Portraits

On Finding the Artifacts of My Father



When people ask me how I got into photography, I tell them that as a kid I followed my dad around when he took pictures. He loved photography and was constantly photographing my sister and I. I'm glad for this. It's amazing how he was able to capture our very different and very bold personalities. The first time he let me shoot a roll of film, he developed it to discover I'd taken a whole roll of caterpillars; all the photos looked the same. He wasn't pleased, but he managed to turn it into a teachable moment about composition.

When he passed, people expressed their condolences to me and told me how similar we were, my father and I. I felt uncomfortable with that. My father was a passionate, brilliant, fiery man. He was charismatic and never did things in a small way. When he played his classical music, the whole house shook. When he invited people over for dinner, he spent hours cooking up elaborate menus. My med-school-aspiring friends would ask him science questions that inevitably led to long-winding monologues incorporating philosophy, medicine, physics, chemistry, art, poetry, and who knows what else; my friends ate up every word. He also had his own demons. A sadness.  

Five years after his death, I'm finally able to feel some grace and gratitude for the ways my father and I are similar. It is not just that we share interests and skills (photography, cooking, hosting, classical music, writing, etc.), we share a fire and passion that people say is evident in everything we do (despite my being an introvert - I suspect he was also). The trick has been learning how to control this thing so as not to burn myself or the ones around me. Perhaps that's the legacy my father - now my ancestor - left me with. Like my father, I am prone to dark periods, sad times. I am trying to learn how to use these to lift myself up, push myself forward, and open myself up in ways that can serve not just me but the ones I love and the world I love. 

The pain of missing him is there, always. But a new adventure has opened; from time to time I find artifacts, little clues into who my father was or who he might have been. A photo, a note, a drawing. I found most of the photos in this collection after my father passed. Their stories are unknown to me. I recently found another artifact, a quote on my father's Facebook page:

Nefelis ar'allos eihomen ponous peri / All this pain just for a dream?

- Euripides: Eleni 

How completely beautiful and completely heartbreaking. How completely my father.

Every time I pull out my camera I think of him, and feel him not so far away. And I feel a gratitude for the ways he imprinted himself on me, including the not-so-pretty ways.