In the 4th grade, my father brought home a used Mamiya Sekor range-finder camera, of all things, from a medical conference. I never did ask where he picked it up, but he took time on the very day of his arrival to share his thoughts on how photos come to be. Since then, photography has been a persistent part of my journeys, like a slow burning ember that at times will pop into a flame before returning back to a quiet glow.
But why photography, rather than some other pursuit? Well, nothing intrigues or delights me more than a photograph’s ability to help us “older folks” notice the nuances in life. When humans are in their early youth, they are oblivious to time’s passage. They will spend inordinate volumes of effort to notice details. These young kunduns will scrutinize like art critics, ponder like philosophers, and dispassionately dismantle anything from food, to insects, to toys to better understand the essence of all the wondrous things around them. As we grow, movement and pace rise in importance, and we notice less of the interwoven fabric that surrounds us. The future worries us, the past dismays us and the current moment is ignored too easily.
That is where still images come in. A camera, a patient eye, a trigger finger and our intuition can arrest the inflection points of the day. The upshot: a moment’s essence is preserved into the uncharted future. Later, when we look at a photo from say, 5 or 25 years ago, we cannot but help feel an emotion, be it a smile, frown, or perhaps sadness, seep into our being. We remember a moment seemingly unnoticed when it occurred. A narrow element of the photo has served as a key and unlocked a memory deep in the sleepy or introverted corridors our minds and hearts. It may be a distinctive smile, the cut of a dress, a faddish haircut, a long forgotten hangout, or the surrounding people. All of these remembrances lurch into “motion” and the stories come forth the way a flash flood surges across a parched plain. In doing so, photos reaffirm the tapestry we are part of.
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2009 (click for larger image)