|Banks County Opinions...||
June 27, 2001
By Jana Adams
The Banks County News
June 27, 2001
Life history via the DMV
I don't like to have my picture taken, and I always empathize with the people I interview for the newspaper who, as soon as they see me reach into the camera bag, say, "Oh, no, I don't want to have my picture taken," "I'll break the camera" or "I don't take good pictures" or something along those lines.
You know, in some cultures people believe that to have their photograph taken is to have their soul stolen or forever altered. I don't really fall into that category, but I do prefer to have the camera in my hands. That's probably why I've had the same column photo for the past, what is it now, three years? Or more? I know, I know, it's time for a new one.
It's also why my parents' scrapbooks have pretty slim pickings for me beyond a certain chocolate-birthday-cake-smeared-please-take-my-picture-age, and then the requisite school photos.
But I do like to look at photographs of everyone else, to see what they looked like and seemed like at different ages and different stages of life. I saw a photograph of my mother not too long ago that was taken when she was about 3 years old, and I searched the features of that child for the woman she has become and for resemblances to other family members.
I realized that if I ever have children and grandchildren, there will be huge gaps in time for their photographic history of me, assuming they might like to look through pieces of the past like I do.
As I stood in line earlier this month to have my driver's license renewed just before my birthday, I thought that I should have been keeping my old licenses all this time. Do they let you do that? They do give you the option of not renewing the photograph as you renew the license, just keeping the one you had made four years before. Although, after a while, wouldn't that be more than a little confusing, say, if you got pulled over by the police?
But if I could hang onto those old licenses it would be simple - I could dole them out like cards in that undetermined future to those undetermined people. Apart from the initial learner's license, they are in four-year increments, after all, and that's a pretty good photographic survey for a photophobe: "See, here I am back in the '80s, the '90s and so forth..."
That's silly, I know, but as I stood in line (with dripping hair because it was pouring rain outside and I didn't have an umbrella - "See, that's the year I got caught in a rainstorm, and don't I look particularly dull-witted...") I did consider how quickly those four-year increments are beginning to pass. Oh, let's see, last time I was this old, and next time I'll be that old and the next time after that I'll be how old? No way! I never thought it would happen.
My friend Kristin and I used to say each birthday, "Well, I wonder what we'll be doing this time next year?" as if that was too far away to seem real. We don't say that so much anymore. It seems almost like asking for trouble and, anyway, that next birthday will be here before we know it. With the license photo system, I could just summarize my life over the course of four years: "At this point, I was doing this and I was living there and these people were in my life. By this year, I was still doing this, but I was living there and not all the same people were a part of my days...." Not very exciting, but a catalogue, nonetheless, and much smaller than a scrapbook. Yet, on second thought, considering the notorious (lack of) quality of the photos and the fact that I always look in those pictures as if I've just suffered a surprisingly strong blow to the head, perhaps that's not the best idea. (Oh, Jana? You know, she's the one who always looked so dumbstruck...was she stupid, or what?)
I guess what really started me thinking about it was when everyone in the driver's license line at Kroger stopped whatever they were doing, almost holding their collective breath while an elderly lady struggled just a little bit with the eye exam part of the driver's license renewal process. She passed, however, and stepped behind the red line to look into the camera and have her picture made.
I imagined a whole stack of licenses - life history via the DMV - side by side, face by face, four years by four years, and all the stories that could go with the lifetime array of photographs.
Jana Adams is features editor of The Jackson Herald.
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