Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Well, shit.

So I'm feeling pretty daunted right now. There's so much I can't write about here. You probably don't want to be around me anyway. My sentences trail off and I get all distracted. For now, I'm going to republish some of my favorite entries from the now defunct Untangling Photography. Yeah. I know.

Pretend it's December 13th, would you? Then read on.

Me: Pssst... come here.   
You: Why are you whispering?
Me: Because I want to tell you about a surprise party for my dad.
You: What?

Okay, I'll talk louder. 

So at the moment I'm driving to my hometown in Pennsylvania (actually Joel is driving while I type) with a projector, a big-ass screen, my camera and a couple bags of Christmas presents. Tomorrow is my dad's 60th birthday party. He thinks we're going to a fancypants award ceremony for my mom tonight, but in reality, it's a surprise party for him. There will be about 100 guests there, from his childhood pals, to the best man at my parents' wedding, to our family and his present colleagues and friends.

My present for my dad is a 13-minute birthday tribute featuring photographs, film clips, songs and soundbytes from his loved ones. It's taken me about two months to pull it all together, but honestly, working on it has been a privilege. Yes, he's awesome and beloved and a great dad and husband who is worthy of the tribute because he's devoted and kind and aw! daddy's-little-girl-cakes! BUT!

The greatest privilege has been sorting through the photographs and home movies that go into the compilation, and thinking about all the people in my family who made this possible. I'm thinking of all the photographers and videographers over the years who picked up the camera, DECADES before I was born, at my dad's baptism, his First Communion, his wedding.

The project opens with footage of my Nanny and Pop Pop holding my dad, tickling his lip in a goo goo gaga kinda of way. Based on the fact that my grandmother is in her "fancy coat" and my dad is dressed in white, it was most likely shot at his baptism. Since both my grandparents are in the film, and my Pop Pop's sister Mary is edging her way into the frame, I'm guessing it was shot by my great-Uncle Ray, a boisterous soul who was famous in family tales for the time he was detained at the U.S. - Canadian border for shouting "WHO WANTS TO KNOW?!?!" to every routine question the customs official asked.

Oh, but the scene of my grandparents kissing? My Nanny is the same age there that I am now which BLOWS my MIND.

There's my father's first communion. The 1950s dresses on the little girls are FANTASTIC and the nuns' habits are hilarious, but what I love is the serious way my dad walks down the church steps at the age of seven, holding his hands in a gesture that's so familiar to me, not just because he walks in a similar way down the very same steps with his bride (my mom) on their wedding day, two decades and (and two Life Tribute montages) later.

It's thanks to My Great Uncle Sam that we have that precious footage, even though he's most famous in family lore for the fact that he didn't put any film in the video camera after the ceremony. He walked around "filming" the entire reception without film. Whenever someone tells the story of my parents' wedding day, they always say "And Sam forgot to put film in the video camera!" (Well, that, and my mom will tell you she loved the sugar-encrusted fruit cup.) Uncle Sam died three years before I was born, but it's thanks to him that we have the precious footage of them leaving the church, my mom's veil blowing in the breeze.

And my mom! She's seemingly "missing" in most of the photos from my childhood. It wasn't until I was in my final year of majoring in photography when I myself started to go missing in family photos that I figured out where she was- behind the camera. 

LISTEN TO ME, mother/readers who take tons of photos of your kids but shy away from the camera yourselves. Put it down, hand it to your partners, stick it on a tripod, but get INTO a few of those shots. You are NOT fat. You will never look more fabulously young and beautiful to the Future Adult versions of your children who will enjoy them.

My husband keeps joking that the theme of the slideshow is "Cry, bitches, cry," because I suspect there will be a few tears shed this evening as we watch it. (He is concerned that this makes him sound like a bastard and wants me to clarify that he means "cry, bitches, cry" in the nicest way possible. Truly. 

On a serious note, I honestly believe that the real mark of accomplished photography and multimedia work is the ability to elicit genuine emotion from the viewers. If you can say to them, "You know, this is you. This is your family. Look at happy you look, how beautiful you are. You've really been seen, and heard, and captured in a way that reflects the real you, and it's been my honor to do it."

You want to watch it now, don't you? You get to see photos of me from the '80s with a crazy spiral perm and crispy bangs, you realize that, right? Well, okay. but you can't say I didn't warn you. On the other hand, the best man at my parents' wedding (also my godfather) had crazy mutton chops in 1970s. He'll be there tonight, as will Cousin Butchie, the husky kid who "helps" my 4-year-old dad blow out his birthday candles. Hee hee ho ho. At least there will be an open bar.


Sixty Years Young from Angela Gaul on Vimeo.

4 comments:

Samosas for One said...

Sorry to hear about your recent struggle. I'm sending you some good juju.

michelle said...

So, I'm kind of slow, apparently. Did Gannett run Untangling Photography? If you can't say that on here, that's cool - just email me :)

Chunky Photojournalist Barbie said...

No. Gannett owns TJN, my day job. Every U.S. employee is required to not work for one week before March 1.

Untangling Photography was a different endeavor.

There's just a lot of fear all around right now.

michelle said...

Gotcha. Thanks for clearing that up for me. You always have a free place to stay if you want to come to Seattle during your week "off."