My daughter sent me this photo this morning of Joshua, her first child, and my first grandchild. He will be three weeks old tomorrow, getting bigger and stronger I imagine, every day.
The photograph, I messaged her back on WhatsApp (this sixty year old is au fait, okay, with modern technology!) instantly reminded me of a very similar picture I’d taken, in black and white, of her older sister Kathy, when Kathy was a baby.
In those days, back in the eighties, not only did one photograph on film but I processed the black and white negatives and printed them myself. I knew what effect I wanted – I wanted the image to look as much as possible like a pencil sketch, and so I shot on fast film, probably Kodak Tri-X, and pushed it, maybe to 1600 ASA. Then I printed the photo as a high-key image, on matte paper, and voila! – a pencil sketch. The picture won a prize in a local photo contest, as I recall, in Umtata – the original print, mounted on board, must be still around somewhere, back in South Africa.
Of course, this is not about me, and not about Kathy: it’s about Joshua, and his proud parents, and – yes, me, as a proud grandfather.
But I couldn’t help thinking, as I looked at the photo that Eve had sent me, and thought about how I’d immediately connected it to the photo of Kathy as a baby, how it is that certain images are linked in your memory: how they form part, as it were, of the emotional and mental space you inhabit. It was not just that the images related; it was that the experiences related, also, with the photos a kind of bridge between them. The experience of being a young parent; the sense of amazement and overwhelming love you feel for your infant; and not least at all, the sense, as a grandfather, of how the wheel has come full circle.
Nothing original, of course, in these ruminations. But that doesn’t make them any less real and meaningful.