This is a warning: this is and will be my longest post…
I have to admit this is the week I most dreaded as part of this project. My goal is to use all of the cameras that have been given to me. This week I chose the Kodak Retina IIc. This one was hard because it was my fathers camera. He passed away last year and this was the only physical memory of him that I have.
I am an “oops-a-baby” or a second bottle of wine baby. My four older siblings were all born relatively close in age. Then there is me. There is a six year gap between me and my brother closest to me in age. By the time I came around, my father was through with raising children. My parents divorced when I was young and my father and I had very little contact for as long as I can remember.
Last summer I received a phone call from my family informing me that my father had passed away. I immediately jumped on an airplane and flew home to Michigan to be with my brothers and sister. When I arrived I went into project manager mode and helped to make sure all of the arrangements were made, that a military service was performed and gathered photographs for the the memorial service. After everything was all said and done, my brother closest to me in age didn’t want the rest of the family reviewing my fathers will. There was speculation that he was holding something back from his siblings but what we learned is that he was trying to protect me. You see, I had been written out of my fathers will. In his last legal statement to this world, he specifically disowned me. My brother tried to shield me from this for which I am grateful.
As my fathers executor, my brother was able to distribute my fathers assets as he saw fit. Knowing that I loved photography, he gave me my fathers last camera. Receiving this camera was one of the reasons I took on this project, because I knew I was going to have to use it at some point.
The idea of the roll was going to be photographing the things that he never saw me do. For example, I have always loved to run. Cross-country, track, 5k, 10k, etc. He never saw me run. So after a 5k trail run I took this picture of my shoes and number.
I love to play ice hockey and still play in a beer league today. He never saw me play, I don’t even remember him watching me play on the pond when I was growing up so I took this picture of my gear before a game.
He had no idea how I lived or the life I had made for myself so I decided to photograph my home.
I then moved onto the hardest part of this particular roll; my family. In his absence he taught me what a father should be. He left open the door for other men in my life to show me what a father should be. While at the pool I took pictures of my wife and children who he never met. All with his camera.
But then a funny thing happened. I looked down at the leather case the camera was in and saw a very light engraving in the leather: J. D. V. I knew immediately what it meant; those are my mothers maiden name initials. It turns out that this wasn’t his camera at all. It was something he took of my mothers and kept for all these years as his own. He had now officially left me with nothing.
On the bright side, it turns out that this is a great little camera. Once I discovered that it wasn’t his at all I decided to finish the roll at a place I know he would never step foot into; an art museum. Outside of the High Art Museum in Atlanta is an installation by Jaime Hayon. The girls loved playing in them and seeing the other great exhibits.
13 thoughts on “Week 25: Fathers Day”
Great pictures and great story-telling – thanks for sharing! Playing with old cameras is always more than taking pictures….
Thank you. It actually brought me and my mother closer as well. As it turns out my middle name came from the person who gave my mom the camera. How messed up is that? I will cherish that camera now for a completely different reason.
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Wow. This post literally made me cry. It’s amazing how a simple object can bring out so many memories and emotions. Good for you for using this exercise as a way to move on. And I’m sending you some hugs just in case.
Thank you. I still have a few more cameras I need to use this year but this was by far the hardest one to use. My mom and I had quite a laugh once we put things together. The way I look at it, and what my mother has always told me is that not knowing me was his loss.
I’m sorry to hear about the hard history between you and your father but this post is very moving ❤ the photos are great too!
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That’s a hard story to read James and a very brave thing to actually use that camera!
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Thank you. I’m kind of glad its over and I can move on. In the end I will feel better using that camera in the future because now I know it was my mothers.
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On a lighter note: I love the idea of folding cameras. I even owned a Retina IIIc. But somehow the tiny finders mean that I don’t enjoy them that much.
What a moving story.
Thank you for taking the time to read it. I usually don’t post such long stories but I feel better now that it has been told.
I love how this project means so many things to so many people. Reading this I feel that I need to up my game a little and try harder than my usual snapshots…
I have been catching up on a backlog of blogs from the project because of working too hard and neglecting my family.
This blog may be long but I can certainly say it is very well written, very well photographed and it is a privilege to have heard your story with such candour.
Thank you for sharing you have reminded me that life is not all about providing the financial rewards a job provides you have to be there to enjoy your family not just the financial fruits of your labour
Thank you for your comments. I can only aspire to be the type of father I wish I should have had.