Jim Colburn
Don't Ask

Turn Your Camera Around
For a Change

My father died in December and it was a wonderful death. He was surrounded by his family, free of pain and passed away peacefully. It made me happy that over the last few years I'd been a pain-in-the-ass by insisting on taking his picture many times. I didn't do it nearly enough but at least I did it.

I took pictures of him alone, with the family and with his grandchildren. When he came to town and we took my daughter somewhere I brought a camera and shots some pictures. There was usually a little glint of "Why are you doing that?" in his eyes, even though he always gave in and let me set up a shot. Every once in a while I'd even put up some lights and do a portrait of him, even though he didn't like all the hoop-la. I'm glad I did it.

Photographers usually spend their days taking pictures OF other people FOR other people. There are bills to pay, clients to satisfy, editors that always want frame 38 and sometimes at the end of the week the last thing you want to do is take more pictures.

Your family might gather for a Thanksgiving dinner, a Labor Day picnic or a High School graduation, but getting the camera OUT of the bag and putting ON a lens and LOADING the film and ATTACHING the flash and TAKING a light reading and GETTING people to pose and TAKING the film in for processing and PUTTING the prints somewhere safe just seems to be so... darn.... exhausting. Then there's the fact that photographers usually hate having their own pictures taken.

We know the damage a wide-angle lens can do so we often shy away when the cousin with his point-and-shoot wants "Just one of you and your Mom."

Sometimes the family of a photographer has the fewest pictures. The wife, the kids, the parents all think; "He's the photographer. If he doesn't think this is worth taking a picture of who am I to question?" "He'll get annoyed if I ask him to take a picture of Dad, he's been busy all week." "He works a lot of weekends so I'll just leave him alone." Or even, "He such a good photographer that my pictures will look lousy by comparison."

That's a shame.

Turn your camera around once in a while and include yourself in for a change. Be a pain-in-the-ass by gathering the family and posing them around the Christmas tree. Put your Canon EOS with 17-35mm lens on "Program," hand it off to an in-law and get INTO a photo, it'll probably turn out okay. Make a permanent record that will survive you. Take pictures of your parents, your grand-parents, your kids and the cousins. Everybody will love to have some pictures taken by the family's "real" photographer and some day your kids will look back and silently thank you.

Jim Colburn
Contributing Writer

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