Three Photographs and a Thousand Words

October 27, 2012
By West_Point_2018 SILVER, Meadeville, Pennsylvania
West_Point_2018 SILVER, Meadeville, Pennsylvania
9 articles 0 photos 4 comments

A common phrase you hear is that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” I’m no authority on the subject, but in my opinion that’s simply not true. Think about it. When you look at a photograph, words do not go through your mind. Emotions do; emotions that we can try and translate into words, but not the other way around. Photographs capture a moment in time that we will never return to. It is a tool of nostalgia and reflection. I personally have photographs that represent different points in my life. They are markers for where I’ve been, and where I might yet go. That is how much a photograph can mean. A photo is not worth a thousand words its worth more, and I have three photographs.

The first photograph, I don’t remember being taken. It was, I am told, taken when I was around four or five at Mount Treblant, Canada where we were having the annual family reunion. I’m bending backward laughing and doing something bizarre and my father’s holding me up. Personally I never look at myself in this picture, I look at my father. He’s smiling and seems to be laughing with me. He seems so much younger in the picture then he does now, even though the photograph was taken only a little over ten years ago. His hair contains less gray then it does now and even his face seems younger. We never think of ourselves as aging until we look at a photograph of our past self. In this Photograph it’s not the changes in physical appearance that I notice the most. It’s the attitude and outlook of that laughing kid. In this picture I see a kid who doesn't have a worry or a care, he probably doesn't even know what stress means at this point in his life. His summers are care free and filled with so much free time that it turns to boredom, and college is as far away to him as the moon. I miss that kid. I want to tell him when he’s done laughing to savor that boredom, that it’s a good thing. He probably wouldn't understand, yet I still wish I could talk to that boy and make him understand. It’s all in vain however; after all it’s only a photograph. It’s a captured moment in time. We will never know exactly what we were thinking as the shutter clicked on the scene. That’s why I think photographs capture our attention so deeply. It’s a moment forever lost, but forever present.

From the first photograph to the next things begin to change in my life. I move from the Elementary School to the 4/5 building, I learned to play an instrument, after two years I moved to the Middle School and began changing classes for the first time. Seventh grade I began doing the drama club in school. Responsibility was beginning little by little. The summers were still free however and that is what brought me to the site of this second photograph. My parents decided to take a road trip to visit the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. I had always had a passion for military history, so they thought I might enjoy it. We arrived late in the afternoon and as we climbed out of the car stretching our cramped legs after almost three hours in the car, we were greeted by the far off sound of gunfire in the woods. We took a tour and from the moment we set foot on the campus I was in love with it. I listened eagerly to the tour guide about everything, the lifestyle, the opportunity, the traditions all of it. Toward the end of the tour I was looking across the parade field, or the “plain”, toward the main barracks. I had my parent’s camera in hand so I took a photograph. In it you can see the perfect green of the “plain,” the lushness of the mountain, the beautiful stone of the barracks, and rising above it all the Cadet Chapel. This photograph is a wonderful shot of the West Point grounds, but there is more to it than that. This was the first time I had ever been to The Academy, but I was already amazed and enthralled with it. It got me thinking about college and what I wanted to do. This visit, that this photograph captured, is what lead me to a Military Academy forum about two years later. It was there that I made my decision; I wanted to go to West Point. I didn’t care what had to do to get there, but I was going, and in my mind it was settled. I still have this determination and dream and when I see this photograph, I don’t see the familiar landscape of West Point I see captured in time, the moment I made my decision. The decision was actually made two years later, but I still consider this photo “the” moment it happened, and the preparation began to take on greater responsibility, I was poised to begin at that moment. The final photograph was taken almost four years later, but in my mind, could have been taken in another lifetime.

The photo is more light hearted then the last. I’m sitting in a light pink tube floating down the “lazy” river grinning at my supervisor as he took the picture. In the background you can see the chair I was in when the park closed. My shirt, water bottle, folded rain coat and my yellow rescue tube all piled on the step of the chair. The person I see in this photograph is a far cry from the boy in the first photo. I’m smiling, but in my body language I can see weariness after a long day at the park. Unlike that boy in the first photo I have responsibility now. My summers are no longer the long days of wonderful boredom, but days of hot sun, stupid people and ignorant kids. I have to pay attention at all times because I’m responsible for lives now. About three hundred times a day my heart would jump up into my throat as a kid would be floating face down in the water or kicking and the thrashing in the deep end. I never had to go in for a rescue, but I feel like it’s only a matter of time. I don’t think that the boy falling over himself ever had any idea that he would end up being in charge of people’s lives. I was ready to take that responsibility in in the second and now I have it and my face and expression bespeak one of tired amusement. Perhaps it’s imagined, but I was there, I know.

The story has come full circle and I’m again looking at the photograph of the boy that I barely recognize as me. He is like a phantom of a person I once met in passing; I see little that we have in common. The Joseph I know is one who is tired, busy and knows too well the meaning of stress. I’m happy though, I have great family that loves me, and I have a girlfriend who is better than I ever could have hoped for. I even manage to have fun, even with an often times crushing work load. However on those nights when essays have to be written and tests are coming up on the same day or I’m standing on the top of a slide being screamed at by an irate guest, I long for those days of listless boredom when I could just relax and not worry about a work schedule. However I don’t look upon my hunger for responsibility that I had when I stood on the edge of the Plain at West Point with resentment, I still have that hunger for responsibility. In ten years I may look upon a picture of myself now as I today look upon that picture of me when I was five. This is the power of photographs. Perhaps you can express everything that is conveyed by a photograph in a thousand words. Let me know when you do it, and I will take your picture.

The author's comments:
This was for a project in AP English, and I thought came out well.

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