Thoughtful ThursdayBased on a recent suggestion from Strongblonde in a comment on my post about blank pages in my mother’s photo album, today we’ll be thinking about photographic intention.

Why do you take the photos you do? What do you hope to get out of it?

Historically, a lot of my photographic intention was a combination of aesthetics and capturing moments. One big feature of my travel photography is that I take very few photos just of sights; I always work DH into the shot (or, I set up the shot for him and switch places, or I balance the camera on a post and set the timer).

A friend of mine couldn’t be more opposite. He has been everywhere (seriously, everywhere — 7 continents, and most of the countries on most of those continents). He takes brilliant photos wherever he goes. He will send me 400 photos (culled from several thousand) of a trip, and he will be in 3 of them. Instead, he takes not only the typical wide shots of monuments, but photos of those same monuments from unusual, artistic angles; detailed macros of architectural details; slice-of-life photos of locals. Once he and I went to a historical site; we each walked away with over a hundred of photos, with literally zero overlap in the shots we’d taken.

With Burrito and Tamale, my main goal is comprehensive documentation. That, and the hope of capturing their cuteness.

When they were infants, we went on a little boat ride with my friend and her kids. Burrito and Tamale were too little to know they were on a boat. My friend commented that her goal for the ride (and most activities) was her kids’ subjective experience, often leading her to end up with no photos, whereas my goal was clearly to end up with photos of the babies on the boat. It’s not that I ignore children’s experiences; it’s just that I also want to have a nearly exhaustive record of these years.

At this age, if I don’t take photos, it will exist only in my memory, since they won’t remember this age long-term. By documenting everything, they can relive their old experiences. Here’s one of your many hayrides last fall. Here you are on an airplane. Here you are with your cousin. Here you are with your late grandmother. Some photos help them prep for the next similar experience. Other photos document something that will never happen again in their lives — and the photo will be all they have.

What is your photographic intention?

Thoughtful ThursdayAnother Mel-inspired Thoughtful Thursday, two in a row!

In the context of a trip back to the White House, Mel wrote about the contradiction between her Quaker leanings and being star-struck.

“I don’t believe in elevating people in importance any more than I believe in demeaning people (aren’t they just two sides of the same coin). Though sometimes I forget that and get all ga-ga, like… you know… being around people in the White House.”

DH is the biggest equal-treatment person I know. Once he was sitting in the waiting room of a company that was the partner of a company he was doing business with. A man walked up and started talking to him about a common interest. DH talked to him, the same way he’d talk to anyone. After a few minutes, they finished their conversation and the man walked away. Then the person DH had been dealing with at the company walked up. “Oh, you’ve met our CEO!” DH had no idea, but even if he had, he wouldn’t have acted any differently. If the janitor had approached DH and started a conversation instead of the CEO, DH would have responded exactly the same. Everyone is equal.

The flip side is that he does not have the deference to authority that most people have. This was particularly a problem when he was a kid… something about being kicked out of class for saying, “Who are you to tell me what to think? You’re not smarter than me.” Everyone is equal.

I, on the other hand, am acutely aware of status differences in my mind even though I try to treat everyone with respect in practice. I was raised by an Old World, Old Money mother who paid a lot of attention to class, status, background, etc. She was very nice to The Help, but she never forgot that they were The Help. She was tremendously gracious, though, to people with power — actually, a combination of gracious and deferent. Her whole demeanor changed.

I’d like to think I come across pretty similarly to everyone regardless of status or class or money, but I do treat people differently based on knowledge. Someone in my field gets a very different “What do you do?” explanation than someone outside my field. I respect the doctor’s advice more than the medical assistant’s. I offer more input about caring for Burrito and Tamale to college-student babysitters than I do to their teachers. I’m still nice to the people with less knowledge, but I am respectful of erudition and experience. I’m a knowledge snob; I readily admit it.

Burrito and Tamale are approaching the age where we have started giving them messages about how to treat people (so far, mostly along the lines of “be gentle”). To date, we have not delivered any messages about treating people differently based on status. It’s tough, though, because I do want them to heed their teachers’ instructions more than their peers’, because the teachers are probably right and because listening to toddlers’ (or kids’, or teens’) instructions will invariably get you in trouble. DH would never want them to call anyone Sir; I’d love to have people remark about them, “What a polite child!” DH and I agree, though, that regardless of how they act, we want them to feel comfortable around everyone. To feel equal. Never to feel like they’re below anyone, nor that they’re above anyone.

To what extent do you perceive status differences? To what extent do you act differently according to status?

Blank Pages

March 19, 2012

Photo albums rarely seem to have the right number of pages.

All of the old albums that I’ve seen from my grandmother, or DH’s grandparents, have exactly the right number of pages because they were bound by hand. Same with my wedding album — I inserted exactly as many pages as I needed into the book, and when I received some extras, I took the book apart and inserted more.

Most of the albums from my childhood have the right number of pages too, because my father (and later, I) spaced the photos out in such a way that they fit the album exactly. As an adult, I bought a 200-slot album for a trip that DH and I took; I had 205 photos to put into it, so I took out the 5 that were least worth keeping.

I’ve seen a few albums that didn’t have enough pages. A bunch of photos were arranged more densely on the last few pages than in the rest of the album, or a little stack of photos was stuck between the pages, loose.

