This past weekend, I lost a long-time friend and college fraternity brother.
To say it was unexpected is to put it ridiculously lightly. Dan was my age, in improving physical condition, and three weeks away from getting married. To boot, he was a smart, friendly, ethical guy – a real model for what a decent human being could be.
At his visitation, I was alone. I didn’t know anyone there, and I met his family for the first time. As I waited in the receiving line, a slideshow of images cycled through. Here was Dan’s life on display: grinning with his nieces, giving a thumbs up at a Detroit Red Wings game, big family photos, childhood times in costume or on a rocking horse. Standing there, waiting, I saw some of Dan’s life that I hadn’t seen before, and it made me feel even closer to my friend.
That’s the power of a snapshot. It shows all those important (and, often, unimportant but enlightening) moments in between the big milestones in life. Dan’s college graduation photos were in there, sure, as were his elementary school portraits. But it was the slice-of-life stuff that hit me the hardest. The snapshots showed Dan living his life. The showed him being himself.
It’s obvious, right? That’s the power of photography and everyone knows it.
What it showed me, though, was the power of the non-artistic, spur-of-the-moment, no-one-is-going-to-see-this photograph. When we tell the stories of ourselves, it’s those kinds of photos that help people really get to know us. They show us being our non-idealized selves.
I was sad to lay my college friend to rest. I was happy to see, through his snapshots, that he led such a full and meaningful life.