I took my first photo for the Democrat more than two decades ago. I was a high school intern who had absolutely no idea what she was doing, but then that’s the nature of being an intern, …
I took my first photo for the Democrat more than two decades ago. I was a high school intern who had absolutely no idea what she was doing, but then that’s the nature of being an intern, isn’t it?
I was 16, and I thought I knew absolutely everything.
The mornings I spent at the paper’s Callicoon offices throughout my senior year of high school were a crash course one could have titled “Things 16-Year-Olds Really Don’t Know About Journalism.”
I will say the cameras they handed me all survived, even if the photos I took with them would be better off in a landfill somewhere.
At least a million shutter clicks later (give or take a few hundred thousand), I’ve gone through countless cameras — my own this time — myriad memory cards, and enough photography courses to fill my brain with different artists’ conflicting methods of composing and editing. Meanwhile, I’ve filled hard drives with the markers of lives well lived, of proud parade marchers and melodic musicians, of Easter egg hunters and kids crying on Santa’s lap.
This past week I was reminded once again what it really means when I turn my lens toward a person, be it a child mid-song at the All County Music Festival or a farmer mid lap at the tractor parade.
Because as I paged through a recent copy of the Democrat, my heart swelled and a smile spread across my face at the sight of a photo atop the Down the Decades page. There with a smile so wide I could almost feel its warmth was my grandfather, albeit some 60 years ago. Seated in front of him, her own smile more demure, was my grandmother.
Immediately digging for my cellphone so I could snatch a shot that I could share with cousins spread out all around the country, I could feel my mood instantly boosted by this surprise in photograph form. Taken sometime in the 1960s, the photo pre-dated my birth by decades and somehow I’d never seen it before. But its simple existence gave me a window into the past and what felt like a visit from time travelers into today.
This is the power of a photo and a power I do not take lightly as I work to capture them. I realize each one is a gift of a memory.
Each birthday, each National Sons’ or Daughters’ Day, each holiday, each time a loved one passes away, I see photographs I’ve taken — some for this paper and some on my own — brought out to celebrate or to honor.
Over the course of the past 20 plus years, I’ve been allowed into the lives of countless Sullivan County residents — if even for just a few moments — and I’ve been able to play a role in capturing their stories.
It’s an honor ... and a privilege.
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