Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Legacy in Photography

Still curled up napping! I'll catch up with you soon, but until then, a few of my favorite posts, honoring people who have made a difference in my life. If you're new to The Marmelade Gypsy, I hope you'll take a few minutes to meet some people who mean a good deal to me -- and may inspire you, too.

I was looking through my past posts and I came across this one on my dad -- so many of you are new to The Marmelade Gypsy, so I thought I'd introduce you to another of the people who helped shape my life. And yes, soon you'll meet my mom.

* * * * * *
Journeys Past
January 2009

Several years ago, there was a series on public television called "The Story of India." It's a place I find India interesting in part because it's where my dad spent his military service.

In a somewhat futile attempt to clean the art room, I went splunking under the desk and found a box with photos and letters he'd written.

I also found (again) his photo album from that period.

Photos of the Indians in pose...and those who look caught unaware.

And at work, here on a tea plantation.

He spoke of his leave in the mountains where the tea plantations were, and of the farms in the north.

He also mentioned spending time with the daughter of a tea plantation owner, whom he described in a letter to my grandparents as being very easy on the eyes. (I wish he'd had a photo of her -- maybe I'll find one when I spend more time with these books!)

My parents were both fairly skilled amateur photographers and even as a child I remember posing for my mother against a backdrop with big lights. Spending time in the darkroom watching the images magically appear on the paper always fascinated me and while it wasn't a skill I picked up, I still mourn the loss of the magic of film (although the computer now seems to hold that magic.)

The point is, in discovering these photos, I realize that this was an interest that my dad developed long before he and my mother met. And some -- like the photo of the Indian woman and her baby, the snake charmer, the beggar -- almost seem to have a documentary-like quality that I find intriguing, especially given his innocence of the world at that time.

(Another thing I love about the originals is that they are all very small -- wallet sized. Yet when enlarged, really quite clear.)

His camera picked up sacred cows...

...street scenes...

Even the street beggars were captured in the camera lens. I wonder -- did he take this as a shocked young man who hadn't seen this before -- something to show the folks at home? Did he see it as a social commentary?

My dad always had a profound sense of compassion for others as well as a sense of acceptance that struck me as unusual during my time of adolescence. Beautiful, but unusual. Still, it wasn't until he died when the first African American to move into our all-white-bread neighborhood came to the funeral home that I realized how this made an impact on others.

"Your dad was the first person to come to come to our door and welcome us to the neighborhood," he said. "I will never forget his kindness."

Did this farm kid from Michigan learn that people were people, whether they looked like you or not, during his time in India? It sure didn't hurt.

This is one of my favorite photos -- the snake charmer! I can imagine him being fascinated by how the charmer was able to lure the cobra from his basket.

(I know this photograph fascinated me as a child. I sometimes wonder if he took it just to send my grandmother into a tizzy -- she had always been afraid of snakes, one of the few phobias that may have rubbed off on me a bit!)

Although I know he became very ill while there (malaria and something that popped up now and then in later years), he really found his time in that country fascinating.

It intrigues me, this look into the images that affected a man so many years ago. He was probably in his late 20s, maybe 30. I can't help but wonder if the young men in Afghanistan are experiencing the same things, and will their encounters with people different from themselves lead to acceptance and understanding as they age, or will the terrors of war override these experiences. India wasn't a hotbed of combat when Dad was there, and I'm not sure as a communications specialist if he ever even saw combat. That has to present a different image of a country.

Yes, I have some things he brought back with him -- an ivory box with elephants; two rosewood (I think) boxes he gave my grandmother; a prayer wheel, tarnished with the passing of time.

But the memories -- those are his. And how I wish I could ask him more about them.


Retired English Teacher said...

These photos are just priceless. I loved seeing them and reading about the time your father spent in India.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

What a wonderful legacy of curiosity, beauty and compassion your Dad has left you -- not to mention these fascinating pictures. Isn't it interesting how we carry our parents' (sometimes incomplete) histories and memories with us long after they are gone? There are so many things we'd like to ask them. So many little mysteries. And yet, complete or incomplete, so many of their stories and memories become ours. Thanks for a lovely post, Jeanie, and hope you're getting lots of rest!

joyce said...

Some of those photos are very touching...the one of the beggar really strikes me. The one of the cows you labelled sacred cows I read wrong and was trying to see how the cows looked scared. And I have always loved the phrase "easy on the eyes".

beth said...

oh these photos are just amazing !!
what a gift that you have them in your possession !!

Relyn said...

Are you telling me your Dad took that third one? Did I understand that correctly? GOSH! It belongs in National Geographic. What a treasure!

Mia Folkmann said...

What a wonderful story! When my father died 9 years ago, it suddenly hit me with a hammer, that I wouldn't be able to ask him anything anymore - ever.

I wish one would think a little about things like that before it’s too late, but in our mind our parents will live forever... :-)

Jennifer Richardson said...

fascinating journey....thanks
for letting us ride along
and enjoy the view:)

Cheryl said...

Oh my goodness... what treasures you have! You should see if anyone is interested in publishing those in a book :-)

Tracy said...

What an amazing man and amazing photographer your father, glad you introduced us to him this way. :o) Lovely to catch up with you after being away for some days. ((HUGS))

Annie said...

I was intrigued by the woman with the child. She does not fit my idea of what I expect of India. Even the clothing is different. The begger broke my heart.

Toriz said...

He sounds like he was an amazing man. And it sounds as though his time in India had quite an impact on him. Shame you didn't think of all these questions before. That's how it works though; we always think of the things we should have said afterwards.

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