Archive for Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Shout and Murmurs

A lifetime in the eye of the lens

August 3, 2005

The stage was set.

My father posed all of us, children, grandparents, friends and the family dogs on the front porch steps.

Click -- the photo was made.

Back in those days, some 40-plus years ago, Dad was a firm believer in using slide film.

He'd come home from work with a small Kodak-yellow cardboard box in his hands, an indication that it was time for the family to grab our pillows, set up the slide projector, turn out the lights and view the new photos.

As we grew up and technology changed, we overlooked the slides. The projector needed a light bulb, the carousel or the older rectangular slide holders, malfunctioned. The boxes of slides were so far back in the closet that it had been about 20 years since anyone had even seen them.

Then one day a few years back, my brother Matthew took the slides home with him.

Over time, he bought slide carousels, finding them at bargain prices on E-Bay. He and his son, Max, painstakingly moved all the slides into the carousels. He scouted out a used slide projector.

When I called Matthew in May to ask about putting together a slide show to show at a family gathering, Matthew was ready.

He brought the slide projector, several dozen carousels of slides, and decades of family memories, to our house.

It was tough to decide which photos to use, or rather, which photos not to use. Gradually we winnowed the number to about 300.

During every spare minute of time at home, I scanned the slides into my computer. As the digitized versions accumulated, we planned how to make a DVD to show the slides on the television.

After a couple of bumbled attempts to make the DVD, I called a recent Tonganoxie High School graduate who had taken David Walker's video production class. Levi Huseman took over from there, and using the old photos along with recent photos, he compiled a 37-minute DVD slide show complete with an audio track of Dad's favorite jazz tunes.

I watched for Dad's reaction as he sat through the slide show. Like all of us, I think he'd forgotten how well the photos told the story of his and Mom's young adult years, and of our childhoods.

It was clear that my father was a talented photographer. As children, we took his constant light metering, focusing and adjusting the camera for granted. That's when photography, at least the way Dad did it, was a little more complicated than it generally is today. For years Dad refused to use a point-and-shoot camera.

And, considering how many good photos there were of Dad, it appears our mother, who made those photos, had a knack for photography, as well.

Though, as far as I know neither of them has picked up a camera in years, their interest in photography lives on in their six children, all of whom grew up in front of Dad and his camera lens.

I can barely remember the day we posed on the porch steps of the house where my parents have lived for 50 years.

As children, we took this photo, and all the others, for granted, having somehow the invincible feeling that life would be the same as it was forevermore. But of course things changed. Grandparents, who scolded or championed us from time to time, have gone. Our parents, once auburn-haired and raven-haired, have grayed. And we children, as adults, have scattered. Though in our history we hold a common bond, we may sometimes forget that we are family, and that once we shared in childhood escapades.

As I watched the final photo, one of my dad in his 20s that's crinkled and worn, I also watched Dad's reaction to the slide show.

Once again, his photos had come to life, and as always, they portrayed life as we had known it, the precede to life today.

The tears rolled silently down Dad's face, even as a smile dimpled his cheeks.

The stage had been set, and once again, even without knowing it, he was the director.

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