I’ve seen some photo albums that have far too many blank pages at the end. Most of the albums that I have from adulthood are like this actually, because they are ongoing records of our life together: we have one album of photos of our friends from college through the present, one of family, one of the two of us… The advent of digital photography also has something to do with the blank pages, as very few photos have been printed and put into those albums since I got my first digital camera in 2002.

Many albums I’ve seen from other people, though, are not intended running records. They cover a specific event, or a specific time period. They seem to have bought an album that was too big. Or, conversely, they didn’t take enough photos to fill the pages. It feels… not quite right. Incomplete.

When my mother’s health started to turn and she first went into the hospital, I bought her a little album and printed out a bunch of photos of then-infant Burrito and Tamale so that she’d have something to look at while she was hospitalized. While I sat by her bedside, trying to catch the doctor during his once-a-day visits, I put all of the photos into the album in chronological order, complete with little Post-It flags to label each one: how old Burrito and Tamale were, who else is with them, what the photo depicts.

The last time I updated the album for my mother, Burrito and Tamale were 14 months old. There were 9 spots left in the album. I wondered if the next time I saw her I’d have to buy a second album, or maybe I’d move everything into a new larger album.

The next time I saw my mother, less than 3 months later, she was non-responsive and on the verge of death. I had some new print-worthy photos but there was no point in updating the album, which she would never look at again. She didn’t even have it — or anything but her purse — with her in the ICU, not having known when she was whisked to the hospital for the last time that she’d be staying there for weeks, and certainly not knowing that she’d never be coming out.

When I cleared out my mother’s home after her death, that album was one of the few things I took back with me.

Today, exactly one year later, those 9 pages remain blank. Not quite right. Incomplete.

Thoughtful ThursdayMel had a delightful post a couple of days ago in which she explained evolution to her twins. At their age, you understand so much but there is still so much you don’t understand.

It reminds me of a misunderstanding I had when I was their age, an error in deductive reasoning.

All of the photos from my dad’s childhood were black and white. Sometime in the 60s, the family photos changed to color.

In The Wizard of Oz, Kansas is black and white, and Oz is in color.

Based on these pieces of information, I determined that the entire world must have been black and white until sometime in the middle of the 20th century.

One day I asked my father, “How old were you when the world changed to color?” When I explained my logic to him, oh how he laughed and laughed.

What is the silliest misunderstanding you ever had, that seemed reasonable at the time?


March 12, 2012

Almost a month ago, I got an email from WordPress that I need to renew a domain name. For my mother’s memorial website.

That means it has been almost a year since my mother died.

I keep putting off the renewal.

I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t want to acknowledge that a full year has passed, or because I want the reminder email to stay at the top of my inbox.

Maybe both.

Thoughtful Thursday: Why

March 8, 2012

Thoughtful ThursdayThere has recently been a lot of controversy in the ALI community. I won’t get into it, except to say that it has raised a fundamental question.

Why do you blog?

Some people are basically keeping a journal in public, and what they write would be the same whether or not anyone was reading. Not me.

Some people blog to be heard, to have their words read and acknowledged. That’s not it for me.

Some people blog to make connections, with their readers and with other bloggers. That’s part of it, but not all. I’m certainly not trying to rack up high numbers. I was just having a conversation with a friend who is a respected but not bestselling professional writer; he declared that he is sick of being a cult favorite, and he would like to be a mainstream success. I, on the other hand, love that my blog readers are people who get me. I’m not for everyone, in blogging or in life.

I blog, in large part, to help others. When I was at my most desperate, or hungry for information about being a certain number of days past transfer or how to administer an injection into my own butt, reading blogs helped, a lot. I have made a very conscious effort to provide information that can help others, such as my posts on breastfeeding after IF.

I also blog for intellectual engagement — for myself and my readers. That is certainly the impetus behind Thoughtful Thursdays. I enjoy crafting posts, challenging myself to write in different ways, expressing things that are hard to express.

However, if everyone stopped reading, the intellectual engagement would be there, but it wouldn’t be enough for me to keep blogging. I presumably couldn’t help people unless people stumbled upon posts later, and I definitely couldn’t connect to people in the same way if I never heard from them. I didn’t start blogging to make friends, but as a side benefit of the search to connect and to engage intellectually, I’ve made some great ones.

Why do you blog?

Thoughtful Thursday

Welcome to the March Intelligentsia.

#29: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#25: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#25: Lost In Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#21: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#13: Tara from Turkey In My Oven
#11: St. Elsewhere
#9: Cat
#9: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#4: Sara from Aryanhwy

Thoughtful ThursdayA friend just created an electronic account on my behalf and in the process he had to pick a password. He chose the names of Burrito and Tamale. Children’s names would be a logical and very reasonable choice, but I have never used their names — or anything related to them — as a password. I most often use passwords that are somewhere between mantra and pep talk, sprinkled with characters to make them harder to hack. Another favorite theme are inside jokes between me and DH. Almost as often, I have used passwords that related to my cat.

Because I am tech saavy and helpful, people have been coming to me for computer help for two decades. As a result, I have been privy to many, many different passwords over the years. I find it to be a delightful peek into people’s souls. Sports teams. Favorite places. Nostalgia. Special dates. Loved ones. Nicknames. Movies/songs/books/TV. The obvious (“password”).

My favorites — the most revealing about the true person — are the passwords that talk about the kind of life people want to life. Maybe if you type it often enough, it will happen.

Don’t tell me any passwords, of course, but…
How do you choose your passwords? What do they say about you?