Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Photographer In Me

Part I of a III part short story

I was nine years old when I took my first meaningful photograph.
My older brother Paul hated the picture from the first, because it wasn't, in his view, perfectly flattering.

I still remember the satisfyingly distinctive click-whiz of my mother's Polaroid SX-70 as it took--and spat out--my first masterpiece in the shape of a foggy square sheet of film. I wasn't able to stand and wonder at the two-minute transformation to come, that milky-to-distinct morphing, a process I had studied so many times before as my mother worked the camera at family events.

I was too busy running from my brother, who seemed to know without even seeing that he wasn't going to approve of his likeness. First, he chased me down the stairs. Then he followed me through a slamming back door and out into the yard, bellowing my name as I darted for the magnolia tree that served as a living ladder over the back fence to the alley behind us.

Ultimately, he caught me trying to climb into a ragged fig tree at a neighbor's house, but not before I had shoved the picture under an unused trashcan by their back gate. I cried a good deal and suffered multiple wretched titty-twisters before Paul ultimately gave in to defeat. Not only had I created my first important photo, but I had, for the first time, defeated my brother.

That night, as I lay in bed, awake long past my bedtime, I studied the Polaroid by the sickly light of my bedside lamp. Even as a nine-year-old, I understood that I had captured a moment of my history, and my brother's history. For eternity, I could resurrect this day at my whim. And even with so little life experience, I felt the picture was more than a document. I felt, instead, that it was some sort of portal, a time-traveling celluloid escort.

I fell asleep that night dreaming of the flood of big moments I would capture in the coming days, of all the life I would forever be able to resurrect.

The following morning, however, it was only an hour after I awoke--having run out of film four shots into my photographic career--that my unbounded ambition collapsed under the weight of zero budget. Thankfully, in addition to three pointless shots I'd taken before 7am, I still had my previous day's masterpiece to sustain me.

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