Friday, March 24, 2017

Photography, Another Way of Seeing

   I like to see things from a different perspective--hanging upside down from monkey bars, peering at the undersides of school desks (gross!!) or even sideways, balancing on a bed.

   While it's been decades since I've been near monkey bars (although I do occasionally still hang off the side of my bed and imagine living on the ceiling---a la Mrs. Piggle Wiggle) I still have one way of "seeing differently" from those kindergarten days: photography.

    My dad has been a lifelong shutterbug. I have an ancient "selfie" of him at about 12,  box camera shooting into a bedroom dresser mirror. I have gorgeous early Kodachrome slides he took when he was stationed in Oahu during WWII, as well as room by room pictures of my parents' first apartment, with my mother pointing to various wedding presents, Carol Merrill-style.

      This is the first picture I ever took. These are my parents in front of their fence (yes, we actually had a white picket fence.)  Dad allowed me to use his camera, showing me where to look and what to click. I was 6.

That Christmas I got my very own Kodak Brownie flash. I went nuts taking pictures of everything that didn't move. My parents waited until Memorial Day to tell me that my camera needed film. (Just as well...remember the days of film developing?)

I used my camera for the usual things a kid would; relatives, friends, holiday gatherings. I longed to use color film, Brownies used only black and white. The only thing I wanted for my 13th birthday was a Kodak Instamatic...and some color film! Here is the first picture I took with that camera, my Grandmother Rodman (aka Meemaw).  This picture taught me that often the camera catches things that the human eye does not. I never saw Meemaw's hands still. She quilted, crocheted, embroidered, made doll dresses. This is the only time I ever saw her stop to enjoy the spring flowers. I later
learned that she had a hard childhood.  When her mother passed away when Meemaw was 11 she raised her half sibling, taking over all the tasks a mother would perform. She once told me (when she was 95) "Inside, I'm still 15." I can see it here.

 I kept on talking pictures throughout high school and college with a temperamental Yaschica box camera that required a light meter, a gadget I never quite got the hang of. And then another Yaschica without the light meter. As a teacher, I took pictures of my students, especially of our Drama Club productions.

I acquired my husband and a Canon Rebel,the same year. (Truth be told, it was the Andre Agassi commercials that sucked me in.) I had found photographic Nirvana. No light meter, no bulky box balancing. And terrific pictures most of the time. It was about then I read Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. I liked the book, but so many exercises and so little time. More things to feel guilty about. (Morning pages? Nope. Meditation? Not without falling asleep.) However, I did latch on to the idea of the "artist's date" where once a week you spent time going something artistic, but NOT connected to your main field. We lived in Wisconsin at the time, so I spent endless "artist's dates" photographing frozen fountains, scary-looking icicles and ice boulders pushed up on the shores of Lake Winnebago.

After I had my daughter, Lily Nell, she became the most-photographed baby (at least until Beyonce and Jay-Z had one.) I took so many pictures that my in-laws thought it would be hilarious to give Lily Kodak stock as a christening present.
Totally unstaged
Craig's first Father's Day, with his two girls, Lily and out dog,Vanilla Ice.
Last day of elementary school. Yay!
As you can tell I'm no Ansel Adams. I just enjoy the different view through a camera lens.It sneaks into my writing, the same way music does. (I'm also not a great pianist either.) But appreciation informs anything else you do.  Like, say, writing.

. And the legacy goes on.  Lily was one of 10 AP Photography Students for 2012. Last Christmas she visited a friend in Alaska. She flew over the mountains (no she is not a pilot!) but she took her camera. Always another way of seeing.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman


Linda said...

Mary Ann, I enjoyed this so much. I do remember having to get film developed. It seems so long ago. I don't have as many pictures of my sons as I would have liked because back then (as a young couple), we couldn't afford to buy film AND pay to get them developed. It's so much easier now with digital cameras to capture every day moments.

Mary Ann Rodman said...

Thank you for commenting, Linda. Once I was born, Dad traded in his Kodachrome for plain old black and white (babies were expensive!) I saved my allowance and babysitting money for color film (a lot of which has faded over the years.) Funny, my daughter started off shooting in black and white (she did my first PR photo at age 9) and stayed with it until her high school photography teacher insisted she learn to shoot and develop color. She still prefers black and white.

Esther Hershenhorn said...

I so loved SEEING your life story's "characters."
Thank you!

Carmela Martino said...

What a wonderful post, MA! You've inspired me to go out and take some pictures for my next Artist's Date. Lovely to see your family photos. Thanks for sharing.