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Reverie Land

Mar 18, 2012
Maureen Spagnolo

When our dear dog, Sparkie, was euthanized a year ago, I found myself searching for images of her to chronicle her life with us – from the day we brought her home from the pound as an awkward, nervous puppy who would pee when you looked at her – to the last days when she couldn't stand without assistance. I made a poster of images of her with my young children which was a poignant reminder of all the happiness we had had together despite the sadness of this last day. 

Me, and my dear Sparkie, a Pound special. She was special, and we miss her greatly. Taken 2002 by Jenna Spagnolo with a disposable camera.
Me, and my dear Sparkie, a Pound special. She was special, and we miss her greatly. Taken 2002 by Jenna Spagnolo with a disposable camera.

Our love affair with captured images is long. We cherish those discolored images of Great Grandma Mary dressed in a formal frock with Great Grandpa Joe hovering stiffly over her, and Grandma Ann as a baby on her knee. Most of us have too few photos of our departed relatives, and are eager to see any that are discovered. We cherish the photos of our children who are now grown, and flown. We cherish photos of ourselves when we were younger.

Since cameras have become so commonplace and inexpensive, we all have quite a collection of images of ourselves and loved ones – many in boxes, along with their negatives. We had no opportunity to edit “pre-shot” – as we do today – and from one roll of film we often ended up with only a couple of images that were worthy of putting into an album – if we were lucky!

Today, of course, most of us have digital cameras – either the point-and-shoot kind which require very little knowledge to use, or, the more expensive digital kind that require some understanding in order to get the most out of our investment. Now we can shoot with abandonment because it costs nothing to shoot or delete an image. Thus, we can choose to print only the best and most significant images – or simply keep them all on a disk, or hard drive, and share them via Internet social networking.

There are some cultures of people who are very suspicious of photo shooters. They fear that their soul is being captured along with their image.  I am not superstitious, but acknowledge that there is a kind of magic that occurs when we take a picture of someone, or something. We freeze that moment in time. Although all the other moments before and after it may have been equally significant, that is the one that helps us to recall that time – a moment that may have been forgotten.

Jenna's actual birthday, March 7, 1990 - welcomed by her siblings. She's in college now. Taken with a disposable camera, and flash.
Jenna's actual birthday, March 7, 1990 - welcomed by her siblings. She's in college now. Taken with a disposable camera, and flash.

When I was looking through my boxes of photos for Sparkie's images – taken before I had my fancy digital SLR cameras – I came across many photos that rocked my emotions. One was a delightful image of my youngest daughter blowing out seven candles on her birthday cake (she's now off in college), and the other was of my dad, now departed, taking a nap in the sun – his face careworn even in sleep.

I have a deep appreciation of all the photos I’ve collected over the years - most of which I’ve taken - stuffed in boxes, and some, carefully placed in albums. A “quick look” for a certain photo is sure to land me in reverie land - a place hard to escape from in a hurry!

My care-worn dad taking a nap in the sun on his 88th birthday August 12, 2008. He didn't make it to his 89th.
My care-worn dad taking a nap in the sun on his 88th birthday August 12, 2008. He didn't make it to his 89th.

And though I have learned a lot about photography since then - how to correctly expose an image, and choose the right lens for the shot, and the appropriate aperture, and shutter speed, and so forth, it's just dots on a screen, or, piece of paper if that image doesn’t “speak” to me. After all, what do most of us grab if our house is burning down (after our loved ones). Right! Our photo albums. Our photos remind us of how precious our lives are. 

Maureen Spagnolo is a photographer, living in Washington, DC. She writes on a variety of social issues in addition to her photography articles.

Her passion for photography began in her twenties when she fell in love with a photographer, and then took her first photography class. She used any camera she could get her hands on - until she got her first DSLR camera several years ago. Since then, she has gone gangbusters - taking photos like a junkie (!) and reading everything about photography she could find. She now owns enough (never enough!) cameras, lenses, tripods, and camera paraphernalia to warrant an add-on to her home owner's insurance.

Yet, photography is not about equipment. It's about passion, and seeing - qualities that can turn a cell phone into a tool which can compete with the most expensive camera.

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