Who Do You Owe for Your Love of Photography?

Who Do You Owe for Your Love of Photography?

Have you traced back your interest in photography and the arts to its origin? What or who was the catalyst?

Someone or something is owed credit for your passion and love for photography, but also blame for the thousands upon thousands of dollars that have flown out of your wallet. But do you really know what set you on the path of the camera? I thought I did, until last month.

For all my living memory, I've liked creating images and videos. I used to excitedly borrow the family camera or even a disposable on a day out, and it never ceased. I was therefore confident that photography was in some way ingrained in me from birth — a preordained destination for my creativity. Of course, my creativity was cultivated by my parents, but I felt that my love for visual arts was just a part of me. Then, a forced walk down memory lane made me see things differently.

Whether you read my story or not, make sure you leave your own in the comment section below.

My Story, My Regret

A year ago, my grandma died after a lengthy battle with bone cancer. My grandad — who had been married to my Grandma for 69 years — fell apart. From being the fittest 89-year-old I've ever seen, he disintegrated with grief. We grew close as he struggled with the loss of his life partner and his rapidly diminishing health, but try as I might, there was no saving him. A light had gone out and could not be reignited. 363 days after my Grandma had passed away, my Grandad followed.

From when they first started "courting" to their 60th wedding anniversary.

As we begun the daunting task of sorting through his belongings, I was presented with boxes and boxes of VHS videotapes and photographs. Truly an unfathomable amount. I immediately remembered that for all of my life, he had a camera or video recorder to his face. In the last year or two, that had taken a backseat, as he was the sole carer for his terminally ill wife, but it had been a prevalent part of his life for decades upon decades.

His love for photography and videography was much different to most, however. He was never concerned with the artistic side of the medium; he seemed to only care about recording the moments. He would take pictures of every event or holiday, and he would record each and every party, occasion, and even to the horror of the rest of us, the funeral of his oldest friend. In my own grief, I had forgotten his relentless motivation to record moments, usually to the discomfort and tepid response of his family. Suddenly, I was sat among 60 years of recorded memories, and the point of it all seemed more obvious and important.

Every present you unwrapped, every candle you huffed at, every football you kicked, there was a man and his camera recording it for posterity.

I decided I had to look through the boxes. There were some neatly arranged albums, some Ziploc bags with photos stuffed in, and hundreds of loose images and negatives. As I made my way through crowds of people I didn't know and family members before I'd met them, I started to uncover images from when I was a child. I couldn't believe how wrong I was about my love for photography, and I was wracked with guilt. With each image of me and my grandad, I remembered 10 times as many similar moments. I'd always credited him with teaching me how to play golf, how to gamble, and how carefully money should be handled, but he was owed more than that. He had taught me a love for photography.

While wandering around a gnome-themed amusement park — yes, really — I was handed the video camera to make sure I captured the place in all its splendor. I diligently recorded grainy, digitally zoomed-in shots of distant gnomes under bushes with lackluster commentary.

From when I was merely a rounded, rosy-cheeked fleshy blob through to the acne-littered teenager I was to become, my grandad was teaching me how to use his cameras. I had an obsession with climbing trees, and despite how precious he was with his money and possessions, he would let me take his expensive video camera up into the trees to make nature documentaries from the top. The thought of handing my camera to a child so they could climb 15 or 20 feet up a tree with it makes my toes curl. But for whatever reason, he was ok with it, and then kept my "documentaries." 

The beginning of my interest in the vertical scaling of the world. Here are some of the early steps with my grandad before I was cleared to take his pride and joy with me on such a voyage.

It's a bittersweet revelation, as while I have more of a connection to somebody I grew very close to in the last year and am still grieving, I never got to thank him and give him the credit he was due. That leniency and encouragement to take his camera and to go create content might have seemed like the innocuous amusement of a child at the time, or perhaps it was the chance to share a passion with a loved one, but it has subsequently shaped my life and enriched it with purpose. All these years later and I'm still among the foliage, taking pictures and videos of nature and without once making the connection.

So, if you can trace your passion back to a source, I implore you to thank them and take some time to appreciate the profound effects it has had on you.

A strong early nineties look, with an SLR on one shoulder and a video camera on the other. Majestic.

What's Your Story?

Why do you love photography? Who got you into it and how? Have you ever truly thanked them? Share your story in the comment section below.

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14 Comments

Simon Patterson's picture

My catalyst was an owl I couldn't capture at dusk with the little camera I had. I knew I needed better tech to achieve it, so I bought a DSLR. This led to me learning to use the DSLR, and also learning photography.

Alex Cooke's picture

Mine was my mom, though I never realized it until years later when I was looking through old photos. She took pictures of everything too, and I remember loving picking up the prints and asking for a roll of film for myself. I found some old family photos in which I was holding a camera at a much younger age than I even remember being interested in photography. It was a very neat discovery.

tenay thirty-two's picture

truly beautiful story :) mine was my mom, gave me my own camera at age six. she knew and i told her before she suddenly passed at only 60 a few years back—but i had never taken my craft public until after she died. that i wish she could see. she would be so excited to see my awards and learn i was recently published in a book. she would be most thrilled that sharing my work has brought me out of my shell and encouraged me to connect with more and more humans, because she was so social herself (im not-outgoing introvert over here). so yes, there is plenty i wish i could have shared with her too-but i am thankful everyday for the gift she gave me so young. i am sure every time you held a camera, your grandad was heart-warmed and proud. hugs

Shawn Kenessey's picture

When I was a kid my Dad had a camera and he told me a couple things about it, not much. My Mom always kept albums of pictures around also. When I was in college my Dad bought me a Pentax digital camera. I enjoyed it and took some pictures at my Uncles wedding. Unfortunately my Dad died recently of a heart attack at 56. It's been a weird journey but I think I enjoy photography because my Dad took pictures and my Mom valued them. I remember our family was having a discussion about all the cars we ever owned including our first car which we had when I was only a couple years old, and she described it to me, and I said I remember that car! I remembered sitting in the trunk eating potato salad off a paper plate. Then she said, I think I have a picture of that. And we got the album and found pictures of my sister and I sitting in the trunk of the old car eating at a picnic. And pictures from my earliest memories too. Its weird to have an old vague memory and then see a picture of it years later, it's almost like the picture isn't real. The pictures and my memories of those moments feel so different.

