As a wedding and portrait photographer, I strive to create images that tell the story of your life with beauty and grace, respect and imagination. Foregoing forced smiles and stiff poses, I embrace natural smiles and expressions in order to create images that have a unique freshness and vitality and a heartfelt and emotional authenticity.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

For Best Results Follow These Simple Rules

This basic little box camera belonged to my paternal grandmother.  It was introduced to the market in 1932.  It's not as popular as the Kodak Brownie or the Rolleiflex, but I think it's pretty sweet.  Of course, I have always had a penchant for underdogs.

The camera uses 120 film and has two viewfinders for creating either vertical or horizontal shots.  My mother remembers my grandmother taking photos with it.  Every year for Christmas, my grandparents would send us a box of homemade fudge and their yearly portrait.  One year they were posed in their abundant garden, holding giant squash ... the next year, posed in front of a looming haystack.  They were my own, intimate, personal representation of American Gothic.   

My grandparents lived in rural Oklahoma.  Staying with them was so different from being in the city.  They didn't have much, and life was simple.  I remember waking up to the smell of homemade biscuits topped with homemade jam, and bacon, always bacon.  I have a memory of taking an afternoon nap on their mile-high iron-frame bed, lying on one of my grandmother's handmade quilts, cooled by a breeze sneaking through the open window.  I loved the pure, fresh, country air.  The faint moos from cows far in the distance.

In such a small town, there wasn't much for traditional entertainment.  We forged through the tall grass in the meadow to visit the cows, but we were always terrified of the bull and even one lazy turn of his head would send us, squealing, back to the house as fast as our legs would take us.  Once, my sister and I used enough brylcreem to style my grandfather's comb-over into a tall spike.  (He really must have loved us.  Although, I think he was grateful for the entertainment, too.)  On the hottest days, I'd wear one of my grandfather's t-shirts, hanging down to my ankles, to run through the sprinkler.  We ate ripe tomatoes off the vine with just a sprinkle of salt.  We puckered our faces with sour grapes from the fence line, probably not yet ripened.  As the sun dipped lower in the sky, we'd catch fireflies and burn off our energy by making figure eights between the house and the cellar door, around the clothesline and back.   Some nights we'd just lie on the porch swing and find solace among the fragrant, climbing roses. 

A handful of years ago, my grandparents died on the same day.  I was in my mid-twenties.  By the time we made the long road trip to their house in the country, the simple and carefree life I remembered from my childhood had been wrecked.  For the first time, life in that little five-room house became complicated.  Family members had already taken all the handmade quilts, the wedding rings, my grandmother's only bracelet (given to her by her childhood boyfriend), and the biscuit pan that was a striking emblem of her hospitality.  Also gone were the tall iron bed, my grandfather's war medals, and my grandmother's cast iron skillet.  I slowly, numbly picked up a potted peace lily, delivered by a thoughtful neighbor.  Someone grabbed it out of my arms and declared it would look beautiful in her apartment.

I felt nauseated.  It wasn't that I wanted all of those things; I just wanted something tangible to help me always remember what made my grandparents special.  I am terrified of losing memories.  Memories might not be tied to a biscuit pan or the last jar of Pearl's grape jelly, but what if they were?  I was afraid of the answer.

Then, a couple of years later, this modest little box camera found its way to me.  I think it survived the mayhem because people assumed it didn't have any intrinsic value.  And it doesn't, to anyone else in the world but me.  A few months ago, I was turning knobs and examining levers to see if it possibly still works.  And, inside the camera, I found the manual.  I sat down to read it and, when I got to Simple Rule Number 11, I felt warmed, like I was sitting in country sunshine.

I thought of my grandparents, taking snapshots of their prize-winning cucumbers, and posing in front of haystacks.  I thought of how those snapshots are truly the most valuable treasures of all.  It's true that memories live in your heart, and images of climbing roses or the taste of jam can be brought to mind in a split second, in the middle of winter.  But, photographs anchor those memories.  My memories are generalities, and they are formatted in soft focus.  So, we all need a reminder - like Rule Number 11 - to always take our cameras along.  Photograph it all ... even the simple things.  Especially the simple things.  From squash, to haystacks, to tomatoes on the vine.   It's all too perfect to forget. 


  1. brandi taylor1/29/2010

    When is your book coming out?? this made me cry!! Miss you guys! Brandi

  2. Hi Kaycee: I LOVE this post and I know exactly how you feel! I have my grandfather's old polaroid land camera. I always remember him taking pix with that so it's the one physical thing I have from him and it sits in my studio. You write beautifully and I'm glad to have read this this morning.

  3. I'm with Brandi, this was one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. I think it is truly amazing that you now have their camera and what wonderful memories you will always have of that time with your grandparents. I absolutely LOVE rule #11 :)