I read Elizabeth Willson’s post about storytelling through your lens after we visited the local blueberry farm, but was a bit proud of myself for actually following most of her tips already. Since reading the post, though, I’m looking forward to trying this again and capturing each of the different images she suggested.
I’ll be honest, we chose to visit the blueberry farm for something other than photos – we were hungry for blueberry pancakes and blueberry muffins. Still, it did provide a nice opportunity to capture my family interacting and their personalities.
Like Elizabeth suggested, I did try some wider angles to capture more of the bigger picture and surroundings. I also focused in on details like little hands carrying buckets full of blueberries, and little fingers picking berries. And of course I also focused on my son sneaking blueberries when he was supposed to be picking, though I couldn’t say much, because I was doing the same thing.
I also made sure to capture my children interacting and luckily I didn’t have to take Liz’s suggestion to photograph the bad moments as well, since the visit went fairly well until Little Miss decided she needed a nap. Even then we were able to get her to the car and home for a nap before a major meltdown happened.
As for “getting in the frame” I didn’t use my own camera, but did finally ask my husband to grab one of the kids and I together with his cellphone so they would see that “I was there too.”
And like many I wasn’t thrilled with a photo of myself, but when my children are older and look at the photos, they won’t see what I see. They’ll simply see their mama. Or at least I hope.
For our next trip I’ll try more of Liz’s suggestions of trying different perspective and switching up with lenses, even though right now I’m only carrying around two.
I totally pulled the grandma-wouldn’t-want-you-to-do that card this week.
Little Miss is in a mean phase.
At least I hope it’s a phase.
When she wants to sit somewhere her brother is sitting she shoves him until he moves. When she wants what her brother has she takes it. When she wants to play with his Legos she tries to shove him out of the way so she can stand at his Lego table.
She doesn’t do this with other children. Only her brother.
He’s eight years older than her. She doesn’t care. The age gap doesn’t intimidate her.
She is a bully.
I’ve been reading articles and wracking my brain how to teach her not to be mean. So far it’s been time outs and long talks asking her how she’d feel if her brother was mean to her instead.
But the other night I changed my strategy, one my own mother has been grooming me for since I was born.
I used mother guilt.
I knew it would all be worth it one day.
My son was hugging me at bedtime, laying across me, and his sister didn’t want him to hug me so she stuck her toes in his armpits and pushed hard with her foot, trying to dislodge him.
That’s when brilliance struck. I felt very proud of myself when I said: “Oh my, this would make Grandma so sad. She thinks you are just the sweetest little girl and if she saw you being mean to your brother she would be so disappointed and so sad.”
She continued to push but was watching me and I could tell she was thinking.
“She would. She says you’re so sweet and your brother loves you…she’d just be upset.”
“Grandma? She’d be upset?” She asked. Her legs weren’t pushing as hard now. “With me?”
“Sad, yes,” I said. “Not mad, but very disappointed and sad.”
She took her toes out of his armpits and lowered her legs.
“Oh my! Grandma would be upset at me! She’d be sad!”
She turned to her brother.
“Grandma is upset at me! She sad!”
The mother guilt was getting a little out of hand so I reassured her Grandma would be happy now because she had stopped being mean to her brother.
“Oh. Okay.” She said, hesitantly relieved.
I’m quite pleased my tactic worked.
I may not be as happy when the therapy bills start coming in though.
However, none of my therapy bills were related to my mom’s superior mom guilt so I think it will be okay.
I was inside when he pulled up to our yard sale. My son and husband were outside with him but I stepped out to see if he had any questions about the items he was looking at. He did but only about a film camera I was selling, which turned out to be his launching point for telling stories about his life.
“I took photos a long time ago, when I was in Korea in the service. Of course I traveled other places too. I have a box of color slides at home. My son takes photos, he knows more about these things than I do. You say it still works?”
