FOUR FINGERS AND THIRTEEN TOES – EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY


Every picture tells a story.  How true.  They say the camera never lies, and as time goes by, those photographs that we look at from yester-year allow us to cling onto a hazy youth and far flung times, when no-one seemed to have a care in the world.

Just last week, my diary flagged up a reminder that my blue (disabled) parking badge is soon due for renewal.  With the form that comes from the Local Authority, there will a request for a passport sized photograph, for ID purposes.  Fortunately, the photograph for blue badge purposes does not have to conform to passport regulations – thank goodness for that, I cringe every time I look at my passport.  The resultant scramble through the digital images stored on my computer reminds me that whilst the mind still thinks I’m eighteen, the reality is very different!

In this collection of first generation and scanned images there are the wedding photos, with me looking all fluffy and flushed with expectation; The honeymoon snaps that had me looking all … well flushed; a succession of holiday photographs of me looking all lobster-like, the “just given birth” pictures in which I was plain exhausted, and then the “significant” birthday images, which start off all demure and descend into chaos with the debris of many empty bottles visible as the significant celebrations trundle into the night!

One of the biggest problems with the age of digital photography is, that you have to be so conscientious about downloading your photos after each time you use your digital camera.  That, I confess, is where I fall down. 

I have two cameras.  One is an SLR which I use to take “important” photographs and the other is a neat little compact camera which fits nicely into my handbag for those impromptu moments which are, more often than not, the stuff of those magical moments – cute, funny or serious – that we come across so regularly in the media.

Here in Cardiff, there is a wonderful man called David “Dai” Lloyd.  He works for City Motor Services (CMS) who specialise in the adaptation of vehicles for disabled drivers and passengers.  I have known the guys at CMS for over 14 years, and Dai especially, never fails to come up with an idea for making life easier.  When I decided to make a foray into more serious photography, I asked Dai whether he could fabricate a tripod for my camera that would attach to my electric wheelchair.  I had a rough idea of what I wanted, and I particularly like the idea of being able to cut the camera upwards towards the sky and downwards towards the floor!   But had absolutely no idea of how this could be done on a technical front.  Dai asked me to let him give it some thought, and after a couple of phone calls to confirm matters I left him to get on with work on the tripod.  Sure enough, after a couple of weeks, I got a call to go down to the garage, and I was thrilled with the fruits of his labour.  With a few minor adjustments to the arm of my chair, Dai had fabricated an electronic tripod with an actuator which, when plugged into the electrics of my chair, allowed the tripod to rise and lower (with camera in situ) so I could take the clearest images you could wish for.  I can now take photographs of birds up in the trees, and children sitting on the floor.  Every woman should have a “Dai”!

The “happy-snappy” camera is the one which, if everyone is like me, gets left until the memory card is full, and then the panic to download goes into overdrive.  You end up with all the downloaded images being placed in a folder on your PC hard-drive, with some obscure name, and the photos then languish – unloved and forgotten – until you need an image from way-back-when, and you spend half the night trawling through said photographs and having a real good laugh at how much some dim and distant relative has changed since the photograph was originally taken.

I was in this situation only last week.  During one of my rare moments of madness when I decided to change my handbag, and the compact camera appeared from the farthest crevice of my rucksack, I decided to download the photographs.  What a laugh – “Take That” from two years ago; Numerous photographs of my Dad’s dog Max – taken for a reason that I really can’t remember – but I am guessing he was either doing something funny or naughty.  Steve’s first attempt at a Steak and Ale pie (which I have to say was surprisingly good); A photograph of me with Rhydian Roberts (remember him of X-Factor fame) taken at a function a couple of years ago;  A photograph of Steve, James and I with Shirley Bassey taken in Monaco when we were in our 50th birthday holiday celebration mode; Some photographs of us at last year’s Royal Welsh Show (I learned last year that Steve has a fascination for new farm machinery – you really do learn something new every day!)  To top it off, I found a collection of photographs of Rosie, Steve and James looking less than glamorous in our pyjamas (which have now thankfully been consigned to the recycle bin, thanks to the almighty power of the delete button).

In our own way, all three of us, have a good eye for a photograph, and James especially has taken some really good images since an early age.  When he was about two, he had a toy camera for a present, and used to spend hours pretending to take photographs of everything around the house.

James Moriarty-Simmonds, 2 years old, first photography assignment!

As he got older, he used to pester me to use my first SLR and somewhat reluctantly I agreed.  During a trip to Hereford Museum, where we went to see a gypsy/traveller caravan that Steve’s Great Uncle had renovated, we discovered James’ real talent for photography.  He couldn’t have been any more than eight, but the images taken of the intrinsic renovation work, were far beyond his years. 

Since then, we have all taken some very interesting photographs, and our Christmas cards usually feature a piece of work which James has done during the preceding year.

We have tried our hand at photographic competitions, but James has enjoyed more success than I.  He has been fortunate to have a piece of work accepted as part of the celebrations for the Cultural Olympiad. His work together with other winners will be exhibited at the Norwegian Church Heritage Centre in the heart of Cardiff Bay. On the back of that, the selected image is available as a postcard available free to the public at 25 selected venues throughout Wales. It will also be included in a book.

He has already had a number of great commissions, including a shoot of Wheelchair Rugby Paralympians, which will be on display this year at the National sports Centre for Wales, Sophia Gardens. Further, a number of the images will be included in the welcome packs for Olympians and Paralympians who train in Cardiff during the run-up to the Olympic Games this summer.

James is in the process of establishing a website to market and promote his work. His forté is very much abstract and landscape, but he is equally at home with portraiture.

Every image that we look at really does tell a story all of its own, and when I committed “pen to paper” for Four Fingers and Thirteen Toes, I decided that each chapter would start with a photograph.  The photographs do, like every photographic image, hold memories of happy, sad and poignant times.

February is always a sad month for me, as it marks the anniversary of my Mum’s passing.  This year will mark the 20th anniversary since the day that my world was turned upside down.  However, Chapter 17 of my book contains a photograph of my Mum on the 6th February 1992.  It was the occasion of my niece Daisy’s first birthday.  It is the last picture I have of my Mum, and one that I cherish very much. 

Today, Daisy will celebrate her twenty-first birthday, and when she, and her sister Jodie and brother Hugo pose for the obligatory birthday photograph, that photograph will tell a story of a Grandmother who was fiercely proud of her grandchildren, and of Grandchildren who have honoured her memory in the best of ways.

Yes, there will be the raucous photos on Facebook, but as time passes, it will be the photographs of the glamorous Hollywood themed 21st Birthday party which we will all remember – how handsome the boys looked, and how strikingly beautiful the girls were. 

However, make no mistake, in couple of year’s time, from the deepest darkest depth of my computer’s memory, I shall find old photos of gangly teenagers and young adults, posing with grossly overdone lipstick and sporting Spice Girl hair and fashion.  I shall take great delight in reminding my nieces that the camera never lies, and every picture tells a story.  Oh what a delight it will be to make the younger generation squirm, just like our elders did to us!

Which reminds me, I must check my own Facebook pages and make sure that any incriminating photographs of me are removed; for fear they should become encased forever on some mega main frame in Cyber Valley California.  After all, I do have a reputation to maintain – Don’t I?

Now, where can I find the best photo for my new Blue Badge … Ah well, only three million digital images to go!

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