IT IS BETTER TO HIT CAMERAS, THAN HIT YOUR SONS

Posted on Sep 10, 2010 | 1 comment

My grand-father once hit my father over his interest in drawing and other gentler pursuits.  These were things that my immigrant, farmer grand-father thought were useless towards what he was taught that a man’s purpose in life was … to make a living for his family.

A generation later my father replayed this experience with me.  He didn’t hit me.  Instead, he hit my camera.  He knocked it out of my hands, smashing it against the wall.  The issue was the same … making a living and providing for my future family.

This act was a replay of what my father had been taught. However, it also resulted in a major insight for him and a significant step forward for me and generations of our family to come.

Perhaps in the act of hitting that camera he felt a faint flash, not of anger or fatherly control, but of his own suppressed artistic longing. Maybe he briefly felt the power and value of those creative urges in him which morphed from things like the soft pencil drawings he made for mom early in their life together, to his ending up in a more expected and practical pursuit of “art” … a career as a draftsman.

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Wherever his insight came from that day,  it moved him to quietly fix the camera that night.  I found it the next morning,  sitting on the dining room table, repaired and working. He never said another word about the incident.  Neither did I.  We didn’t have to.

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From that day forward, he rarely took issue with my more artistic pursuits.  Later in life he would quietly listen and even sneak a furtive glance at my work when I was sharing it with others.  He  even made encouraging remarks about it now and then. I like to think that he may have been living out some of his own artistic longings through watching his son. 

One day I came around a corner and surprised him going through my portfolio. At first his hard Italian father-face leapt forward to his defense. Then it’s reflexive grip loosened and it slunk back into hiding. He didn’t speak, neither did I. He quietly walked away and I think that I saw (or imagined) a slight nod as he passed by.

From an over burdened grandfather that never had the luxury to even consider anything artistic, to a father who tried to but couldn’t break loose from the shackles of tradition, to a son who was finally given silent permission to follow his heart, each generation builds upon what the other has learned.

Since that time  I have made over 5,000 photographs, exhibited some, and had a much richer life for it. It is deeply satisfying and inspiring for me to realize that in a back-handed way, my father was actually a significant influence in making this happen.

One Comment

  1. I have to comment about this. It is rather personal. As you know you mother would support you in what ever you chose to do. She did worry though in those early years, how in the world you were going to support yourself let alone a family studying birds and bugs and anything else that moved. You have proved what I have told my children and have tried to follow myself to follow your dreams and what you enjoy and you will find a way to make it work. Congrats on a very successful and meaningful life. Just so your head does not swell too large, I still find you strange in an interesting way. LOL

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