I am the official photographer. It’s almost always me curating the memories of an event, corralling people into group shots, taking pictures of the flower arrangements, capturing candid images of laughter and conversation. Sometimes, dancing as joy-filled as it is cringe-worthy.
I also take photographs of the non-events in my life, which is of course the majority of it, a large swath of ordinary days filled with images of the sky’s changing colors, the tree out my window, the faces of my children, the glasses on the table. I take pictures of everything, and as I’ve noted it is often the most random images which, ultimately, carry the most salient memories.
Words are my lingua franca, there’s no question; words are my default way of capturing an experience and my instinctive way of trying to express an emotion. But there are some things that are beyond the reach of words. Often I grab at those things using my camera. When I look back at pictures I’ve taken of the sky, or of Grace’s teddy bear packed in an overnight bag, or of Whit’s baby foot against my hand, I can see something that I haven’t yet been able to put into words. This is when I feel most frustrated by my attempts at writing, when words seem clunky and imprecise, as though I use ten sentences to circle around a kernel of truth without really conveying it at all.
If I had to choose one way to record my life it would be words, certainly, but I am deeply grateful for the texture that pictures provide. There are others who would choose another way, of that I’m sure. People for whom the instinct pushes them to pictures, or perhaps to music; other ways to translate and share their human experience. I think this Gilchrist quote gets at some of that:
I think colors made sense to him the way words to do to me. – Ellen Gilchrist, Winter
What’s your most basic language? Words, pictures, music, or something else entirely? What makes the most sense to you: color or words?
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