one captured instant | A James DePreist poem

by Elouise

This poem by James DePreist caught my eye months ago. I’ve been waiting for the right time to use it. The right time found me yesterday.

The camera sensed
what other lenses
once had seen
only to forget
in the flow of time
and flood of presence.
Lost focus regained
through the
frozen poignance
of one captured instant

James DePreist, The Distant Siren, p. 52
Published in 1989 by Willamette University Press, Salem, Oregon

Yesterday I attended a memorial service for a friend. She was a member of a ladies’ Friday morning prayer group I attend. She died without warning about two weeks ago.

The sanctuary was filled with friends from way back, and grieving family members. During the open-mike period one of her nephews, now married, talked about his Aunt Elsie as the family archivist. She kept old photos and brought them to family events.

Those who knew her well laughed as they recalled the memory and, doubtless, the kidding that went with it. The rest of us had no trouble imagining our Sister in this role.

The nephew, now a young adult, remembered his aunt because of her photos. He recalled the first time he saw a photo of one of his male predecessors. In the photo, he stood proudly as a professional.

Later, at another family gathering his aunt showed him even older photos of one or two other male predecessors, also standing proudly as professionals. His voice broke as he recalled his astonishment.

He said the photos gave him courage and inspiration. They helped shape his life. As an African American, he needed the photos, the memories, the documented history of success in the midst of hard times.

He honored Aunt Elsie for her role in his life, and exhorted us to keep and study old photos. Our young girls and boys need them today as much as he needed them yesterday.

James DePreist’s poem immediately came to mind. It sums up the power of just one photo to bring back into focus, and even to resurrect what may have been forgotten or lost along the way.

What are your experiences with old photos?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 May 2015