Every time I take photographs I hear my father’s voice, disapproving mostly. He was a professional photographer and considered carefully every image that he captured. He took light readings and carefully adjusted his lens. Often he waited hours for the sun to appear.
His photographs were always good. I treasure those that hang on my walls.
They were so immaculately printed, in 1956, by a Cambodian technician, that to this day they are of excellent quality.
Ruins at Banteay Srei, Cambodia
My favourite picture of my mother, Phnom Penh 1956
Kep, Cambodia 1956
When colour film became available to my dad it must have required an adjustment and I cannot speak for how successful he may have been because the slides, unlike these paper prints, mostly did not survive.
In his later years, Dad used a simple camera that produced many good pictures of trips he took, but he never had a digital camera. I often wonder what he would have made of such extraordinary technology.
One of the few colour slides I was able to scan.
Preah Khan, Cambodia
Dad would have been amazed, certainly, and he would have wanted to master it. I was impressed that at the age of 89 he got himself a computer.
One could hardly say he mastered it and it was often the source of frustration and hair pulling (mine), but he derived some entertainment from it.
Digital photography would have taken us over the top!
So while I “hear” criticism from my father every time I take a photograph, I say to myself that this is no longer the same medium he was so skilled with. Nor even the medium I grew up with, starting with my Box Brownie.
When each frame had to be printed and paid for, you needed to take more time to get it right.
“Experimenting” was costly.
It did not occur to me when I moved back to New York in 2018 that photography would become such a large part of my life.
Once I stopped travelling, my photographs consisted of cats, cats, bunnies and more cats.
And sometimes wildlife that popped up on my patio, or a flower I persuaded to grow!
Last year’s sumac still hanging on.
I doubt Pa would approve.
Something strange happened to me on the trip from Seattle that I cannot quite account for.
Maybe I stopped listening to the voices that always told me “don’t do this” or “you should do that” or just plain “that’s not good enough!”
On the drive up from JFK, we found open horizons.
It seems odd, having worked for an airline, that I seldom considered the sky, back when I lived on Long Island. When I did, it was mostly out of concern for what trouble the weather might cause!
In Seattle we were surrounded by mountains which I loved, but they restricted the horizons.
Grant, being from South Africa, was always saying he missed those horizons. That day when we drove clear of the metropolitan area, suddenly there they were.
It was liberating!
And I suddenly had a yen to capture everything I saw.
Did I care what my father would have said about my photographing tree trunks? Or icicles? or weeds?
Or hundreds of pictures of the sky?
Overnight I began to see colours and textures everywhere and I became much more aware of the ever changing light. Of the daily changes in my natural environment.
The seasons! Officially there are four but I maintain that there are many more as I watch the trees and plants developing daily.
What a gift to have been given for my seventieth year!
PLUS: the ability to take and delete as many photographs as I liked.
To discover, not long after, that some of those photographs might give pleasure to other people, was really another great gift that I could never have imagined.