Behind the camera
Behind the camera
Scott Dunlop

Sometimes I’ll be browsing through old photo albums, and it’ll strike me: the photographer was the hidden subject of the photos. I’m guessing that for many parents, those first pictures of moms with their babies are taken by the dads, for example. The trend these days is to include the person taking the snap in the photograph in a group selfie, but, when I was young, the photographer was either trying to blend in so the kids were acting natural, or calling out “cheese!”

So I look at these photos of me as a kid, sometimes grinning, sometimes caught in motion between the tree boughs and the bicycle, and wonder what my parents were thinking as they took the pictures. Back then, there was a certain amount of commitment to taking pictures. You were hoping to get it just right so that the film could be developed and you’d get 24 pictures.

The pictures captured those historical family holidays; without them, I’d remember even less. But I know my Dad was part of my childhood because of them.

I see the kids in those fading pictures smiling out at their father, happy to have that happiness recorded.

Now the role is reversed. He is old, and I take the pictures. He knows it’s time to smile, but his thoughts seem elsewhere, perhaps watching his children running across pebbled beaches in their wellies or running rings around him. Lost in time.

I’m guessing that he was trying to capture moments in those pictures, but that the process was never entirely satisfactory; that with the click of the shutter, the smells, sounds and feelings of those days were caught too, only they leaked.

I’m glad he did, though. If only to place him in the scenes of my childhood. If only for me to hear him going “CHEESE, SCOTTIE!” in my head as I remember him.

There was magic in printed photographs.

That said, I am guilty of a parenting fail: I love trying to capture the fun times I have with my kids on camera. No time for composition, just point-and-click. I know some people criticise others for trying to capture every moment on camera, but I also know the importance of visual memories.

Besides, they’re fun! On a rainy day like yesterday, we go through our photos and it’s remarkable the amount of detail my kids can recall.

So for this Father’s Day, I’d like to celebrate every dad who spent time with his children, even if he was only behind the camera and not in the picture.

You can also get in on the action; if you send us your dad pics, you could win 1 of 3 R250 TAKEALOT vouchers. They could be pictures of your children with their dad, or of you with your father. We can't wait to see them!

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