Waitahanui River, Taupo

Where I became a Photographer.

This image, captured on a beautiful Minolta camera sometime around 1999, is nearly identical to one that was taken by another photographer nearly 100 years earlier. We stood at the same vantage point, focused on the anglers in the midground, and shot into an overcast sky. I discovered my photograph's twin online years ago, but I haven't seen it again since.

I've always preferred taking candid photos to posed ones. I like catching people just as they were at that time and place when they don't know the camera is trained on them. The artless grace most people possess when they aren't posing for a photo is usually more evocative of who they truly are, than what they're trying to portray to the world through our lens. The un-selfconcious laugh of a child caught up in a game, or the goofy grin of a girl who has started to become a stunning beauty, but doesn't yet know it. These are rare moments that we can experience only fleetingly in our lives and - if we tried to catch them in an obvious manner - they feel and look false. The photographer's gaze changes the dynamic of the moment.

 Love you always, mom.

Love you always, mom.

Anyone who knew my mother will know this is she, even though they can't see her face, or hear her voice.

She might have been remarking on the way the river looked, or on how she wished she could join the fly-fishermen downstream, but I knew that - like the stream in front of her - the thoughts and emotions she was feeling were deeper, darker than that.

I took this photo using her old Minolta film camera. It was one of the last photos I'd ever take of her, because this was her farewell journey. She was travelling around the places of her youth, making new moments with us and having experiences that she knew would be her last. Each moment was bittersweet. You can see it in the slight tension in her shoulders, but also in the insouciant way her hands were tucked into the pockets of her jeans. I can see both fear and resignation held there that was ever present. As kids, we didn't really understand, but we knew that she was sick, and wouldn't get better.

Looking at the test-print in my hands I'm aware of the way that even this moment that I've captured here is going to fade away. The digital scan of it does not do it justice, and this copy is yellowed and marked with age. I never got to make any full-sized prints of these images. The only hope I have for recreating it is that the negative possibly still exists somewhere in storage. Until I find it, I'll have to be content with these poor reproductions, each one of which introduces more entropy into the equation.

I'm glad I had these experiences with her, and that I had a chance to capture the images that both haunt and inspire me, calling me to keep capturing meaningful moments in my life, because I never will know when that will be the last time I have that chance.