Photographers are a varied bunch. We click at birthday parties, at beautiful sunsets, at a strange bug in the house, on vacation at exotic spots, or down the street at the local park. We click. And click. And click. We click when we don’t have words. We click when we do have words.
The reasons we click are as numerous as the number of people who have cameras. But I can tell you why I click.
One reason is to document my life.
When I was in junior high school, I became fascinated with my mother’s life. I wanted to know everything about her childhood growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania. I wanted to “see” her siblings, my aunts and uncles.
My parents were professional Country and Western musicians. Their stage names were Ken Montana and Texas Lil. They traveled the countryside of America in the late 30’s through the early 50’s with some of the top names in the business.
My mother’s photo albums were filled with photos of Hank Williams, Eddie Arnold, the Carter Family, the Hoosier Hotshots, Lula Belle and Scotty, Rawhide and Tumbleweed, the Pinning Sisters; the Wilburn Brothers, Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers, the Prairie Pals and Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, and Pat Brady to name a few. And of course there were professional and candid shots of my famous aunt, Patsy Montana.
But there were no pictures of my mother’s childhood, her farm or her school life—and I wanted a different experience for my family. Yes, at the age of 12 or 13 I thought I might one day be a mom and have a daughter who would wonder about my life. I wanted to document my life for her.
When the show business days were over, we moved to Kimball Valley in Ramona, California. We didn’t have a lot of money, but my mother had a camera: an old Kodak Brownie Bulls-Eye. She was always clicking the shutter, documenting our childhood. Those old family pictures are the foundation of the wonderful childhood memories we share, and the stories we keep retelling.
I was heavily influenced by my mother’s use of that camera. She inspired me, but I didn’t want to rely on her pictures for my story. I wanted to tell my own story. So in junior high, borrowing her Bulls-Eye, I began my own clicking. I took her camera to school events, pasting my black and white 1 5/8-inch square photos into scrapbooks.
By high school, I’d saved enough babysitting money to buy my own camera, a Kodak Brownie Starmeter. I documented my high school years with square 3 ½-inch photos of football games, dances, church activities, and sleepovers. I would buy the Kodak Verichrome Pan Film (VP 127) for black and white or the Kodacolor C 127 for colored prints. I preferred colored prints
even then. I didn’t care or even know about film speed or aperture opening or the effects of light. But I did care about creating huge scrapbooks and albums with photos and clippings for my future family.
I went to college and kept clicking, documenting my dorm room and my dorm mates. I left college and dated, taking photos of boyfriends and parties, birthdays, and vacations. I upgraded to a Kodak Instamatic 133 camera in the 70’s. Then I had a baby. I began documenting her life. She was born on the 16th of the month. So every month during the first year of her life, on the 16th, I propped her up and snapped a picture for her monthly “birthday.” I continued, like all new mothers, clicking when she rolled over, crawled, fed herself, first step, first day of kindergarten, sports activities. I became the historian for my large extended family, clicking at baptisms, birthdays, graduations, weddings, and funerals.
And then in 1986 Santa Claus brought me my first 35 mm camera. A Canon AE-1. My life changed. I began clicking for my second reason . . . .
What about you, why do you click?