Dad always had a camera

I got a new camera.

Lissa and I have always had a family camera, but it’s been mostly her thing. She’s the artist, I’m the word guy. She lets me use it whenever I want, so I’ve always taken a lot of pictures, but I never took it terribly seriously. At the newspaper, I work with some really talented shooters, and between Lissa’s artistic vision and the skills of my coworkers, I’m acutely aware of the modesty of my ability to use a camera to identify and then convey a thought.

But taking pictures is fun, and I’m always interested in learning different ways to tell stories, so I got a new camera. I’d been using Lissa’s big DSLR camera  lately. It’s a great camera, but it’s a lot of camera, so I settled on a little one that would be easier to just slip in a bag and have with me all the time.

Going through a bunch of my old pictures last night, I came across a set I’d taken back in 2007 when we took Mom and Dad on a joyride on the Railrunner, central New Mexico’s commuter train. What had never really occurred to me until I looked at those pictures was the way Dad always had a camera. I’ve written before about my father’s life in art:

Art was intrinsic to our lives, not a thing separate.

I’ve not particularly thought about my dad as a photographer (he was a painter!), but there he was – me taking pictures of him taking pictures:

Dad taking pictures I, John Fleck, 2007

Dad taking pictures I, John Fleck, 2007

and this

Dad taking pictures II, John Fleck, 2007

Dad taking pictures II, John Fleck, 2007

These pictures are all kinds of complicated for me. This trip was taken shortly after a doctor told us Dad had Alzheimer’s disease, that the forgetfulness we’d been learning to route around was only the beginning. I remember the trip for that reason, for a ghostly picture I also took that day of Dad’s dim reflection in the train window, a blunt metaphor that’s still painful to look at.

But for reasons I don’t remember, I also took pictures of Dad taking pictures. Dad shot slides most of his life, and had a series of serious cameras (I remember light meters), but he was never a gearhead, and in his later years he mostly just used little instamatic-type cameras that he could slip in a bag and have with him all the time. Sound familiar? So obvious in retrospect.