First day

I was fourteen years old. I was borrowing my Dad’s new camera, an Olympus OM-1 with a 24mm wide-angle lens. Superwide! What a beast. I loved it! I’d joined the photography club at school, and had been essentially cowed into submission by older kids who droned on incessantly about f stops and chemistry. They all had Pentaxes. 

One Friday afternoon we went on an outing to some “hindu temples” in the hills back behind the university. I say “hindu temples” in inverted commas because I’m not really sure if they were that, or buddhist, or  – who knows? In apartheid-era South Africa it was exotic and daring enough to be exploring someone else’s turf.

What do I remember of the day? Well, temple-wise, not much, apparently.  There was a god, maybe two. What I DO remember though is a kind of absorption and intent that I experienced for the very first time. Seeing through my camera, allowing it to show me things that I’d never seen before. 

This picture, for example. A little boy – I believe his name is Joe Strachan. His mother was my art teacher. I don’t know why he was standing there, but I came up on him and snapped. One frame. But I was excited. I knew that I’d just taken a real picture.

In the years since, I’ve revisited this picture, and others from that day, hundreds of times. Every time I see something else. Like right now, choosing three images to make a little gallery with, finding a thread between the boy, the snail and the leaves. I always saw them as separate, different, but now I’m not so sure. Maybe in another 34 years I’ll have it figured out.

PS: This entry is dedicated to my wonderful sister Tamsyn – it’s her birthday!