Yesterday my boyfriend and I took our two dogs to Lynch Park. It was a beautiful fall day and because there were two of us* I could take pictures of the fall day** and my dogs and him. “Please don’t take pictures of me,” he asked. I replied that I was taking pictures of the dogs and he was just there to hold the leashes, but of course that was not entirely true. After all, it’s not just the dogs I love, and so it’s not just the dogs I want to take pictures of.
In my opinion, it is almost impossible to take a bad picture on a beach on the North Shore. This is even more true in the fall. Just point your phone and click and you will have something worth looking at. It may not observe the rule of thirds, but so what—it will still be a picture of something beautiful. This—combined with the advent of phones that are cameras connected to the Internet—is why I started to take pictures of everything as soon as I moved to the North Shore.
I have countless pictures of friends walking on the beach in the fall of 2009, of other people’s dogs, of Bass Rocks, my niece and nephews and swans swimming in the river in Waltham***. Sometimes I took these pictures because there was something I wanted to capture or something that made me happy and sometimes just to remind myself of where I had been and what I had done.
These days I mostly take pictures of my dogs and those pictures are mostly in the house, with them at rest. This is because it is pretty much impossible to take pictures of anything while I’m walking them and I can’t imagine taking a walk for pleasure around Beverly without them. So my photos are much less interesting, but I still have the urge to take a picture when I see something I love—even if that thing is Daisy, curled up on her dog bed and I already have 500 similar pictures.
I have often wished there was someone else around me with my photo-journalistic impulse so that in addition to 1,000 pictures of my dogs with my boyfriend, there would also be 1,000 pictures of my dogs with me. This is not because I’m vain—it’s because I love them and I want to record that they love me.
At the same time, even though it makes me sad, I can understand my boyfriend not wanting me to take his picture or not wanting me to share his picture on social media because he doesn’t like the way he looks right now. I look at the few pictures that are taken of me and think, “I look old” or “I look fat” or “is this what other people see when they look at me?” This doesn’t make me wish for fewer pictures of me however—it makes me wish there were more. If I saw myself more often as others see me, it would be less of a shock.
I had a dream early this morning. In it I was standing outside of a house that had just been intentionally collapsed. Even though I knew it was going to be collapsed, I had somehow failed to retrieve my belongings from it before the collapse. Fortunately, they were all in the attic. I dug through the top of the roof to find broken panes of glass and broken frames with layers of ripped pictures****. There were pictures from college and pictures of my sister and me as kids. Somehow I knew (because this was a dream) that there were also all the albums of photos of us as kids in there somewhere. But I couldn’t find them, no matter how I dug.
As I woke up I thought about how those pictures would one day be found by some future archeologist who would get to watch my transition from object in the earlier pictures to watcher in the later ones—starting with the imperfect attempts to capture my adolescent point of view.
*As opposed to just me, trying to keep control of 130 pounds of dogs of dog-mass pulling in two separate directions
** I was not the only person taking pictures that afternoon. There were about four other photo shoots going on (one bridal, one student taking fashion shots, one family taking pictures for their Midwestern brag letter and one engagement shoot.) I had never been somewhere and seen so many more people intent on having their picture taken having fun than of actually having it.
***Picture taken when I had to go there to interview employees in a restaurant for my first big grad school paper.
****In my family picture frames are reused and the previous pictures left in them, so if you take out the back, you can see more pictures behind the one currently behind the glass