Meet my Dad!

Okay, I’m getting way out of my comfort zone here and sharing some pretty personal stuff.

My dad.

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My dad is the person who instilled in me a love of photography. He was always taking photographs when we were kids. He took photos of landscapes and places we went on vacation—Lake George, NY, England, Spain, East Africa.

He sometimes even let me use his fancy camera. Sometimes. I remember being in East Africa with my Kodak disk camera and taking photos of wildlife, thinking I was going to have some amazing photo of a lion. I got home and developed my film and discovered that my lion was a tiny dot in the distance. My dad’s photos, however, were close-ups, beautifully composed, dynamic, and compelling.

I wanted to take photos like that.

When I graduated from high school, my dad bought me my first “real” camera. I was thrilled. We could now go out photographing together, and we did. It was fun. He took me to his favorite places to photograph, and to his friend’s darkroom so I could learn how to print.

As I got older, my relationship with my dad got complicated. I realized he was not the perfect man I wanted him to be. Not by a long shot. Photography was too tied up with my dad and I wanted nothing to do with it. I turned my back on photography.

But it didn’t stick. It couldn’t stick. I loved it too much. I still do. I can’t imagine my life without my camera and I have my dad to thank for that. I used to get mad at him for spending all his time behind the camera and not participating in our lives. And now here I am, behind a camera, trying to maintain a balance between photography and the rest of life. I make an effort to put the camera away and play with my family, but it is not easy. I want to document every moment of life, but I want to be in it too.

The other day I invited my dad to my studio and I photographed him. I had never taken his portrait before and I felt it was time. He is 82 years old. We almost lost him last spring. He was on life support for 5 days and we were preparing to say goodbye. Miraculously, he is still here.

But now we are waiting for a diagnosis. Later today we find out if he has lung cancer.

After writing that, I find myself struggling to find words. What does one say? Do I gush about how much I love my dad and how much I will miss him? I can’t seem to bring myself to do that. It has been a challenge connecting with my dad in recent years. He has dementia and is not the same man he was. If I’m being really honest, it’s always been a challenge to connect with my dad. (I’m sure some of you can relate.)

But the other day I managed to connect. I connected through photography. I connected through the thing I love most with the man who introduced me to it. I got past my anger and frustration with my father and photographed him as he is now. As he is now.

I think that is the takeaway here…Do it now. We hear it all the time, right? It’s a bit of a cliché, but clichés exist because they have some truth in them! Enjoy life as it is now. Capture life as it is now. Be with your family as they are now. Healthy or sick, just be. Take a minute and soak it in and if you can, photograph it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be a moment that you absorb. Let go of all the complication, anger and frustration, if you can, and just take it in.

I don’t mean to preach. I think I am saying this to myself as much as to anyone who might be reading this. I need reminding. We all do.

Enjoy. Love. Laugh.

I plan to add more images to this post, but I’m posting it as-is right now, before I overthink it and lose my nerve!

Eden ReinerComment