My camera, my healer

Catching my dad photographing my grandmother's 80th birthday party

Catching my dad photographing my grandmother's 80th birthday party

I struggle writing this. I want to be open with you. I mean, you let me into your life by photographing you, it’s only fair you know about me, right? 

I want to portray the reality of where I am and what the camera means to me. I hope I give this story justice because it is such a huge part of who I am and my daily struggle.

My love of photography and the feelings I feel when I pick up the camera are all tied to my father. My father had been a photographer before he married my mother. He continued to take photos and have a love for cameras long after that career ended. It was normal to have my photo taken. The camera was a natural extension of him. Wherever he was, the camera was, capturing our lives. 

My dad as a young photographer in Passaic, NJ

My dad as a young photographer in Passaic, NJ

As I got older, he taught me how to use the camera. How to use a darkroom. (No photoshop back then.) We spent hours, together, photographing people and places. I eventually got my own camera and we would photograph the same events together and compare our photos.

I loved it. And I loved him. 

My mom died 14 years ago. After she died, I vowed to take care of my dad. Our relationship changed. We became even closer. We started talking daily and became best friends. When I began my photography business, I was nervous. He was the one who coached me and pushed me to do it.  I will say that even when I was nervous, the minute I picked up the camera, I felt that comfortable safe feeling a child feels when they go back to their childhood home as an adult. That’s because that camera was always in my hand when I was being cared for by my dad. Loved by my dad. So, the camera was tied to the entire feeling.

But my relationship with my dad was more than a morning phone call occasionally encouraging me about my camera. We talked about everything. He was interested in my life. I had children whom he loved. When I had problems with them, or was stressed, I would call him and he would help me sort it out. When something funny happened in my day, I would call him and tell him. He LOVED hearing about my life.

He was getting older. Not working as hard. Had more time for me. We would have lunch together, go out to dinner. We could talk for hours! Close the restaurant. 

My Dad and I were SUPER happy here.  A random night eating chips and drinking wine.   But, you'll find this odd.  Or maybe you won't.  The best part of this photo are the chips.  Yes, the Ruffles chips.  My father DEVOURED bags of chips -if he could.  His favorite food.  All who knew him always had them on hand when he visited.  They are part of his story.  Who he was, what he liked.  It's captured and that's important for me and my kids to remember about him.  

My Dad and I were SUPER happy here.  A random night eating chips and drinking wine.   But, you'll find this odd.  Or maybe you won't.  The best part of this photo are the chips.  Yes, the Ruffles chips.  My father DEVOURED bags of chips -if he could.  His favorite food.  All who knew him always had them on hand when he visited.  They are part of his story.  Who he was, what he liked.  It's captured and that's important for me and my kids to remember about him.

 

He got sick. Metastatic Prostate Cancer. Spread to the bones. 

He was going to beat it, he said. “I have too much to live for.” 

The disease had other plans. He fought - no, WE fought, for six long years. 

As he spent more time in the hospital, I would put the kids to bed and drive to the hospital and sleep over. I didn’t want him to be alone should he need something. When he was home, I slept over, should he need to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. For months, I was there every night and back by the time the kids were up for school. 

We would get our mind off what was happening by talking about my photo shoots. I would share photos I took with him. He would tell me what was good, what needed improvement, etc. He loved to look at my new equipment. Try it out in the hospital room.

And then, one night at the hospital, after I went to sleep, so did he.

I miss my best friend.  Part of me is lost. Numb. Not sure how to navigate my day considering my father was such a large part of it.  My kids are at school. My husband at work. The camera is the one constant thing that can keep me company, distract me. It always has.

However, I have this incredible push-pull feeling when I pick up the camera. There are days all I want to do is hold it, feel connected to my dad. Tell him about my shoots. Then there are days it’s beyond painful. No one to call and tell about a new idea I have or encourage me. The camera feels strange, different without my father next to it. It is almost to difficult to hold on those days. But, that's when I hear him in my head saying his famous line, “it is what it is.” So, I push on, put the camera to my eye, focus and shoot. Try to see clearly through my tears.

I want my best friend back. I cry even as I write this. I don’t know if I’m portraying why I need the camera in my life. How it is my healer. My only physical connection left to him. Almost as if I’m holding his hand. 

dad

I miss my best friend!