A Thousand Words?

 I spent a good portion of my daughter’s gymnastics meet taking pictures. Some of them are so interesting to look at on their own, and some of them make more sense in context. I still an unsure how the judges manage to be so critical while simply watching, but I also know they’ve watched so much for so long that it looks different to them than it does to me.

Yet, with my eye looking through the viewfinder, a different part of my brain engages. I saw that my daughter would scratch her vault before she made the decision. (The coaches asked her. She’d been planning on rocking it. Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.) I can explain it with just the one picture, and when I showed it to her, she agreed. It felt different to her, and she scratched it (meaning she didn’t compete that event) because it felt all wrong and she was afraid she would not be able to hold onto the table or hurt herself on the way over.

Because I was in the parent gallery, I couldn’t hear the coaches when they spoke to her. I didn’t know they asked her how she felt about it, and offered the spot (a hand in the right spot as she performs) if she wanted to take it. She’s got some good coaches, and I’m really glad they’re there.

I haven’t taken so many pictures for a long time. I don’t really like to do it with my phone. There’s lag time and it just won’t do what the DSLR will. And that camera is just fun to play with. I enjoy figuring out the different settings. Except some of them have flash, and I can’t take flash photos at a meet.

In college, I would look at pictures in my head and try to describe them with words. Sometimes it takes less than a thousand. Sometimes it takes more. It depends on if I need something specific to come through, or if this is part of the backdrop for the entire story. When I was younger, as soon as I got my first camera, I took pictures. With film. And I had to wait to develop it. Sometimes I developed them myself in art class, because i loved taking pictures.

For a while after college, I thought my mother was following me into writing. I didn’t understand how she had left it behind for so long and then picked it up again. But life gets in the way of these things. My mother’s a poet, and she has been recognized for that talent. I understand now, picking up a camera again and just taking pictures for fun.

There’s a bit of a dichotomy to having a camera. For one thing, you can record what’s going on – but with that kind of camera, you’re rarely the one in front of it. I asked an old classmate about a photo, and she said that I had taken it, but she wished I had been in it. I did, too, because I didn’t remember that moment. But I did take so many photos, I didn’t question that she remembered I had taken it. It made sense.

The relationship with the camera changes. It’s never a simple – are you part of life or are you recording it – because there are nuances that we don’t see when we reduce things to simple questions. Do you wonder about how many people spent so much time writing in a diary but never wanted anyone else to read it? Do you wonder about how many scrapbooks have taken so much time and effort but aren’t enjoyed as much by anyone around the person who created it (or sometimes the person who it was created for)? Do I still need a thousand words to get my image across in words, or have I still left things out despite my best efforts?

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