A Family Picture

By Deane Barker tags: me

My next-door neighbor Eric Merrill took this picture of us on our front porch. He’s an amazing photographer that has taken pictures of my kids for years – my girls and his girls are often attached at the hip.

My house is full of his shots – they’re a timeline of my children’s lives in a lot of ways. I don’t know how he does it, but he has an amazing ability to capture just the right shot. He’ll sit quietly at a distance, and capture my kids in tiny, unguarded moments that I didn’t even know existed.

I have pictures from Eric hanging on the walls of my home that somehow represent the sum total of my children at that moment in time. For example, we have a series of Isabella hanging upstairs that represents everything that child was when she was three-years-old, playing in the backyard. They are the most definitive representation of that stage of her childhood that Annie and I will ever have.

In a lot of ways, Eric has helped me understand the value of a photograph. They’re not just chemicals on paper. They’re moments in time that you’ll otherwise never see again. They’re often the trigger that unlocks a collection of feelings and memories in your head. One look at the right photograph can stop you dead in your tracks and send your mind reeling.

To me, they’re worth more than video. Video gives you too much – it gives you so much sensory stimulation that you forget the feeling and the larger context of the moment. When I look at the pictures Eric has taken, I get feelings and memories that go so far beyond what happened in the actual moment the picture was taken. I extrapolate a lifetime, or a relationship, or a complete history of some episode of my life from that one moment.

Anyway, enough gushing – in the picture above, we have Gabrielle (7) on the left, then me holding Isabella (4), then Alec (14), then Annie. We’re sitting on our front porch of our home in Sioux Falls, sometime in Fall 2007.

(As for Eric, he takes pictures professionally. I just get special treatment because I live next door, snowblow his sidewalks, and let my daughters entertain his kids once in a while.)

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