10.08.2010

Twenty seven years at the bakery.

Every weekend for twenty seven years, barring those weekends when I was out of town,  Belinda and I would go to the bakery, meet friends on Sunday morning and drink coffee.  When Ben came along he became a bakery regular as well.  The other family member that never failed to tag along was my camera.

This was taken with a Leica R8 and an 80mm Summilux.  Color E-6 transparency film.  The special treat for little kids at the bakery was a drenching rain on a hot summer morning.  The best of all possible worlds.  Then getting dried off and finishing your chocolate croissant and milk.

The image that makes me think of snakes and danger.

Do you remember the first time your child was face to face with a water moccasin? I do.  And while I was too busy scooping him up and rushing him away to photograph the snake, this image brings back all of the sights and smells and sounds of that late afternoon in September.  We were out walking near the Lake.  It was called Town Lake back then but now it's called LadyBird Lake, after the late LadyBird Johnson, the wife of former president, Lyndon Baines Johnson.

It was a Sunday afternoon and we were on the docks of the Austin Rowing center.  Everyone else had long since gone home.  Ben was trawling the waters with a stick he'd found on the trail.  Boy+Water+Stick= Big Fun.

I was on the far end of the dock when it happened.  Ben was in the middle of the dock. At the very opposite end from me a big, mean looking water moccasin (cottonmouth) lazily slithered out of the water and started doing his snake locomotion toward Ben.  Uncoiled, the snake was easily six feet long.  I ran to scoop up Ben and move him out of danger.  At the same time a blur entered the scene from the land to one side.  It was a large black dog.  It ran straight for the snake, barking furiously.    It's owner was running up behind it.  I had Ben in my arms and I was moving off the boat docks.

The snake took a look at the dog and gave it a,  "I could take you if I wanted to...." sort of look and then slid back into the water.  I love the idea of that dog.  The dog as protector.  The dog's owner called him over and they continued to run around the lake as though nothing important had happened.  I'll never forget that dog......

I was too into the "parent moment" to step back and record the process.  And I hope if you find yourself in a similar situation you'll make the same choice.   But every time I see this image the whole adrenalized memory comes rushing back.

The power of the photographic still is to translate a whole afternoon into one inch by one and a half inches of transparent film.

Looking forward, Looking back

Right now I have a living room full of teenage boys playing some video game with great enthusiasm.  My son is now almost 15 years old, and yet,  it seems that only a few months ago he looked liked this and smiled like this.  I'm lucky.  I have photos from every stage of his life.  Photos taken in the stream of living and not just at "special occasions".  What was this special ocassion?  Nothing more than a mid-week lunch together in the Summer.  We'd gone to Hilbert's for some old fashion, Texas burgers.  Grilled.  Mustard, lettuce, tomato and onions.  And fries.  We sat on the stools that spin around.  The yellow light came through a yellow shade on the window and I haven't corrected it because that would change what it really was.

Ben's mom is in the background.  It's hot outside but our car is parked in the shade with the windows open.  We went home after this and Ben and I sat on the floor of the living room with the ceiling fans twirling overhead and the air conditioning pumping out cool, clean tasting air.

I remember exactly how I shot this.  Almost as if the exif info was embedded in my brain:  Leica R8 camera.  50mm Summilux as close to wide open as I could get it.  And I can see the film in my scanner:  Kodachrome 64.  The camera doesn't matter.  Only the presence of mind to shoot while the expression presented itself.

Isn't this one of the rewards of photography?  To be able to look backward as the whole world moves forward?