The past few days, as I unearthed some of the old photography lessons I’ve had and new things about this new DSLR, I’ve also been giving pointers to my little sister. She approached me the other night asking if she could take some photos with the camera.
At first I was hesitant. I’m not naturally a sharing kind of person, and this thing is brand new. I’ve barely even had a chance to play with it myself, but I found myself saying, “yes” despite the nauseous feeling that curled in my stomach.
It’s been rainy in my town, and a few nights ago, the lighting was perfect. Everything has been green and mossy, and I told Emma to throw some shoes on.
Then we sped walked to the cemetery around the corner from my house.
Now some of you are probably wondering why I drug my sister to the cemetery. No, I wasn’t finding a grave plot with her name on it.
My family has been going there for years. I know it better than the park that’s around the other corner from my house. We’ve gone for walks through this thing numerous times. I some times (when I actually feel like running outside, and not in the Y) go jogging there.
I’ve taught her to find her subject, to frame it, to give a seemingly ordinary object some life, some perspective. Tonight, I taught her about the mood of a photo. You can fabricate light, you can modify all sorts of things in Photoshop. But there’s a tone to a picture that tells more than anyone could ever add outside of that initial shot.
There’s a story in the photo, and there’s one in the photographer too.
As I handed her the camera and told her to go crazy, I wandered around a bit. This, after all, is one of my favorite places in the world. I’ve been to London, Scotland, Australia, and Central America, and still I find this is one of my favorites.
I’ve written pieces about this place for my writing classes in college. All three of us older kids have had our senior photos taken in this cemetery. The ground has caught so many of my tears, and has heard secrets and laughter from my family.
I’ve grown up in this place.
The irony isn’t lost on me: a place for the dead is where a young girl grew into a woman. But there’s a particular area, in the back—old and creepy, almost Phantom of the Opera—part of the cemetery. It overlooks the lake near my house, and it’s kind of on a hill.
There’s one particular family plot that I love. I can’t verbalize it, what about it that I connect with. Maybe because the son and his wife are buried there, but no other children or grandchildren. They could be somewhere else in the world, but there’s a sad serenity to their location.
Maybe I latched onto this place because I’ve felt my life has needed a semblance of peace. Or has always needed that. And looking out over the water as the sun hits the water, and cars and boats drive by, there’s something about the stillness of this place, how set, and unmovable it is. Everything moves except the dead (unless they become the undead, but that’s another post).
But as Emma and I left the cemetery, all I could think about was how for the first time in years, I felt my anxiety and worry leave me. For the first time, I think I captured the atmosphere of the past few years in a series of photos. For once, I didn’t feel like I was stuck in a grave plot.