saw when I clicked, not the washed out, over dark, glaring glossies that came back from the drug store. He loaded the first roll of film in wrong, so that it all came out black, at my expense.
I never really got good, because I hadn't considered how much film and processing would be. I made each exposure carefully, stingily, afraid to make mistakes.
When we got the digital camera, that long ago gift arrived. I played, for the first time really let go and tried anything. I adjusted photos after, the more I used it, the less each individual image cost.
Still, took pictures of my shadow. Proof enough that I am here now, ephemeral, distorted, intangible, but there, see there? For the last year or so, having a wee camera on the laptop, and taking numerous self portraits, is the other evidence, that light reflected off me bounces back to my eyes, a photograph of a mirror. This is all I have, and I find it reassuring, and amusing, a image of a reflection of a shadow streaming through my confused and bothered brain, and I call it real, and smile.
A friend sent an interview with our beloved Terry Pratchett.