Introducing another of this blog’s intended recurring features.
My maternal grandpa was a well-meaning but mediocre photographer, skilled at bringing the shutter down a moment too early or late, or in taking pictures of things that were not as quirky or offbeat (or well-lit) as he thought.
I’m going to dredge some of his classic efforts out of the family scrapbooks where they sit unseen and unappreciated, and bring them out in the open for analysis, contemplation and occasional double-barreled comedic riffage.
So, here we go.
Ho! Ho! Ho!
This man is a wedding photographer. He is on the clock, dressed like a pro and toting the balky tools of his chosen trade.
And he is having his picture taken by an invited guest.
It never fails to happen, this, at least not since cameras became pocket-sized and portable.
Some predictably prankish guest with time on his hands — it is almost always a he — spots the wedding photographer en route from church to limo and decides it would be kicky, recursive fun to take a picture of the fella who takes all the pictures.
Most of these shots are lined up poorly. The fella who takes all the pictures can tell this just by looking at his amateur counterpart. (Rare is the guest who captures his feet, for instance.)
And he knows that the picture of the photographer — an idea that seems so delightful at the time, like a fifth drink — never seems like so much fun when the pictures come back from the drugstore. He knows there are forgotten, boxed-up photo envelopes with his picture in them in closets from New Canaan to New Haven.
Yet, like a clown bound for his two millionth descent into the dunk tank, the wedding photographer takes it all in stride. He has a delighted smile he brings out for just such occasions.
This has never happened to me before!, the smile says. I am about as thrilled as I can possibly be to be in front of the lens for a change. This is a wonderful wedding. I wish the couple decades of wedded bliss. And I wish you, the amateur photographer, a lifetime of soothing karmic reward for thinking to point your Instamatic in my direction.
The wedding photographer is not nearly as cynical as that makes him sound.
He believes, just as those who take his portrait believe, in the magic of photography. He subscribes to the notion that good times can be preserved and revisited, and to the glow of eternal memory that keeps people snapping away year after year.
(Sometimes he thinks it would be fun to magically gather every picture that’s ever been taken of him at a wedding — all those shots in the forgotten boxed-up envelopes — into one giant scrapbook. He pages through it in his mind. The seasons change. His hair thins above his forehead, and thickens above his lip. The glasses become compulsory. But there he is in harness, year after year, always striding forward, always smiling, the gatherer of memories.)
He’s never been sure why or how he triggers the memory-preservation impulse in one guest at every wedding, given all the more important people and events that are there for the shooting.
But he’s come to view it as just another service he offers.
And when he’s making his way from one Big Event to another — from reception line to limo, or from first dance to cake-cutting — he always smiles.
Because he never knows when he’ll look up to see a camera pointing at him, held by someone who’s been waiting for just that moment.