I love taking pictures. I first fell in love with photography in high school. I can’t remember the exact day or anything but the first whiff I got of Kodak’s D-76 developer – it was all over for me. Hours were spent taking pictures. Hours were spent in the darkroom at WMHS. Roll after roll was developed. Photos enlarged. Images superimposed. Being alone in a dark room for hours on end was my nirvana.
I preferred to take pictures of buildings and shapes (I planned to be the principal photographer for Architectural Digest one day) but would occasionally shoot friends. I rarely shot family. Little did I know this would be the only way I could shoot them and get away with it. 🙂
My future step-dad had given his old Pentax to me. It was the coolest gift I’d ever received. I loved it so much – it rarely left my side. I was always snapping pictures. I didn’t have much of a desire to photograph current events. There was no way I could go into photojournalism because I could never intrude on someone’s personal space when they were at their worst. I would not win Pulitzers for capturing the campus shooting or people jumping from a burning building. That wasn’t my style. Shapes. Things. That was me.
My mom recognized my interest and decided to encourage it. On one shopping excursion to the J.C. Penney outlet, she came across an enlarger. It was a sign! She bought it for me and then decided to turn one of the vacant rooms in our house into a darkroom. She took me to Cord Camera and let me pick out trays, chemicals, thermometers, and paper. This set up was to be my 16th birthday present. In retrospect this was a perfect present for that particular birthday. Some kids pine for a car on this hallmark of birthdays, but since I had run over a kitten during one tedious evening of driving instruction, I swore I’d never drive again. Cars were the devil. And since it was the tool of an innocent kitten’s death in Outville, OH, I need not have anything to do with the four-wheeled beast. It took me a good six months to come to my senses, get over my grief, and finally obtain my license.
My love of photography carried through to my college years. I was disappointed to learn that the darkroom was way more crowded at Ohio University and often a place where the dark was taken advantage of. I recall many instances – after tripping over couples making out near the enlargers – saying “Excuse me, SOME of us are trying to WORK here”. Perhaps I was just jealous.
I went on a mad spree of photographing tombstones after my step-mother, step-sister, and grandfather all died within a two month period during my freshman year of college. Somewhere along the way I decided to drop my photography classes. I changed my major from photography to psychology (which eventually turned into social work). I think after taking a couple of psych courses I learned that there were actual case studies of people just like my family members! I became fascinated and dedicated myself to learning about alcoholism, suicidal tendencies, bipolar disorders… Wow. I was no longer ET on a foreign planet. There were others just like us and there were actual NAMES for their disorders! I would no longer be spending time in the dark.
Today, I have a Canon EOS Rebel. We bought it shortly after Ben was diagnosed with NB. I photographed a lot of his treatment. I figured that he deserved to be able to look back on it all and say “Wow. I’m an amazing kid. Look what I did!” I do enjoy scrapbooking (I have a weakness for paper… ) but there’s nothing in the kid’s section of the scrapbooking stores that commemorates childhood cancer. They have “First Day of School” stickers, every sport you can imagine, and a selection of paper celebrating orthodontia… but no cancer products. I’m not being morbid. After all, they do have PINK RIBBON scrapbook paper, stickers and accessories. You’d think breast cancer is the only cancer out there. I’m anxiously awaiting the creation of a line of GOLD RIBBON products. People might think Childhood Cancer is rare, but it’s not. I happen to know lots of kids who have suffered, are still suffering, or have passed away. They deserve to have their own flippin’ scrapbook page.
Today, sort through your old pictures. Or take some new ones. Find one of yourself taken on a “good hair day”, or one that makes your butt look smaller, your eyes a bit brighter, or the one taken when you were in love… the happiness permeating through your eyes.
More tomorrow 🙂
Eden and Ben on Ben’s last day of treatment, March 31, 2005.
We lost our dear Eden this past December, 2008.