My parents put a camera in my hands when I was really, really small. It used film that looked like the little picture wheels that go in an old school View Master. I took it with me everywhere we went that year: Epcot, a space shuttle launch and summer camp. While my dad would develop his own film in our closet darkroom, I would wait a week for my little film discs to come back in an envelope filled with prints from the local K-Mart. I remember the waiting, the anticipation - always gave me butterflies while I wondered if any of my photos looked like Dad's.
Then in high school, Mom handed me a classic 35mm Leicaflex that had belonged to my oldest brother before we lost him. The Leica was all manual everything and I didn’t know anything about an “f” number or whatever it was. I would load some film and randomly adjust the rings and knobs until the light meter needle was in the middle and then click the shutter. But with that classic Leica in my hand, I felt close to my brother. To Mom and my Dad. It took years of practice to gain the skill I needed to create with intention - to bring about the beautiful images that I could see in my mind before the shutter ever clicked.
I photographed my own kids, all my friends, their weddings and eventually their kids - all on film. As film gave way to digital and I graduated college in a completely different field, I moved to a Digital SLR and photographed weddings for friends of friends and before I knew it, I had my own business and a major career shift - one fueled by the passion I felt all those years ago when Mom handed me that first camera.
Twenty years ago, I married a boy. We poured our hearts into a tiny backyard ceremony at Mom’s house. We made all the arrangements ourselves and mailed the invitations to our best friends. The day came and we had rain and lots of people who didn’t come because of the rain and then a lightning storm and a power outage. But I don’t really think about that too much when looking back. What I DO remember are the butterflies when I headed out in that white dress, Grandfather before he passed and all the vintage silverware my new husband’s parents had shined up for our dinner. I remember my very best friend standing up with me and my sister and nephew when he was a wee boy. And I remember Mom and Dad. We stood up in front of our friends and family and promised forever to each other and then we danced with our son in the rain. At the end of the night, we drove away to the sound of thunder in the distance and through it all, our friend was there with her camera, capturing everything - writing our story in images that would be cherished for many years to come.
But that story was never told again after that night. The film was so underexposed that it was completely black or mere shadows of people. The disappointment was palpable but at the time, I took comfort in the fact that I could still close my eyes and picture everything as it was on my wedding day. The honest truth of the matter, though, is that life goes by and memories really do fade. Some sayings are repeated so often because they are true.
What I started to realize as the years passed is that I have nothing to look back on to remind me of the start of us - nothing to help re-burn those memories into my mind. No pictures of Grandfather, Mom or Dad on my wedding day. No pictures of my best friend or sister standing up with me and no pictures of us dancing in the rain with our son.
I believe that meaning is sparked from the embers that lie at the heart of our very own stories and that meaning, for me, started 20 years ago on my own wedding day. I want to give you what I don’t have - your precious story told through images of a day that is uniquely yours forever.
“I have nothing to look back on to remind me of the start of us - nothing to help re-burn those memories into my mind. ”
Photo taken by Rebecca Yale in 2019