This post is dedicated to my father-in-law, James Lombardo.
Hello, my name is Jason Schlosberg. And I have an addiction to photography.
Yes, I feel incomplete without a camera nearby. I get the jitters if I am unable to capture a beautiful scene because I left my trusty Canon at home. While vacations are primarily to enjoy family time, my wife, Donna, notices that I’m on edge if I’m asked to leave my camera in the hotel room. She believes sunsets should be reserved for romantic coupling. I can’t say I blame her, but sometimes addictions make one think irrationally.
Great photographic opportunities are fleeting. In landscape photography, the lighting and other conditions change within moments, never to be captured again. The greatest outdoor photographers spend hours, if not days, in the same location, waiting for the perfect composition of sky and light. Patience is a key ingredient to capture an image sufficiently powerful to take the edge off of the addiction.
The addiction is felt more clearly with the added variables of urban and life scenes. Cars pass by, people move, incidents occur, all within a blink of an eye. Sometimes I wish I had a camera surgically inserted in my optic nerve so I would never have to leave my camera behind.
While these are all of the conscious reasons for my addiction, I have had another reason that I don’t usually talk about. It’s about memories. Professional photographers usually talk about the scene, the moment, and the capture. The hokey idea about capturing memories is something reserved for amateurs with their point-and-shoots taking pictures of their kids without concern of f-stop, shutter speed, ISO, lighting conditions, or even negative space.
In my personal life, there aren’t many people in my family that take pictures at every event. That’s probably because I’m already there, DSLR and additional lighting equipment in tow, sometimes at the expense of annoying certain relatives who think it’s “too much.”
Everyone has their own personal reasons for wanting to capture memories. For me, I think it has been somewhat unconscious until recently. I never really knew my grandparents. My maternal grandfather died before I was born and both my grandmothers died when I was about 2 years old. My paternal grandfather passed when I was 7 years old. While I do remember him, my memories are dim and sparse. While there are a few pictures of these people in some albums, it just hasn’t been enough.
When my daughter was born, one of my biggest fears was that she would not know her grandparents. In fact, we have even second-guessed our own decision to not having children until we were in our mid-thirties. Very recently, my father-in-law, Jim Lombardo, passed away. My daughter is only 7 months old.
Jim was a wonderful father-in-law. We had similar off-color senses of humor. He had a big heart and was always offering support and a helping hand without being asked. He grew up in Manhattan near the Brooklyn Bridge, so I sometimes called him the Prince of the Lower East Side. Not because he acted like royalty, but to the contrary. He was a mensch, which is a Yiddish word describing someone as a person with integrity and honor, sometimes misinterpreted into English as a “prince.” When I got Donna’s engagement ring, I went to Jim to ask for his blessing, telling him it would be an honor to call him my father-in-law. He told me that he already considered me part of the family.
After Jim passed, I started looking for photographs. I found quite a few and put some up on my personal Facebook account to share with family and friends. I included photos of our trips to Aruba and Alaska and at family events. One of my favorites is of him and me posing like muscle men while wearing tuxedos at my wedding. There is also a shot of Jim with my brother-in-law, Dominick, and my daughter. It was the last time we spent with him at home before he went to the hospital.
When I posted that last one, Dominick immediately made it his profile picture. He also wrote, “All these captured moments are thanks to my brother in law who never put down his camera – thank you, Jason.”
Since Jim’s death, I have experienced significant waves of emotion. Once again my eyes welled up with Dominick’s appreciation and with my own realization that part of my motivation for photography is to capture memories for moments just like this. It didn’t matter that the lighting was harsh or that I took the photo with my video camera, which produced somewhat noisy, low-res photos. I captured a moment of Jim, Dom, and Jocelyn all looking happy and within each others arms. My addiction was suddenly justified.