A conversation about what a photograph means over time prompted me to remember an experience I had a few weeks ago. I had been going through old photos, looking for a special photo of my youngest son's birth to show him on his tenth birthday. I spent hours going through them, trying to find that one photo that summed up how his birth felt for me and eventually I found it for him and we had a cuddle while talking about it. That photograph, even though it's a blurry snapshot of the moment Toby was placed in my arms, means more to me every year. It takes me straight to that moment, but also reminds me of the ten years we've spent together. A lot of them with him in my arms :) It's a photograph of my grandparents' wedding that caught me by surprise though. I've seen it many times and am fortunate to have taken a photo of it to have it digitised. Coming across it again I saw it in a new light, which really is the true value of a photograph. I've known this set of photos since I can remember and every time I look at them I see something new. As a child I was entranced to see my grandmother (we all called her Carney) as a young girl (weeks shy of turning 18!), the grandfather who had died when I was too little to remember him, her old fashioned outfit, the expression on their faces etc. As a new bride I felt connected to her and her excitement about her life to come, and as a new mother I hung one of these photos on the wall to commemorate her passing the same year as I had my first son. Her life and mine were woven tightly together, and of all of the photographs we have of her life, it's her wedding photo that surprises me every time. It occurred to me tonight that while we consider a photograph to be constant, a permanent record of that moment and something that can't be changed...the truth is that this only exists in a vacuum. A photograph, as with anything, changes with the viewer. Where I am in my life greatly influences what I see when I look at it and how cool is that? The photographs I hold the most dear, like the one below of my beautiful grandmother, show me something new and intensely profound, not only about the people who have gone before me, but about myself.
So what did I see when I looked at this last? I saw my Toby, and also my cousin's daughter too! It was ironic that in trying to find a photo of Toby's birth I found one that reminded me that he existed in my grandmother long before he was even thought of. She never got to meet him, but I hope one day he looks at this photo and sees something I never did.
This March marks what would have been my grandmother's 100th birthday. I'm early, but this is to love and remember her. I hope everyone has photographs they feel like this about. Go dig them out and have a think about what you see in them this time around :)