My Camera, My Time Machine
Jason Chen, Division 2, 11th grade #ws17e-s2d2

The wind is blowing a breeze behind my ears and I can smell the Roman trees and grass in the air. Standing at the edge of a wall, I gaze at an ancient city with buildings older than Charlemagne. Warm light from the sunset cascades in-between the Colosseum, Basilica Julia, and Arch of Septimius Severus as they tower in the skyline. My brother is laughing behind me as my parents take the photo. This was my family vacation last summer. Rome. A perfect moment in the perfect place. A precious frame of time is held in a photo. It’s something I can experience without even being there. For this reason and more, I am very grateful for my camera and the photos it produces.

I used to hate taking photos. I remember in my elementary school, I would try as often as possible to skip those dreadful school photo days. Even for family pictures, if escape was possible, I would try to avoid the picture frame. My mom would try to convince me, “It’ll be something that you’ll thank me for in the future”, kindly reminding me that I should take a photo with the family even if I didn’t want to. I decided to listen, just to avoid punishment. I’m glad I complied, because that simple choice is what allows me to still have a picture of me and my grandpa today. It’s a mundane picture, of the family sitting on a couch, just enjoying life. But it holds great significance. After coming to the United States at 4 years old, I only saw my grandpa a couple times before he passed away. I don’t remember him very well, but I remember how much he cared for me. My parents would tell me that he had kept a bird for me as a pet, and waited every year just for when I came to visit over the summer. Taking my time to look at this photo on my camera is like a promise, that I will not forget him or how much he cared.

These pictures, however, are not a replacement for memory. They simply serve as a reminder to remember. This camera I carry around with me is my safety net. When the people who you love can’t come with you everywhere, it is important that you can carry them with you in some way or another. Some people do this through rings, tattoos, charms, and bracelets. I do this through my camera. By just glancing at a couple family photos, smiling at me, I can feel a sense of comfort when I am away from home. When I first came to the United States, my parents were complete strangers, because last time I saw them was when I was 6 months old. To combat homesickness, I simply scrolled through the pictures in my camera to see my grandma and grandpa. They were only a click away. It is a device that defeats loneliness or hurt. It holds the good times, and allows me to experience better feelings from the past, renewing a sense of confidence and ability.

The photos on my camera also help me remember how much I have grown, allowing me to remember all the people I have been. Each day a person is not the same as the person who went to bed the night before. My camera and its plethora of memories give me a vantage point of how much I’ve been through. I am not the same toddler who rode a plane for the first time, the preschooler who learned to write in English, or the 7-year-old who watched his grandpa feed the birds. I am all these people put together and more. By looking at photos, I can see the trials of life that I’ve been through as I’ve grown and know that I have been made a better person through it.

Unfortunately, time seems to go faster and faster the older I grow. Each day seems shorter than the last. To be able to hold all my moments – cherished parts of life – and savor them, I need a camera. I need a camera because I don’t want to forget a single iota of the experience that I have had in life. Memory decays and life goes on. Already, I can barely remember moments from the summer I took that picture with my grandpa. I can barely remember the day of the funeral. It’s not something a person has control over, this memory. People can develop dementia or Alzheimer’s, or even just naturally forget, losing these precious recordings of time within their minds. Having a photo there is simply comforting, to know where I have been and what I have experienced.
Thus, my camera is like a time machine, allowing me to travel to any part of space or time that I’ve experienced. My camera allows me to bring people with me on journeys that must be taken away from home. It reminds me of all the people and places and moments I’ve been. It is for revisiting the awesome times in life. With this magical device, I can revisit my family anytime. I can revisit the sunset in Rome. I can even revisit my 7-year-old self, sitting on a couch with my grandpa.

In the photo, the air-conditioning is blowing a breeze behind my ears and I can smell my grandpa’s cigarettes in the air. Sitting at the edge of a couch, I watch my aunt hold the camera, as we all say cheese. Warm light from the midday sun flows in through the windows, cascading in-between the furniture. This was my family picture in China, ten years ago. My grandpa is smiling beside me. A perfect moment in the perfect place. A precious frame of time held in a photo. It is because of my camera that I can experience that moment even now. And I cannot more greatly stress how important that is to me.
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