Dear Little Me,
This picture has all kinds of love in it, doesn’t it? Disneyland, your dad, his extra short shorts and long socks, his nightly news sized video recorder?!
See that camera in your hand?
See that camera case around your arm?
Yeah. Those are the things I noticed first about this picture. Those are the things I love most about this picture.
This was the first time a camera appeared in a photo of you. And it was most definitely not the last.
It was 1986. You were 10 years old. You’d just received the camera as a gift six months earlier for Christmas, and you’d used it all winter and spring. This was the first trip you took with that first camera.
Here’s what I see, girl.
You’re 10. Yes, 10. Now let me tell you. Here’s what I know about 10 year olds. Sometimes they think cameras are cool. They might even think cameras are so cool that they ask for one for Christmas. And they might get that camera for Christmas. They might be into it for a day, a week, or maybe even two weeks. But then they’ll put it away and they’ll forget about it. They might forget about it for months, or they might forget about it for years. They might forget about it so long that their younger sibling finds it tucked away in a cupboard and asks if she can use it. And then that younger sibling will think it’s cool for a week or two, but she’ll tuck it back away in the cupboard eventually. So yeah. That’s how 10 year olds manage cameras as far as I’ve seen.
Here’s what I know, girl.
Some adults? They think photography is cool. But yeah. Really? It’s just okay. Like, they realize it’s a necessity of life. You know. Something they should do to mark the occasion. They’ll break out their camera here and there. Or maybe they’ll realize after the fact that they should’ve brought it for this or that. But the truth is, they forgot it. They didn’t even think of it. Or maybe they’ll buy a brand new camera for baby’s birth, but only break it out on birthdays and Christmas. And photographs in general? They’ll take them, but they won’t care so much about how they keep them. They’ll find pics for their Christmas card, but really, they’re happy just getting the job done. They’ll take their family in for a professional photograph once, but once is enough for a lifetime.
Yeah. You’ll see all that, girl.
But through the years, you’ll realize there’s something different about you.
You see, this picture represents the beginning of a long journey. A lifetime journey. You’ll be holding that camera and many others a thousand different ways. That camera will never escape your mind. Never. You’ll always know where it is, and you’ll never forget it when you need it. Let’s face it. That camera is just as good as (or even better than) your purse. Need a purse? Then you need a camera. Don’t need a purse? Then you still need a camera.
You’ll be the girl, the teenager, the college student, the graduate student, the young wife, the mom of 1-2-3, the blogger – who’ll carry that camera everywhere. When they ask you to get in front of the camera, you’ll have to figure out where to put your own. Most of the time, you’ll hide the camera behind your back. Sometimes, if there’s a safe space and the picture is formal, you’ll put it down, off to the side so nobody can see. But you’ll never, ever forget to pick it up again after the picture’s taken.
You’ll be the mom who’ll freak out when the camera’s unexpectedly out of batteries on the first day of school. Because one of the worst ways you could ever imagine starting the school year is NOT being able to take pictures of your kids on the first day of school. Because after school and second day pictures just aren’t the same. And pictures taken by your neighbor are awesome, but they’re just not the same either.
You’ll be the one who goes on a cruise ship and dresses up fancy, and then has to wonder what you’re doing with that big ‘ol camera. You’ll be the one who decides to lug it around anyway, even after your husband suggests you should just leave it in the room tonight. Because you know a moment of inspiration could come like that. And you’d be disappointed if you didn’t have that camera to capture it. So you lug it. Even though you feel like an amateur, camera carrying fool at times.
You’ll be the one who “sees” photographs in your mind. When your camera’s not with you, you’ll experience life through an imaginary lens. You’ll take shots as life passes by, you’ll think to yourself, and you’ll say out loud a thousand times – “that would’ve been a great picture.”
You’ll be one who’s committed to printing pictures, organizing pictures, displaying and storing them in a way that’s functional and accessible for your family.
You’ll be the one who knows and admires a great photographer when she sees one.
You’ll be the one who spends a lifetime dreaming of becoming a photographer. Like, for actual money. Like, for your job. Like, you could do this all day long. But for one reason or another, that dream’s swooshed right under the rug until it comes to mind next time.
Through the years, you’ll be consistent, you’ll be persistent. Never once will you skip a beat with those cameras. They’ll always be in tow.
It’ll take you a long, long time to realize that photography is one of the only things you’ve done and loved for your entire life.
Yeah. There’ll be that, girl. There will be that.
Your love for photography will blindside you one day. You’ll realize it was always, always there.
Yet, there will come a time when you’ll realize you’re not a professional. And girl, you might start to get a little frustrated. Because you’ll still see those photos in your mind. You’ll know the photos you want to take. You’ll see them as clear as day. You’ll know they’re possible because you’ll have one hour here and another there with the most amazing cameras you’ve laid hands on. Twenty shots with each will prove you haven’t been imagining things. Those shots are possible.
So while you’ll have upgraded your camera 10-15 times through all those years, there’ll come a time when you realize you’ve outgrown all the cameras you’ve ever had, including the one you have.
You’ll take 30-40-50 shots to try for the one you see. But your camera, it just doesn’t have capacity.
This frustrates you. Makes you want to give up and say forget it, I’m just amateur anyway. There’s no proof in the pudding. Those visions? Those perfectly planned photographs? They’re just imagined up anyway. Just take pictures with the camera you have and suck it up. Make the best of it. Make it work. Move on. Be grateful for the camera you have. And just be happy taking regular ‘ol pictures like everyone else and their mother does.
But hear me out girl…
When that happens, it’s time to start merging your faith with your love for the photograph.
You must have faith, little girl.
Faith there’s a reason you’ve carried those cameras all of those years. Faith He’ll help you realize the purpose of all that lugging. Faith He’ll put all the pieces together. Faith it will all make sense. Faith He’s given you eyes to see something He sees. Faith He’ll provide the camera to capture what needs to be seen.
Girl. Keep holding the camera. Don’t hide it away. Keep seeing what you see. Keep capturing what it is that moves you, speaks to you. There are stories to be told. And those cameras you’re going to be lugging for a lifetime are your vehicles for storytelling.
Do not be afraid.
Your future is filled with stories, words and photographs.
Don’t forget the photographs.
So girl, you just go. Keep on keeping on with those cameras.
Do what you can.
Believe you can.
Believe that what you see can become reality.
*This series is inspired in part by a blog post I wrote in January 2014 titled “Go. Like It Matters. Go. Like It’s Your Life.” And in part by Bonnie Gray’s new book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace. For more information about WHY I’m writing this series, click here to read the first post of this series titled “Restoring the Little Girl Voice (Part 1).”