My father is a photographer. He has spent much of his professional life and personal life watching the world through a lens. While I was growing up, he captured the moments of my family’s life in still frames and on video tape. Although he was mostly absent from the scenes that were captured, the evidence of him being there is documented by the fact that the photograph exists.
There is a line in “Return of the Jedi” where Darth Vader asks Luke Skywalker to help him remove his mask . “Let me look on you with my own eyes,” Darth Vader begs. I wondered if my dad, from behind his camera lens, felt a bit like this.
As the calendars passed, dad captured birthdays, holidays and school plays in freeze frame. Now as a dad myself, I try to keep a balance of participating in the action, capturing the action on film and just watching with my own eyes.
My son, Jonah, is on the drum line of his high school marching band. This past weekend he performed at town square. I deemed this a real eye experience. It allowed me to enjoy the music. It saved Jonah the embarrassment of marching down the street and feeling the eyes of dad’s video camera.
I am particularly fond of the rule at my daughter, Vienna’s, ballet recitals. Videotaping and flash photography is strictly forbidden. A professional photographer films the performance and you can purchase a copy from the company. This forces all of us parents to disarm our video devices at the door and take in the show.
My youngest son, Gideon, started kindergarten this fall. The mom and dad paparazzi followed him from his first waking moment, through our family’s traditional 6:00 am first-day-of school Cracker Barrel breakfast, and back home in time to catch the school bus. The camera rolled as the big yellow bus drove our baby to his first day of school. I felt this moment important to keep.
When my son, Tyler, graduated from high school this past spring, the parent paparazzi was at it again in full force. I had the video recorder and Alicia had the camera, our fingers ready to aim, shoot, and record at every second. In our determination to document, we missed some of the important moments.
I didn’t realize that graduates were proceeding into the gymnasium from two sides. I recoded an entire procession line that included half of the high school, but not Tyler. He was on the other side. A quick panic attack made me think that for some reason Tyler wasn’t walking. When I got to my seat, Alicia reassured me that Tyler had marched in from the other set of doors.
We remained cool during most of the ceremony. That is, until it was time for Tyler to walk across the stage and get his diploma. Shortly before his name was called, Alicia and I agreed that the close up features on our cameras were not good enough for this shot.
We leaped from our seats for a closer spot. I recorded. Alicia took pictures. While we captured the event on film, we missed a very touching moment.
Tyler was the only deaf student in his high school. Throughout his school career, he had taught his fellow classmates about deaf culture. One such lesson was that, since the sound of applause doesn’t really have an impact on a deaf person, an appropriate “deaf applause” is the waiving of open hands in the air.
In our rush to record, Alicia and I missed seeing Tyler’s entire class, teachers, and school administrators silently applauding. Later, several guests commented on what a touching moment it was when the class burst into deaf applause. Embarrassingly, Alicia and I had no idea that it happened.
While pinning life down in a photograph album or posting shots on Facebook might seem important, there is nothing like actually participating in life. With our culture’s desire to excessively document moments on Facebook, through telephones and in scrapbooks, take some time to actually live so you don’t miss the sight of a grand applause.