If you've been reading this blog, you know that I'm kinda sorta addicted to Flickr! I feel like photos express myself more purely, without all the over-thinking and editing that goes on when I'm trying to express myself in words. It's the best way to convey the sense of awe and wonder that I feel about the extraordinary details in ordinary objects. And I hope that when he grows up, my son will look at the photos I took of him and realize just how much I love him.
But photography isn't just a way to express myself for me. It's a way for me to reconnect with my maternal grandfather. He loved photography, and he's the one that introduced me to the world beyond snapshots. I can still picture this one photo he took of fall leaves in a stream. It took my breath away and awakened something within, even though I didn't know it at the time.
Now, you might think, from what I've written so far, that we had a great relationship. We didn't. I was petrified of him and I might say that the fear bordered on hate. There are many pictures that he took of me in which I'm frowning or giving him the same cold, icy look I have in the picture shown.
I didn't even know why or care to find out why I felt that way. I was still very young, and I just instinctively knew that I did. And I continued to feel that way until his death, when I was about 10.
Then, something happened. I looked at my grandmother, whom I liked very much, and felt the same fear and disgust I felt when I used to look at my grandfather. And it hit me... I was afraid of her because she was now the oldest person I knew, and oldest meant that she was the closest to death. And the fear that I had felt around my grandfather had actually been fear of death!
The sense of guilt I felt then was immense. I never got to know my grandfather, the person, because I had unfairly allowed my misconception about death to judge his character.
I lived with that guilt for over 15 years. What saved me was the photo I showed above. I was looking at it and was thinking about how I openly admitted that I did not like him, and yet, he still treated me like a princess. Whenever we were visiting, he would often come home from work with a little package from Sanrio. I remember he even brought home a flowery dress once, which was totally out of character and surprised everyone. I mean, imagine, a 70-year-old man in a suit and a tie, walking around the children's department looking for something pink!
And as I was remembering this, it occurred to me, "If that's not unconditional love, I don't know what it is." That elusive unconditional love that everyone seeks - I had it, and I didn't even know it.
This revelation actually made me feel worse, and I started bawling like a little child. But something within told me that it was OK. He loved me unconditionally, and he forgives me for that too. I like to think it was the part of the DNA that we both share. After 15+ years, I was finally free of the lingering guilt and felt closer to my grandfather than I ever had.
And now, every time I pick up my camera, I tap into that shared DNA and our shared love for photography. Although it's impossible to reconnect with him in the physical world, I feel more connected with him at a much deeper level when I'm taking photos. It's almost a spiritual experience rather than just a way to document what I see.
Well, this turned out to be more of a book than an ode, but I wanted to share with you why photography is such an important part of my life.