I begged for a camera for my seventh birthday and happily received it: a Kodak Instamatic 124, along with 126 cartridge film and flash cubes. I thought everyone wanted a camera, although I realize now that my mother never took pictures. That was my father's job. Actually, it was his interest in documenting the present for the future that drove and still drives him. It didn't matter that I had on ugly shoes(!) or had just been made to put on a sweater(!). Focus, look over here, snap!
My first pictures were of ducks, trees, nature, taken at some camp we were visiting. The only indicator is a sign: Whispering Pines Self-Guided Nature Trail. The pictures are fading. But the web tells me it was probably here in the National Forest in San Bernardino. If what another website says is true, the trail "was originally created to be featured in a 1969 television show 'Lassie.'" Found the episode: Season 16, "More Than Meets the Eye," about a blind girl. It fits.
Why do we take pictures? Dad takes them as documents and to remember. I started by taking pictures of things I liked: rocks in a stream, a canopy of trees, pine forest, and the sign. A couple years after I got the camera, I began dressing up my little sister and having her pose for me. I took my camera on field trips, to visit relatives, wherever we went. I still do, but my vision is different. I'm looking for more than just a funny or pretty picture.
On my daily walk, which is always the same, I look for things that have changed. A dead tree that grew in the middle of the road was dug up and the street was paved over. I think I have a picture of the tree before it disappeared. The neighbors put a Christmas tree in the middle of the road during the day; they hope to plant a new tree and want to get the locals used to the idea. The Christmas tree had a paper with haiku written to the fallen tree on it. Snap. I like pictures that have stories.
I know I'm still taking pictures of things I like, that seem beautiful or interesting to me, but as my photo library grows out of control, I'm starting to look more carefully. Do I need another cool sunset? Another picture of the neighbor cat (I swore off of those a few years ago but can't seem to stop.) I've tried to be more discerning about what pictures I take, but taking pictures helps me process what I'm seeing. When I take pictures I look at the world differently: I look for colors, shapes, composition, for story, for things that are probably temporary. If I miss a photo and come back to look for it, it's usually gone, like the time I saw that someone had mowed their lawn in a spiral, or the circle of mushrooms that had grown up on another patch of grass.
Some of the common subjects for my students have been the Person on a Bed picture and the Abandoned Building Series. Interesting how they are drawn to the same things. I have a fondness for abandoned buildings, myself. The building materials have interesting textures. Ruins suggest stories of people now gone.
From what I read online, I see I am not alone in having recently lost my camera. My pocket camera. I have one that is older, larger, heavier, still digital, but a pain to carry around. I know some people would just tell me to live in the moment, don't worry about the pictures I'm missing. But taking pictures is a way of interacting with the world, and it works for me.
Cameras keep changing. I'm sorry I lost the old one. Online research helped me discover the geographical location of a lost memory. I'm certain it can help me find a new camera.