I’ve spent a few hours staring into the sun.
That didn’t come out quite right. Let me try again.
I’ve spent long periods of time looking at someone standing right in front of the sun—which has kind of the same effect. I just didn’t want you to think I had ignored my mother’s instruction about not looking at the sun.
To a young child, there was no greater torture. Don’t blink, they said and then made you stare at the brightest light imaginable while the exact setting was selected on the old Kodak Hawkeye box camera and children were shuffled around to achieve the ideal composition.
The pictures weren’t very good anyway. For all the torture we endured, we still squinted, blinked, and put our hands over our eyes at just the wrong moment, and were captured on film for all eternity.
Everybody smile, they said.
I brought the little camera home a little while back. No, not the Kodak. That was my parents’ camera. This was a little cheap plastic box camera, purchased through the Sears & Roebuck catalog. It was mine fifty years ago. Still is. It has my name written on the side of it, in my best nine-year-old printing.
With it, I could stop time! Precious moments could be saved and relived whenever I wanted. Pets, friends, even creations from my own hands would never be lost.
We don’t think of photographs quite the same way anymore. Every person who carries a phone has a camera—much better than any which were available in my childhood. Taking a photo isn’t even an event today.
But, I remember the day when the sight of a camera would make my siblings scurry for cover. I recall when the arrival of that package of black and white photos in the mail was a grand event—when all of those siblings wanted to make sure they hadn’t been caught doing embarrassing things.
It was a distinct possibility.
Years ago, I read that in some cultures photographs are rare because the people believe the camera would steal your soul. While not all cultures this belief has been attributed to actually hold to it, there is adequate proof some did—and many still do.
Photographs steal your soul.
I’m skeptical. That said, I do understand how someone might think this. Your exact image has been captured on paper. How can that not take something away from you?
We laugh. Still, today, many no longer can live in the moment, enjoying events as they unfold, because they are intent on snapping photographs to view later and to show to their friends. Selfies, we call them. One must be sure they are in their own picture! It will be proof one day that they actually were there.
Never mind that your back was turned to the event itself. You’ll always have the photograph.
Perhaps a part of our soul is stolen as the camera snaps. I don’t know.
My mind is again back in the sixties. Looking into the sun. Shadows must be avoided at all cost.
Standing in the bright light of day.
But, I remember some events I would have been embarrassed to have recorded on camera. Those happened in the shadows, perhaps even in complete darkness.
Mom wasn’t around to remind me to look toward the light. Dad wasn’t recording the action for posterity.
Come to think about it, there are still some activities I don’t want saved for people to see. The dark works better for them. I might be embarrassed to see the photographs those would yield.
The Teacher spoke of folks like me—at least, like me at those embarrassing times. He declared that men loved darkness rather than light for one reason—they wish to hide their evil deeds. (John 3:19)
I wonder if it’s time to come out into the light of day again.
The Son may make us squint a bit.
The shadows will all disappear.
Perhaps, it’s time again to make some memories worth viewing later. Memories which will last forever. Literally.
This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
(1 John 1:5-7 ~ NASB)
Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.
(Imogene Cunningham ~ American photographer ~ 1883-1976)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.