09 April, 2009
Talking to the Dead
My mother died in February of 2004. I got a full time job at my alma mater shortly after that, and I know how much she would have enjoyed being a part of that transition.
One day, I was walking on campus and I came across a beautiful sight at one of the streams. I thought, "Oh, Mom would love this. I have to come back with my camera and take a picture so she can see it."
I knew right away how crazy that sounded. Indeed, I refrained from going back with a camera (something I'll always regret). But that was the beginning of a thought pattern that has become familiar to me. And shortly after that, I began to take pictures for Mamma.
This is actually a picture I took for her while she was alive. She loved West Texas and Big Bend national park in particular, and I knew this scene would thrill her. I guess I've been doing this all of my life--taking pictures of things that make me think of her--documenting my journeys for her.
Mamma always wanted to travel in the Southwest--go to Arizona and New Mexico--see the places Georgia O'Keeffe painted. So I thought of her quite a bit when I was driving through New Mexico and Arizona a couple of Thanksgivings ago.
And recently, I was driving down Austin Highway in San Antonio, and I noticed that the McNay had a new statue on its grounds. Immediately I thought of how much Mamma would have loved that statue. It took me two weeks to get myself to the grounds to take the picture, but I'm sure she appreciates it.
I don't know why the magic of saving an image in pixels or on film--and now the magic of being able to manipulate that image on my computer--seems to me very like the magic of communicating with the dead. It is something about holding an image as it was in the past--about freezing time--that works for me. At any rate, I do still take pictures for Mamma. And I know that much of my desire to learn about photography is connected with her. Just keepin' in touch.
How do you talk to the dead?