Why I Take Photos

A couple of days ago I went to visit my Dad’s wife Annie (my Stepmum).  I haven’t seen her for over a year for various reasons…partly my work schedule getting in the way but also, if I’m truthful, because I find it really difficult going to their flat.  Dad’s ashes are still there as we haven’t decided where he might like to be now that he’s gone (or even whether to scatter him at all), and his stuff and all the memories that I associate with it (and him), are still there.  It even still smells like him as soon as you walk in the door, despite two years having passed.

Still, I felt terrible for keeping my distance, especially as Annie has actually been really poorly over the last six months or so, and deep down I did want to go and see her.

So I gave myself a stern talking to, booked my train tickets and made the long journey down to Marlborough (four hours, three trains and a taxi…each way) for a flying visit.

Last time I went was just after the first Christmas without him, nine months after his funeral.  I’d been determined not to cry and of course the harder you try NOT to do something, the more likely you are to end up doing it.  We talked, we reminisced, we shared memories and stories, and we cried together.

This time I decided to just go with whatever happened – if I cried, I cried.

As it turns out we had a really lovely afternoon (and I didn’t cry.  I’m still analysing that in my head and haven’t quite figured it out yet).  We caught up on lots of news, went out for a coffee (her) and hot chocolate (me), and then headed back to the flat to talk some more.  Annie dug out some old photo-albums for me to look through and as I carefully flipped through them I could feel the emotions rising.  It wasn’t sadness though.  It was wonder.

Wonder at these versions of my Dad that I’d never seen before.  At these glimpses into who he was at different stages of his life – a baby, a toddler, a little boy, a school boy, a cross-country runner, a university graduate and beyond.

Dad, age 2, with his big sister (my Auntie Ruth, who sadly passed away from cancer when I was much younger). I love the one in the bottom left.

Apparently Dad had thrown out lots of old photo albums a few years ago and I’m really gutted about that. I would have loved to have seen them.

Photos are more than just memories.

They’re our stories. Our legacy to pass on to those who follow us so that our story, and who we are, can live on.

Not just to be remembered. It’s far, far deeper than that. Photographs are how future generations learn where they came from, how they figure out which parts of the story they want to keep and which parts they might want to change. Photos are a thread that runs through families, connecting the souls of those who have been before to those who are yet to arrive.

Dad (top right) would have been 12 or 13 in this photo. He’s with his big sister Ruth (centre), little brother Dominic (left) and baby sister Clare.

When I first started taking my own photography seriously, five or so years ago now, I couldn’t find the words to explain to people how important it was to me that I captured these little moments, documenting our days, capturing my girls’ childhood. In all honesty I still can’t. Most of my shots aren’t perfect. But that’s ok, because neither are we. And then every so often I’ll capture something that so perfectly encompasses exactly how I felt in that moment and so exactly who we were in that split second of time, that I get tears in my eyes because I know it’s one that I will treasure forever and ever.

That’s how I felt looking at these photos of Dad.  Despite being taken decades before I came along, I can see my Dad so very clearly, even as a toddler.  These candid ones (below) are wonderful – they capture his more serious side, which he hid beneath his extrovert, life-and-soul-of-the-party, always-the-entertainer mask that he chose to wear whenever he was with other people.  He only let those closest to him see what was going on underneath.

I absolutely love these photos showing Dad’s more serious side

It’s a similar thing with blogging. As the digital age has dawned and the internet has taken over our lives, it was only natural that we should evolve too, telling our stories in ever more sophisticated ways. I’ve been blogging the stories of our lives for almost a year now, give or take a month and so far I’ve not earned a single penny from it. That was never my intention, though if it heads in that direction and I can create a fitting opportunity I’ll take a leap and give it a try.

My original intention for creating this blog was solely to document our adventures and to tell our story. To leave a legacy for my girls so they can learn more about who they are, and who I am, as they grow up.

One of my favourites. That’s my Dad.

Even though whenever I get my camera out I’m met with groans and whinging, I will never stop pressing the shutter. I want to capture every moment that I can so the thread doesn’t get broken.

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  • Reply February 24, 2017

    Tony Piper

    Like you I still miss him so very very much. What I hate is the fact that both your Dad and I never stopped to think that there might never be a “tomorrow” – we always talked about getting together for that beer & I guess always thought there was never a rush. How wrong we both were. If I have learned one thing, it is to stop believing in invincibility & start prioritising! I do hope that Annie is feeling well now & I am sorry that I have not been in touch but I seem to have lost her contact details. Chloe, perhaps you could help with that.

    • Reply March 6, 2017

      Chloe Ridgway

      Oh Tony, he would have loved to have had that drink with you I’m sure. It makes me sad that it takes something like this happening for us to realise that you just never know what’s going to happen next. The learning I’ve taken from it is to try and make the most of every day and stop putting off stuff that I really want to do. I’ll pass your message on to Annie for you x

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