I owe all to my granddad and grandmother for they spent much time bird watching and with their Leica cameras took the best photos. One day grandfather taught me the simple basics and how to use a light meter and that was all it took to get hooked. My father and older sister where into photography and they too guided me as my sister did it for a living until she passed. I have all the old cameras from my grandparents, sister and father and once in a while I will click off a roll, Still love film but so much easier with digital. Sure wish my boys would show some interest.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

What got me started was one of Lindsey Stirling's videos, Crystallize, which led me to follow her on FB and she posted an image similar to this:

https://showbizpost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Lindsey-Stirling.jpg

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I thought the background blur was the best thing since sliced bread. I couldn't get the look with my point-n-shoot so I bought a mirrorless and 2 kit lenses (18-55 and 55-210), and so it began. I thought I was going to rule the world with these lenses, until reality kicked me in the the teeth.

Blake Aghili's picture

Sam Javanrouh ... Architecture, Street Photographer in Canada ... https://www.samjavanrouh.com

Owain Shaw's picture

Condolences on your loss, of course. While it's sad that you didn't quite get to thank your granddad, at least now you have an extra special reason to remember him and keep his memory alive.

In answer to the question posed by the article, I suppose mine would be my mother who also documented most of our childhood with a point and shoot camera, and always ordered extra copies of the prints so that my brother, sister and I could select the ones we wanted to have a copy of and curate our own albums. This taught me to value photographs, now that I think about it. Years later, the baton of point-and-shoot bearer fell to me on a trip to the USA, and that was when I really began to take an interest in making photographs myself. Both my mother and father did everything possible to indulge my growing interest in photography in my teenage years - dad would take me hours out of the way to photograph things, and my mum too whenever she was able.

Christopher Boles's picture

I was given a Kodak Brownie for my 7th birthday. It was the trip to Disneyland in 1958 where I was given a roll of Kodacolor negative film and had to pick 10 good shots. that started my career. In high school, I shot for the yearbook and learned the art of taking good pictures. My high school teacher Mr. King taught me one rule, "More quality than quantity". His guidance and trust fueled my desire for photography that led to becoming a Brooks graduate and a PPA Traveling Loan print. I still have the Brownie and moms Argus A-10. .

Sad to say there is not one person that I can point to as the catalyst. Growing up I couldn't afford anything like a camera. My parents were never an encouragement to any of my interests, and more likely a discouragement. I was 19 in college and working at times full time when I bought my first camera, an Asahi Pentax. After a run through several Nikons, a FM and an FE I lost interest for a while. It was in 2005 that my interest was peaked again by the potentials of digital and I purchased first a Canon Rebel and then a Rebel XT. It's been my place to go for peace ever since and I've acquired a number of cameras up to and including a 1DX II. I enjoy my walks in the woods or sitting waiting for another good shot. As I near 70 I'm thankful for those folks I meet along the way that too share their efforts at plying their photography efforts. Happy shooting.

Tom Ferguson's picture

While in college I worked in a camera shop as a sales clerk. The manager mentored me and got me into 35mm photography with a used Pentax Spotmatic. He convinced me to interview when Kodak came on campus - I did and had a 27 year career in the yellow box. Then on to ink jet printing and imaging software. After 50 years we reunited, had lunch and are back in contact. I owe him a debt of gratitude for igniting my interest and helping me onto the road that’s become my life.

Nice story.
I have around 10,000 pictures in Kodak yellow boxes which I got from my dad when he passed away in 1978.
They go back to the 1920s he was a photographer all his life, in the 1950s as a five year old he gave me a Kodak retina.
Thanks to my dad I have the passion.
He went from glass plate negatives to film but digital wasn't around in 1978.
I remember he told me in 1925 ish he took a wedding on glass plates after developing them he put them on the window sill to dry but his sister opened the window smashing all the glass negatives!
With his and my pictures I have a hundred years of images.
Regards
Michael

Kim Ginnerup's picture

Mine was my grandad. Who show’ed me how to work in the darkroom boring, showed me how to retouch photos, boring.
I was around 5 years old and we are back in 1963.
But some how he planted that photobug. I still have his old film camera. I ended with darkroom in BW and Color. 35mm camera and 120 film in 6 by 9. Today it is digital and I have spend way too much money on gear. But it is a hobby, and it is ok to spend money on a hobby.

micke holmgren's picture

A long time ago in a ga... naaah, but yes a long time ago it was, age 9, vacation in england and i got a Ricoh camera (35FM) to use instead of my old instamatic. A new world opened itself - it was so fun to shoot with. A few years later I got my first SLR - A Pentax MX with som lenses and a flash, now things got really interesting ! spent a lot of time in the darkroom, developing, making experimental images from various techniques. Several cameras later, both analogue and digital i still have thet urge to learn more and more, find new ways to tell a story in the image.