*I wrote this as a sample for my senior English classes. We’re working on informal prose. The general topic is a childhood memory. This is what came out.
I take a lot of pictures. Anyone who has seen my Facebook or Instagram profiles is already well aware of this face. In addition to those two social networking sites, I write a personal blog and post photos there, too. I work very hard so that identical pictures never show up in those three places. I own one of those fancy Canon cameras, but I have to admit to you that I don’t know if it’s called a DLSR or DSLR. I have an idea how I’m supposed to use it, but I’ve been too lazy to read the manual and do a few test sessions. Since I am not very good at photography, I would guess that the ratio is something like 7:1, seven useless, blurry, out-of-focus, too far or too near shots for every one good picture.
Sometimes, when I am pointing and shooting my mind out, I am hit with a philosophical crisis in the form of a question: Am I missing out on things as they happen because I am busy trying to capture them in the center of a view finder or phone home screen? This crisis lasts for about .8 seconds, then I say “Nah,” and go right back to snapping away. Remember, the ratio is 7:1 – I’ve got to take a boatload of pictures if I want a handful of good ones.
I attended Our Lady of Good Counsel in Pearl City from Kindergarten through the 8th grade. There are a few things I remember – the first time I didn’t do my homework, jumping off the second story, those two dances during 7th and 8th grade, meeting Geno – but most of my memories of that period have been lost, due in part to the passing of time, but also because I don’t have any pictures of it.
My graduation from Our Lady felt pretty significant at the time. I was 14, had a girlfriend I thought I loved, and had friends that I thought would be so forever. A perfect example of the arrogance of my mindset, as well as that of my entire class was the selection of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” as our graduation song. It’s embarrassing to think of now. What the hell were we champions of? Pre-Algebra?
Anyway, after the ceremony and that vocal number which probably caused Freddie Mercury to do moonsaults in his grave, our class exploded to the area outside the church where we were greeted by family and friends. My mom had the camera and she was snapping away. Remember, 1994 is pre-digital camera. My mom was likely rocking a FujiFilm camera shaped like a brick without a zoom function. Still, she threw caution to the wind and caught pictures of me with my classmates, with my family, with my girlfriend who I thought I loved. It was a blur, really.
A few days later, my mom came to talk to me. I could tell by the look on her face that it was not good news. I remember thinking something horrible had happened, like someone in our family had died.
“Philip,” she said. Since she didn’t include my middle name, I knew I wasn’t the one in trouble.
“Yeah,” I said, trying to be nonchalant. I was 14. Cool was everything.
“I opened up the camera today to go develop the pictures from your graduation,” she said.
“Okay…” I said.
“There wasn’t any film in the camera,” she said.
“I’m so sorry,” she said.
“It’s okay, mom,” I said. I meant it, too. I think I had bigger issues at that moment, including trying to figure out what the hell life was going to be like at a school without any girls. My mom was really broken up about it, but I was fine. I told her that it wasn’t a big deal. She apologized again and left the room. That was that. Yes, my brothers and I still refer to our mother as the worst photographer in the world, but A) it’s true, and B) we kind of love her for it. She tries so hard to take good pictures. When they come out blurry or off-centered, it’s endearing really. You know how people say of great athletes and artists that being so good at something means it’s just a gift from God? Well, the opposite has to be true, too, right? My mom is so bad at photography that it must be a void from God.
The truth is, there aren’t a lot of pictures of me at all. There is a period from about the day I was born until my brother Matty was a year old (1984) that my parents captured in photographs. Then it stops up until my brother Paul was born in 1986. About a year later, the pictures stop again. From that point on, the only photos of us might be those which were taken by professionals or family friends in or around the game of baseball. My parents simply didn’t take pictures of our childhood. I can’t blame them. My parents had three sons in their mid-20s and I’m sure they just didn’t have the time.
I didn’t care about pictures in high school until it was all about to end. There are a few pictures of my friends and me during our senior year of high school, but they’re of highlights like prom or graduation. There’s very little candid stuff like beach trips, nights in Marel’s garage, or at Brett’s pavilion. When I went to Loyola Marymount University, I brought a really horrible camera with me but that was mostly so I could take pictures and send them to my long-distance girlfriend who was attending HPU. I went to college from 1998-2002, right before digital photography technology was affordable and readily available. The school had a one-hour photo lab in the bookstore.
In a strange a parallel, I don’t have many pictures of myself in college until my senior year. I was with a girl who actually attended the same school I did (I can’t tell you how amazing that was) who owned a camera and loved taking pictures. In fact, she’s responsible for roughly 90% of the pictures I own of that time because she made me a scrapbook chronicling everything from the moment we got together until the morning after graduation. All the other pictures of skinny, attractive Phil in college have been emailed to me by friends.
It’s not my mom’s fault in particular, it isn’t as if not having photographic evidence of my 8th grade graduation means it never happened or somehow ruined my life. My desire to take pictures is the result of the collective effect of having very few pictures of my life. From the minute I bought that 3.2 megapixel digital camera in 2003, I’ve done two things constantly: take pictures and upgrade my camera. I am 33, and while that means I am not a kid, I suppose I can’t throw a legitimate pity party about being old. I’ve been alive long enough to collect tons of information in my woefully outdated mental hard drive. It’s already started to happen to me; someone will say “Hey, do you remember that time when _____________,” and I will be disappointed because I genuinely cannot recall and I absolutely believe I should.
No doubt, the same thing will happen to Madison. At some point, someone will ask her a variation of this same question. Perhaps she will not remember. She’ll have been too young or the event would not have been significant enough for her to remember it. But there’s going to be a pretty good chance that I have a decent picture of it. And seven bad ones.