My Photographic Roots

My interest in photography came from watching my mother take photos. She had an old Rolleiflex that only she understood. It was square and boxy with two lenses on the front and some knobs on the sides. The magical thing about this camera is that you had to look down into a prism to take the photo – before an LCD screen even existed, many photographers had grown to love the experience of framing their shots in that lovely square box – it was like watching a TV screen.

This camera is substantial in your hands. That texture on the sides is actually leather.

This camera is substantial in your hands. That texture on the sides is actually leather.

Mom’s camera was just a bit newer than this one – it was probably from the 1950s. One day in my early teens we were on a trip with some other girls and their moms when she decided to show me how it worked. It wasn’t something she trusted me to take off with it, but that day I saw photography differently – somehow in my mind it shifted from capturing snapshots to making something look great on that screen. With the Rollei you had to move – there was no zoom or macro settings – you moved until the object you wanted to highlight was in focus. I think that early experience is why I love to shoot primes today. When I studied photography in college, mom entrusted me with not only her Rollei, but her new Pentax to use in my classes. I think it was at this time that I really understood photography as art – not just in the shooting of images, but in the processing and developing of film – the making of images.

Now my mom was a super-talented woman who never saw herself as an exceptional. She was a master pattern cutter, seamstress, and tailor. I would show her two dresses I liked – I would like the bodice on one and the skirt on the other – we would go home and she would make me a dress that was the perfect combination of the two. Her doodles on the phone book looked like the sketches you see designers make when developing fashion concepts. She was an amazing cook. She would try something new and then go home and figure out how to make it.Β She was exceptional in so many creative ways. If I were to call her a photographer she would probably cringe – but I look at her shots and I know that she had some skills. These aren’t etherial landscapes or anything like that – just shots of family and friends.

This Mother’s Day, like all days I miss her. She left us far too soon, but her mark on our lives was indelible.

She’s always with you. She’s the sound of bacon crackling in a skillet on Saturday morning. She’s the aroma of the lilacs and magnolias in the spring. She’s your breath in the air on a cold winter’s day. She’s the sound of the rain on the roof that lulls you to sleep, the colors of the rainbow; she is Christmas morning. She is the place where you came from, your first home, and she’s the map you follow with every step you take. She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy, but nothing on earth can separate you – not time, not space, not even death.Β 

Shutterbug Notes:

You can learn a lot from looking at old photos. As your skill grows you can appreciate the skill it took to make them work. You can also learn a lot about shooting from the heart – to not so much try to capture what something looks like, but what it feels like. It’s more that skill that makes a great image – it needs heart.

43 thoughts on “My Photographic Roots

  1. love the story, love what you wrote about your mother, very poetic, somewhere photography cannot go, but you are appear to be adept at expressing your emotions in all media – some lovely images Poli

  2. I had a Nikon-F when I was in college and loved to shoot scenic shots. With filters and manipulating the settings I thought I had some pretty good shots. Until I took a photography class and saw what filters, manipulation, and COMPOSURE can really do. If you took the second photog. class you were allowed to use the real cameras. 2 1/4 twin and single lens cameras. None of this photoshop stuff w/ those. I loved shooting scenes, what amazing details compared to 35mm. But still can’t imagine shooting people w/ those like your mom did. I guess you really learn the camera first, and she obviously did. Remember those huge flashes they had in those days?

    • Shooting the Rollei showed me how much more detail is possible on film, I’ve always wanted to shoot large format, just to be able to see that crazy detail. Mom shot almost effortlessly. You are so right about composition and that’s what clicked for me when is shot that Rollei, you fill the square with the most interesting shapes and shadows. It’s more natural to compose looking at that screen.

  3. You Mum must have been a very creative person, Lorri.

    Her photos are wonderful (and I’m in full agreement with your shutterbug notes too). I’m always trying to capture the moment and what I felt at the time of making the image. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes not.

    • She really was quite creative Vicki. Although she wouldn’t have seen herself as particularly talented, she really was. She made porcelain dolls with very intricate costumes as a hobby. As far as photography, she was the mom who showed up with a serious camera, so she was there to capture the moments – seeing some shots were more thought out surprised me – but it shouldn’t have. She had her own perspective.

  4. Some of these photographs brought me back memories of things in my youth. For instance, I was in Girl Guides and we had bell-tents similar to the tents in your second row.
    this was a lovely post dedicated to your mother. Thanks

  5. She definitely had heart – great photos and not one head cut off! Love the last paragraph “She’s always with you…”
    How very true. My mother and I were at loggerheads for most of my teenage years, but after the birth of my third child we suddenly became friends again. Don’t know if I mellowed or she stopped being so critical, but it was so nice not to fight with her all the time.
    Jude xx

    • I think that there is a transition that happens when you and your mother finally see each other as equals or friends – my mom and I struggled through my teens and had some rough patches in my twenties – but we evened out and learned to talk to each other differently – I think change came from both sides. It really was nice to enjoy her – I hope she felt the same.

  6. What great photos…. there is certainly a special quality to this type of shot over digital. And I love the personal nature of them.

  7. These are all great photos Lorri, I especially like the tee pee and how it lines up with the sky and the hills – amazing! I bet your mom looks down from heaven and smiles at your talent and creativity. ❀
    Diana xo
    Haven't seen you in a while. I was so happy to see a post from you in my inbox!

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