My July in Photos, Through the Lens of a Hand-Me-Down Camera

Winner of MR's July Writers Prompt

When my uncle was 14 years old, he bought a camera at Smith’s Pharmacy in the tiny town of Glenboro, Manitoba. What followed were 50 years spent behind the lens, photographing every raucous family gathering, every trip to the world’s farthest corners, and every one of us cousins as we grew.

There are hardly any photos of my uncle in our family albums. He stayed hidden on the other side of those exquisitely framed, thoughtfully snapped moments, lost behind his love for his art and for us.

A few years ago, I received a package in the mail. Inside was my uncle’s first camera from all those years ago. He passed it on to me as he is no longer able to use it.

You see, about 40 years after that pivotal day in Glenboro when he clutched his paper route money and fell in love with photography, my uncle was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He can’t hold that camera anymore.

This means that, in some ways, photography is a lost craft for my uncle. But in the ways that photography really matters, it isn’t; he remains remarkable at making people feel like they’re worth remembering. His focus on the person in front of him is crystal clear.

With the package came a letter in which my uncle explained that a good photographer has “passionate vision” — the ability to visualize an outcome and make it happen. The passionate vision he continues to apply to all the ways he shows us we’re loved is unmatched. And while I stumble headlong through my twenties, I hope that my uncle’s beautiful gift will help me find those things in myself someday, too.

So here is my July in photos, buoyant and sun-drenched across three cities and a bunch of my home province, all shot on my brilliant uncle’s trusty Pentax SP1000. While in my uncle’s possession, that little camera survived being dropped on a mountain climb in the German Alps, backed over by a car in Spruce Woods Park here in Manitoba, and soaked on the Maid of Mist at Niagara Falls. It took the photos at my parents’ wedding, too.

I happen to think that despite its sometimes precarious adventures, that camera absorbed some of my uncle’s photographic magic. Which was never really lost, only found again by someone who really loves him.

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