Thursday, November 03, 2016

A Story of Photographs

Kristi and I spent some time the past few days going through the photos my dad had collected over his lifetime. He never threw out a single thing, be it a broken tool he was going to fix some day, a pair of jeans with a rip in them, and most certainly never, ever photos.

Years ago, Mom told me about the time when Dad was in the army during the Vietnam War. He would write her letters and include photos of the sunrise or sunset over the ethereal, foreign-looking Korean landscape. Never any photos of him, his fellow servicemen or the camp they were in, just endless pictures of the sun.

Kristi and I came across entire rolls of photos of flowers, bushes, trees, gardens, and dogs. The only person he took photos of with any frequency was he beloved wife, Terry. He always wanted to take pictures of her working around the yard, and then would ask her, "Why don't you take pictures of ME when I'm working?" She found it curious that he wanted her to photograph him at his dustiest, sweatiest self. She would rather that he captured her at her finest, freshly showered with hair and make up done. Instead she has photos of her gardening, painting, cleaning and other chores.

After Lindsey was born in 2003, Dad drove to Minnesota alone to visit his first granddaughter from his own children (by this time he had several step-grand kids on Terry's side). Wayne and I had been living in our Minneapolis home for only 9 months, and Dad was fascinated by our neighborhood. He couldn't believe that we could walk to so many places, were so close to the lake and had such a quaint, charming home.

He took pictures of flowers growing in our neighbors' yards. He photographed their homes, the street, the outside of our house, and, finally, the second-to-last photo on the roll, one solitary photo of his granddaughter. The last photo was of our dog Dax.

Dad's photos of his first trip to our Minneapolis home.
This was back when you had to wait to develop a roll of film to see what you'd taken pictures of, and he laughed when he realized he only had one photo of his new grandchild.

The only photo Dad took of Lindsey when he first met her. I think she's giving him the finger.
"Well, how come people take so many pictures of babies anyways? It's not like they change or anything," he joked. "You know, if I make a trip up there once a year, in 18 trips I'll be attending a high school graduation."

He didn't quite make it to her high school graduation; Lindsey's still 5 years away from that milestone. But I can guarantee I'll be taking pictures of trees or shrubs on her graduation day, in honor of my dad.


  1. Kristi and I came across entire rolls of photos of flowers, bushes, trees, gardens, and dogs, as you say. I worked 12 years at Polaroid as a chemist, and saw a lot of photos. I even saw prints by Ansel Adams. I was always aware that I took photos of pretty things but seldom had people in the photos, and never of me behind the camera. I took steps to get people in my photos, and would give my camera to a stranger to take a photo of me in a group. Now I have thosands of photos, and can find any one in a minute or two because of the file name system I use. I even had my wife and I professionally photographed together in Scottish dress. It's in with all the other publicity photos in a folder called publicity photos. Tom was prett good with a camera, especialy taking photos of his two big dogs, Molly and X. His blog descriptions of moonlight coming through the bedroom window and falling on the floor were memorable. He was a good writer.

  2. One more one. I was writing two family books some ten years ago, and 6 years ago travelled to Munising and Marquette MI to take photos for the book. i was aware as I took pictures of streets and places that there were no people around to get in the photo, not even in a distant shot. People don't like it if a stranger takes their picture up close, which I don't do. It's hard to get any picture in Munising with people in it, unless you are at the dock taking photos of the sunset, and there are lots of fishermen striking local poses with their fish in front of the setting sun.

  3. And let me say this about that: in order to have pictures, you have to take pictures.