I did a bit of organizing in iPhoto (why not? we’re organizing everything else we own). Instead of random video clips being sprinkled among thousands of photos, I now have a nice little album with nothing but videos. Videos that I hadn’t seen in a while. Didn’t even remember I had. Maybe had never actually seen, lost in the static of so many images.
Most of the videos are of little snippets of life, caught by luck or design. Some were expected–someone’s birthday, singing a song, blowing out candles. Some were accidental–the camera recording when it was supposed to be asleep. Some were random–someone’s new house, a precocious plant, high water after a hurricane.
There was one video that grabbed me. I was walking from the back porch of my parents’ house into their back yard. Nothing special or important. Most of the family was inside, and I was stealing a few moments to capture the homestead. With me was my brother Mason. He says something off-camera right at the beginning. I answer him, but you see neither him nor me. And, respecting the video, we stay quiet for most of the remainder (he does alert me that I just walked through a fireant bed because I’m busy looking through the camera and not watching where I’m walking).
As I watched this almost 3-minute video, I tried to will the camera to turn around. To capture his face, his being, for just a moment. This was less than a year before he died, and I would love to see him, even if only a glimpse. But I don’t turn the camera. I just keep steadily, silently moving forward, and he keeps side-stepping to stay out of frame.
There’s another video, taken around the same time at a different gathering of the tribe. I’m recording our nephew Rowan, seated in one of those baby workstations with lots of things to push and poke and jingle. Mason is in the background, telling our father a story. And I’m glad to have his animated voice as the camera focuses on the deliberate movements of a six-month-old. You even see Mason briefly, mostly neck-down, in the middle of the video, gesticulating wildly as was his way.
But the camera didn’t focus on him. Why would it? Here’s our brand new nephew who will soon be a little boy. And Mason’s already grown and not going anywhere…
I bring this up not to be maudlin but just to remind myself (and maybe you) to turn the camera around. Get an image of everyone in the room. Including yourself. Chronicle all of it while still being a participant in the moment. And don’t be afraid to talk while the camera’s rolling.
They say that if you want to know what possessions you value most, see what you would grab in the middle of a fire. Or, in this case, what you’d put in your car before moving across the country. Everything I own is going in the moving van EXCEPT all of my photos and slides and a harddrive with every electronic image and video I’ve ever shot. I can live without the clothes and furniture and books and electronics. The images can’t be replaced.
Time is like a river.