Guestposting: Helen and The First

While I am wrangling a newborn, posting from me will be a little sparse. Thankfully! I have some amazing stand-ins who are here to share some of their most vivid childhood memories. I love having Helen on the blog because she is so incredibly thoughtful. Helen and her wife Lindi inspire me to live creatively on the every day and not just project by project. You can check out more of their work at Clover and Lace and Bettencourt Chase Photography.

Helen Brownie

The first time I remember holding a camera, I was ten years old. We lived in a two story house on the outskirts of a town in western New York, off the highway that led directly to my grandmother’s house forty-five minutes away. The second story of our house was one long, skinny room, and my sister and I had it all to ourselves. It felt special. We had a dress up box in the corner of our room, full of yard sale finds and costume jewelry.

It was the nineties, and I didn’t have a camera of my own, but my parents let me have one roll of film and borrow their point-and-shoot camera. My sister and I dug through the box of clothes to find the best things for her to model for me, and first settled on a white tee-shirt and a floor-length metallic and tulle purple skirt. (At least, it was floor length on Emily, who was only eight and pretty tiny.) The fabric swished as we dashed about the house, setting up each photo. One may or may nor have involved peacock feathers. For the outdoor photos, we decided to garb her as a spotted owl. We settled on the floor of our upstairs room and cut out circles of brown construction paper, then painstakingly used circles of tape to stick them all over her all-white outfit (including a hat).

Although we technically lived in town, our backyard was rather spectacular. The cut grass ended at a row of trees, and although I’m honestly not sure how far into the woods was actually ours, we would spend hours exploring when the weather was nice. I had Emily climb into a tree in the yard, to be her best owl self, and pose perched on a sturdy branch until we’d run out of film.

I wish I knew where those photos were– I’m sure they are somewhere in a box mixed with school papers and art projects. I got my own first camera for my twelfth birthday, and moved to a DSLR when I went to college at 17. Now my wife and I own a photography company, and there have been many cameras and thousands upon thousands of photos since that first roll of film, but I will always remember that first afternoon spent having my little sister pose as my first model.

Helen Face

5 thoughts on “Guestposting: Helen and The First”

  1. I love those pics of you… they are very sweet.
    Maybe on a trip home you could try and find those original photos of your sister? They would be a great story for your “About me” page. I am very curious about the owl suit it sounds magic. I am loving this series because it is really showing how childhood experiences are powerful in the way they can mark us, make us, us.
    I am so glad you sent this because I had lost track of you and I was not aware you were now writing at “Clover and Lace”. Good luck with everything! Keep taking photos….

  2. Some friends and I were chatting the other day about how amazing it is how far camera technology has come in 10 years. 10 years ago, I went to Hawaii, and I remember having to very carefully decide how much film to bring. Then with every shot it was, “Is this worth the film?”

    Now…just snap and go 😛 And no more worrying if the x-rays at the airport will ruin the film!

    Helen, I’m curious, do you prefer film to digital? I know a lot of professional photographers do, but also know each has its own pros and cons.

  3. Film cameras always carried a special magic, to me. Somehow when digital came out even though it has so many cool options I feel less connected to the pictures – something about having unlimited shots available, the immediacy of everything just doesn’t excite me in the same way.

    The photo shoot with your sister sounds magical. Thank you for sharing that one!

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