Moving Pictures

By Blaney Pridgen

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.

Old photographs are evocative, bittersweet, even haunting.  This is certainly true of old family photographs, especially of children who are now grown and of loved ones long dead.  I reckon most of us have boxes and albums of these and some framed on mantle pieces, chest of drawers, and side tables.  Coming across portraits and family group shots in antique stores, collector shops, and highfalutin junk stores always makes me at least wistful if not utterly sad.  Who are these people?  What are their stories?  And how did these once treasured pictures end up nameless, dusty, and cast away for strangers to casually glance?  I want to make up stories for each one, since their story has been forgotten and marooned in time.  Family trees suggest a living thing like a large old oak with names spread out among the branches.  On the other hand, family stories might be described as curled and crinkled photographs in a footlocker in the attic behind the wicker bassinet and dated Christmas decorations not used anymore.  Right now, most of us in our seventies and eighties have pictures stored away our grandchildren won’t want, and our great grandchildren will perhaps never see.  And which of the framed ones will one day end up among the whatnots in a curio shop?

For the streamers, YouTube has many selections which feature old photographs.  I commend them to our readership.  (To live in this area is to appreciate old things, except derelict buildings and cars up on blocks.  And if you don’t like the good old things, you would be better off in Charlotte.)  Many of these selections are from historic events and eras like wars, coronations, treaty signings, and memorable sights.  Some are of human interest like refugees, beauty queens, new inventions to improve the human condition, political campaigns, and other similar catastrophes.  I especially like the cameos of notables that are no longer notable to anyone who does not see the irony of a “selfie.”  I believe it is commendable to not only read history but also to see history.  I also like the photos of the unknowns and the suggestion of their unknown stories.

My father has been dead a good while now.  I gaze at several pictures of him from time to time.  They bring back many memories, mostly good and all embellished with the years.  They also make me sad, not just in his passing, but in the memories of him that I do not have.  I wish I could have him back again to hear the stories of his life that I did not hear.  We cannot remember the stories we never asked to hear.  I want to hear them now.  Maybe I was just too busy making my own story.  But don’t get me wrong.  I possess in my memory bank countless stories about him, just not enough.  It’s kind of like how I feel about the stories in the Gospels.  There’s not enough of them.  I could’ve used at least ten more of the parables and sermons on five or six mounts.  Along with the memories, bittersweet and beautiful, photos of my father evoke what I did not get to know.  Somehow, that is true of all photographs.  They fill in a space for a moment on the way to the cast away shop.

Let those who have ears to hear, hear.  Hear also what your eyes see.