Friday, January 4, 2013
We’ve all heard the line about the truth staring someone right in the face and they still don’t see it. That could explain the myriad of bad photographs taken by camera buffs all over the world; maybe, just maybe, bad pics are truly Freudian slips that embarrassingly expose the unconscious peccadillos of the photographer who takes them. Or maybe, some people want so badly for an image to look the way their imagination conjures it that they click away refusing to see what is really there. I think that both must have been true for my mother who had to be the worst photographer of all time.
For the last decade of her life my mother chose to live within a mile of me and my husband in a small condo she furnished with the pared down remnants of her former Florida home. We helped her settle into her new life, kept our eyes on her by visiting frequently, and soon we were fast friends again as can only happen when people spend time together everyday. It doesn’t take very much togetherness, however, for most eccentricities and annoying habits to surface and one of hers was to place a basketful of snapshots on the coffee table in the living room for everyone to sift through while they were visiting. I say annoying because most of these pictures were of our family and the photos were simply dreadful.
The majority of the basket was filled with pictures of special family occasions, trips and cruises my mother had taken with friends, and visits she had made to Colorado to see my sister. If there were people in the photos you can bet that they look fatter, older, and grumpier than you’ve ever seen them look in real life (if she hadn’t cut them all off at the waist) and that is why I worried about her taking pictures of me. For God’s sake, she could point and click my dog into a homeless pound reject! It was the gift she had, but I needn’t have worried.
One day while visiting my mother after one of her trips to Colorado I found myself (as everyone eventually does) sifting through the photos in the basket on the coffee table. As I glanced through the pile looking for new shots that I had not seen before, a shocking image caught my eye—it was of my sister. What I am about to describe to you is very graphic but since it is not of me I think I can safely proceed…. the picture my mother took and chose to exhibit for all to see on her coffee table was of my sister in a tee shirt, hair bedraggled, sitting on the toilet in her bathroom in Colorado, her pajama shorts down around her ankles on the floor. My jaw fell open in disbelief as I stared at the picture between my thumbs. What on earth could my prim and proper mother have been thinking?
When my mother returned to the living room I gently broached the subject of my sister’s predicament, but she seemed to have no knowledge of any such photo until finally I showed it to her. Immediately sparks of recognition ignited her eyes and like a true artist she began to explain in depth what her vision had been. Sitting down beside me on the couch she took a corner of the photo between her thumbs and with her other hand she pointed to the background behind my sister’s head. Indeed, there on the toilet tank, stretched out like an Egyptian sphinx, was my sister’s cat looking for all the world like an icon begging to be digitally frozen. “You see”, my mother cooed, “what a beautiful cat your sister has?”