I process life through my photography. I guess I have been doing that in ways that are ever evolving since I first started taking pictures in my teens. The other weekend we cleaned out our garage and I came across a lot of prints from years and years ago. It was so clear that I took pictures as a way to examine the world around me. It was a way that I could put a buffer between myself and the situations that worried or mystified me. I could come back and look again. It made goodbyes easier as I moved on from things knowing I had taken my own souvenir.
Finding those long forgotten shots coupled with Clover’s recent discussions on life and death reminded me of something I had been avoiding. A few months ago, I took my daughters back to the states for a wedding and some work. We visited and I documented the whole thing. Almost all of the images made it up onto my blog as soon as I processed them. All except those in one particular folder… On a unusually warm autumn day we joined my mother for a trip to the graveyard to visit the spot where my father is buried. While I was ready to take pictures of our short visit, I had not been ready to look at them until now. As father’s day in the states passes me by again, I have been thinking about my dad. I have not heard his voice for 13 years and I only have been able to look at a handful of pictures of him in that same time. I miss him, but I am scared. I am not scared of ghosts…just the opposite actually. I am scared that spirits don’t exist. I need to believe that they do.
I was filled with mixed emotions as Clover danced on my father’s headstone and then Gemma carefully traced the letters in his name. My mother told them stories and I could see in her face just how fresh it all is for her. As we walked back to the car, Gemma called out “Bye, Granddaddy.” Clover looked all around the empty cemetery and with a bit of three year old confusion, looked at me and said “But he wasn’t there!” (More like, “But him not here.” to quote her exactly.)
This is where photography is both healing and a curse. I have proof that he was here, but I am also painfully reminded that he is gone.
I look at my oldest who has inherited my father’s beautiful hands, my son who carries on his name and I think what a shame he never met these guys. Then I look at my little girl who looks back at me with eyes that are surprisingly the same steel blue color that I remember he had and smile. Yes, Clover, he was not there, but I see him every time I look at you and your sister and brother.