I read on a blog recently a quote by Robert Mapplethorpe: “If I am at a party, I want to be at the party. Too many photographers use the camera to avoid participating in things. They become professional observers.”
Somehow, these words really struck a chord with me. I know that I’m often guilty of hiding from people behind the camera. Especially at weddings, where you tend to bump into people from the past. I guess I still find it hard to answer the question that often pops up: ‘How many children do you have?’ Not that I have any problem with talking about Cameron, but I’m increasingly aware of how difficult it can be for the other person to have a bombshell dropped like that. Especially when they know me from the past and probably just expect some stock standard answer about how great life is.
Sometimes I can’t help but wish that my path to motherhood was a ‘normal’ one. In the words of my friend Sally: “The one where my firstborn didn’t die, and I headed down the more traditional route to parenthood where you get pregnant, stay pregnant, then bring baby home nine months later.”
If only Cameron hadn’t died, then I could just rattle off “four boys” without a second thought when asked about our family. If only Cameron hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have to brace myself in conversations whenever the topic of my children came up. If only Cameron hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have to worry about the other person referring to Angus as our first or Pete as our second or James as our third. If only Cameron hadn’t died, I would be able to tell others how much we loved watching him grow up and how he turned four in September. If only Cameron hadn’t died, I would be able to show photos of him to other people when they asked to see our boys. If only Cameron hadn’t died, there would be videos of him too. If only he hadn’t died, our family would be complete. Our family would be ‘normal.’ If only he hadn’t died, he would be here.
But he did die. And because of that, talking to people can never be the same. It can never be like it was four years ago.
So if I become a bit of a ‘professional observer,’ then so be it. Because the truth is, I much prefer that to being hurt.
And sometimes, yes sometimes, you’ve just got to protect yourself.
Have you ever distanced yourself at parties or hidden behind the camera like me?