Still making with the snapshots. The calendar entries will be back soon.
If last week’s Blumenau family snapshot is like a behavioral experiment — how will the members of a small group of people interpret or resist a request? — this week’s photo poses a different question:
How will the members of a small group of people respond to unexpected adversity?
The seven people in this picture are in a situation we’ve all been in at some point in our lives:
- They are arrayed in front of a camera that’s been set to go off via self-timer.
- The camera, a high-precision assemblage of the best consumer imaging technology Japan has to offer, has gotten stuck.
- The people have waited – first patiently, then less and less so – for the shutter to fall, holding their poses and nursing their smiles.
- At long last, the camera master has given up and gone to fix the problem.
- And then, inevitably: Click.
Most of the family appears to be clinging to some semblance of their formal poses. They know in their bones that the camera will click as soon as they slacken. They are locked into a test of patience, a steely death-match that rewards its winners with the eternal appearance of calmness and composure.
My grandfather, the camera master, has done what camera masters have done in this situation since time eternal. Like a captain staying on the bridge as his ship takes on water, he is honoring a moral code. It is his duty to break his pose, walk toward the errant camera — and, inevitably, lose the death-match.
My father appears to have craned his head around and behind my mother’s to get a glimpse of the camera, as if that would allow him to diagnose what was wrong with it. In this moment of hubris, he has also lost the death-match.
(The little kid in the cutoffs, whose name is Kurt, has also let his concentration slip, but not as badly as his father and grandfather. And anyway, little kids get free passes in situations like this.)
Perhaps my grandpa’s control over his camera has slackened because he is not on Hope Street.
The setting for this photo is the backyard of my childhood home in Penfield, N.Y. The assemblage behind us is a temporary screened-in structure, erected in spring and dismantled in fall. It lives on in family lore as “the scream house” — not because it was used for the torture and dismemberment of passing hoboes, but because of a childish mispronunciation of “screen house.”
Finally, I cannot help but compare this week’s picture to last week’s, and note what 18 years did to my grandfather. Last week he looked virile; this week he looks old.
The years between 1960 and 1978 were busy, demanding and sometimes quite challenging for my grandpa.
(If you don’t know the details, click here and read forward. I suggest you set aside some time…)