Camera obscura

Joe has learned a lot from observing other people. Over time he’s figured out things like how to cough into his hand or arm, or use typical inflection and hand gestures when having a conversations (with words he made up). Lately he’s started taking long, satisfying swigs out of water bottles, just because he’s seen other people do it. The bottles he uses are sealed, or empty, but does he care? Goodness no!

It wasn’t surprising, then, when he held the camera his grandparents gave him for Christmas to his face. We wanted them to get Joe a camera because his Grandpa has started taking terrific photos in the last few years, mostly landscapes and wildlife he sees as he walks around the rural area where they live. We though Joe with a camera would be cute, kind of like when he points the remote at the TV, or holds a “phone” to his ear (often also the remote).

What happened, however, was a big deal.

He started taking pictures, with no help. And they’re pretty good! Years of pressing buttons, looking at screens, and seeing Mama and Daddy using cameras all crash together in a very Joe way … blurry, odd angles, lots of feet, no concept of what he’s doing. But, like all things Joe, there’s art there. And it’s a huge deal for us, because it’s our first true look at what he sees.

It’s also a big deal because it reminds me how little I understand about how he learns, and what he has the capability of figuring out. To me, and I’m sure his mom, part of him will always be the six-month old who was a lump on the floor, not doing things a six-month old should be doing. That lump as a point of reference makes everything Joe does today awesome. That lump eventually rolled. Then sat, then crawled. The other day he took my picture, then camera-dropped and walked out of the room singing Kidz Bop. These things are magic.

I hope he always takes pictures, it’d be great to see us grow old through his eyes just as we’re watching him grow up through ours.

Joe Originals
Mama in the Car. Digital, 2016. Joe VanderClute Tremblay (part of his Rest Stop collection)
Lia gave Joe his camera to play with while on the road. We’re so proud that he took this – if we were a sports family, this would be a “my son hit a grand slam the other day” moment. Nothing but net.

Joe Originals
Daddy Sur La Table II. Digital, 2016. Joe VanderClute Tremblay (part of a series of photographs of tables, centerpieces and people sitting at tables)
The camera takes grainy pictures, much like a phone would shoot way back when people were saying “Damn Gina! You got a cell phones with a camera?! Word.” But that’s part of the charm, like Nicéphore Niépce with a Razr. Plus it plays a little game where a bunny jumps across logs in a river, sort of like Frogger. Let’s see your Hasselblad do that.

Joe Originals
Papa Plays Guitar. Digital, 2016. Joe VanderClute Tremblay
Music and family come together in this intimate portrait of Joe’s Papa.

Joe Originals
?. Digital, 2016. Joe VanderClute Tremblay
I don’t know what the hell this is, but you try to recreate it. Are we inside? Outside? Is it day, is it night?
Yes. As an award-winning writer once said, he “went Jackson Pollack on that mofo.”

Joe Originals
Breakfast Table with Three People. Digital, 2016. Joe VanderClute Tremblay
This is one of my favorites. There’s just enough shape and feeling to identify the three subjects. Joe makes bold use of his own finger to blur the bottom half of the frame. And the pop of red? Frosting.

Notice that Joe uses his middle name in his work, a nod to the Dutch masters of old. I just made that up (not the middle name, who could make something like that up?), but it’s kind of true. Google those guys and tell me the palette and use of light aren’t reminiscent.

And again, does anyone read this far? Seriously, go do something constructive. Hug your child, or take a picture. Study, don’t you have a test coming up? Did you remember to put the clothes in the dryer? Word.

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4 thoughts on “Camera obscura”

  1. Yes, I read it all the way through. Joe is amazing and seeing things from his point of view is a treat. #7 was a riot!

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