When we come into this world we are not the first to know our parents. They’ve already passed through decades without us. We learn some details of those days and months and years as we sit on their laps, ride in cars, share meals. Oftentimes, we’re left with pages of blank information that will never be filled in.
In my case I made my entrance in my mother’s 41st year and my father’s 52nd. There are many blank pages. Both of my wonderful parents left this world when I was still a young woman: 20 and 24 respectively. Yes,there are many blank pages.
I do have something, though: boxes and boxes of slides and photographs. As time passes, I go through them. I touch them, scan them, pin a few on my walls, place some in frames. My dad left behind the fruits of his short lived career in photography and his life long love of it. There are large format negatives from the 1920s, lovely studio portraits from the 1930s, photos of him many, many years before I appeared. Some are of familiar people and places. Many are not. Those are little puzzles that I continue to try to solve. It’s become a sort of game.
The photo above is one of the curious ones. And not in the way you might think. The solemn girl on the left is my oldest sister, who was around 13 years before I came along. I don’t know who the boy is. I know it’s a First Communion photo. What I don’t know, and what challenges me every time I look at it, is what camera Dad used to snap it with.
I can speculate that the camera had a bellows. But I want to know what kind. And was my dad ahead of his time in creating a tilt shift effect by setting the bellows unevenly? Or was he hurrying to get the shot and just not paying attention to the details? Did he click the shutter and capture the stoic faces on purpose? Or was it bad timing and he missed the smiles?
In any case, I adore this mysterious photo. It’s stark and leaves me wondering. Sort of reminds me of a Diane Arbus image. If only my sweet dad were here to help fill in the blanks…