The Corner of My Mom's Dining Room

I keep looking at this picture--or rather, the pictures in this picture--and thinking, "Look at how young they are." By the time I met my stepfather's parents they were already old. In the years since, his father has continued getting older and his mother has passed away. But in that portrait they'll always be young.

Back when I was pretty fresh out of college and the world of Internet forums still felt new and fun to me, I had a woman insist to me that photographs steal your soul. It didn't occur to me until an embarrassing number of years later that she might have been pulling my leg a bit--I suppose this may have something to do with why so many people thought (think) that I didn't (don't) have a sense of humor. In any case, I answered her seriously.

"How can a photograph steal your soul?" I asked. "Especially a digital photograph. All it is is a bunch of ones and zeros that describe something about some light that bounced off of you." I just didn't get it. I was very earnest--I think she was probably smiling at me. (Not laughing, just smiling--she had (has) too much class and style to laugh at someone's naiveté.)

And yet, somehow, the longer I live and the more photographs I make, the more it starts to make sense. Because what's a soul if not the thing that makes you you? The million little pieces of yourself, the looks, the gestures, the angle at which he cocks his head when he asks a question, or the way her nose crinkles when she smiles. It's not stealing, exactly, because you can't steal something without diminishing the one from whom you steal it. But something gets caught, captured, made permanent by the camera.

I find myself looking at this picture and wondering what these two were like when they were that age. There's something in their eyes that hints at something, but I don't know what. All I can think about is how young they look. And then I wonder who will be saying the same thing about that picture of Jason. Who will be saying it about me? And will we be around to know? If we're lucky, some day someone will say it about all of us. Or, at least, about the bits of our souls hanging around in the corners of someone else's dining room.



I love this post, Mike.