It did, that I knew of, but had been passed down to me from someone else. I always told myself I was going to learn how to shoot film, but I’d never got there and had decided it was time to give up and sell the cameras, one of which had a broken lever.
Before I knew it and without speaking much at all myself, I learned the hunched over older man was 88, had flown planes for years, had traveled the world, had lost his wife in 2009, and had almost remarried two years ago.
As we talked I realized I knew the man but thankfully he didn’t remember me at all.
It was one of those times I was happy to see someone suffering from the ill mental effects of old age. I had written a feature story on him in my old life as a small town newspaper reporter and had been quite proud of the story of a war veteran and local hero who had established a fundraiser for cancer research with his wife in memory of their son. He wasn’t as impressed. His lack of praise for the article didn’t come from inaccurate information I had presented but the fact I had made him look “too good.”
Apparently I had idealized him too much and given him so much positive coverage he felt embarrassed and humiliated, as if he had been bragging about himself. So there I stood one day, in the front of the office of the small town paper I worked for, listening as he scolded me for saying too many nice things about him. I didn’t even know how to respond, other than to silently consider digging up some nasty dirt on him to balance out the portrayal.
This annoyed response to a positive article actually wasn’t the only of its kind for me. A few years before that the mom of a friend had told me the same about an article I wrote on their dairy farm. My personal affection for what I saw as an idyllic rural upbringing transferred the story, in her opinion, into an unrealistic view of their world and made it appear that she and her family were perfect, when she knew they weren’t.
Again, I was stumped. After these incidents if I began to second guess positive feature stories I wrote, wondering if should throw in some negative antidotes about the subject or ask them to provide me with some personal failings to flush out the story and make them look less appealing as a human being. I tried my best after those complaints to never make a person look “too good” again.
The man at the yard sale talked away, saying my name sounded familiar, thought he knew someone with my last name (he does and it’s me and my husband, who he’s also been interviewed by for another story about the fundraising event held in memory of the man’s late son.).
“I used to have one of these. Took photos when I was in the Air Force,” he says, the camera strap hooked around his neck now. “I’ve got some old color slides in my attic. Korea and Greece and places like that. My son knows about cameras. He takes photos. He lives over in South Waverly. Just down the road here.”
Each item he looked at seemed to trigger another thought.
“I almost got remarried a couple years ago. I knew her in high school or course. We used to go to the roller rink. She got married and has some kids and so did I. My wife, Joan, she died in 2009 and her husband had died. She would pull up in front of house and I’d go out and we’d talk. Well one night I went to hug her and she pulled away and said “what are you doing? I’m not a hugger.’ I said to myself ‘well, that’s that, because I’m a hugger.'”
He talked away, about nothing and everything.
I listened because I knew he needed someone to listen.
Even though he didn’t remember me or know that I knew him, I did remember and I did know.
I knew he was alone in a tiny little house he’d once shared with his wife and his twin boys and a daughter. I knew one boy had died from cancer as a teenager.
I knew his life had been hard, full of pain, but also joy. I knew he was humble and didn’t like anyone to think he thought he was better than anyone else.
I knew he needed to talk and he needed someone to really listen because really it’s what we all want – someone to really listen when we talk and not just listen, but really hear.
I told him to stop by and show me the photos he took with the camera. He said my address out loud a couple of times, to commit it to a memory slowly failing him and promised he’d stop by again.
He crossed our busy street, back to his van, and we waved our goodbyes.
I didn’t know if he’d remember me later, or even the conversation we’d had that day, but I was glad to have been someone who listened to stories of his past on that summer day.
I'm a mom, a wife, a writer, a photographer, and a former journalist. I write a little bit about a lot of things here on my blog. I enjoy John Wayne and Cary Grant movies, Jan Karon's books, and I have an eclectic taste in music. Welcome to my blog and feel free to poke around. Fridays are Fiction Fridays, where I share a piece of fiction I'm working on. I'm also the author of three books with a fourth on the way.
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