PHOTOGRAPHY AND PARENTING LESSONS
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) “Children make you want to start life over.” Muhammad Ali (1942-Present)
I inherited my first camera, a 1950’s Voigtlander Vitomatic I, from my grandfather. Not surprisingly, it was a lot like him: he was Austrian-born and a very exacting man, meaning that everything had to have its place and work properly when needed. Likewise, the reliable German-built Voigtlander had a solar-powered light meter, a manual range-finder and it took sharp photographs with its precise Skopar lens. Once I took up garden writing, I realized that I needed a more modern camera to meet the photographic needs of my articles and books. The solution turned out to be a used Olympus OM-10 SLR camera – mostly because once left on automatic mode, it was virtually foolproof (provided you remembered to change the film ISO setting). These two cameras, the Voigtlander and the Olympus, spanned my entire 35mm era, which for me was about thirty years long. During this period I generally used Fuji slide film for its superior quality and the ease of sending individual images to my respective publishers.
I literally have hundreds of slides from this era, but my favourite isn’t one of a rare rhododendron in full bloom, a Japanese maple in autumn splendor or a dazzling display of spring tulips – it is a picture of a little girl who finally has her father’s undivided attention. That little girl is my youngest daughter Madeleine when she was about four years old. We had just spent the afternoon at VanDusen Botanical Gardens, where I was doing some photography for an upcoming magazine article. Truth be told, I wasn’t a very good parent that day, as I was quite preoccupied with the work at hand. Maddy’s photo was the proverbial last shot in the roll, that extra little piece of film at the end of each roll that might or might not translate into a useable full frame. Sadly enough, it is the only picture I have of her from that day, but I am still grateful that it survived. It serves to remind me that what children really want from us is just our time, because to them spending that time simply means that we love them. When I look back on my own childhood, the moments I fondly remember with my dad were just everyday occurrences – helping him wash the car, sharing a plate of French fries at the A & W Drive-In or watching one of Mohammad Ali’s many comeback boxing matches. Similarly, the time our kids want to spend with us can seem pretty mundane and insignificant, but as a father I can assure you that making those grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, going out trick or treating on Halloween or just laying on the carpet and watching their favourite Saturday morning cartoons is time well spent.