In loving memory of Jasper’s Camera
About a month ago, I lost my best friend. I left him in the auditorium on a Monday afternoon and, accidentally, foolishly, regretfully, walked away from the room, leaving him there overnight. When we came back Tuesday morning, he was gone. After recruiting almost every teacher on campus, making flyers that still remain mournfully taped to every surface in the building, and sitting in tense yet hopeful silence for a week, the realization and acceptance that he was gone slowly came over me and left me grieving.
This obituary is not designed to spark pity, guilt, or an urge to help me. I’ll never know where my camera is, and I’ve moved on from the prospect of him ever being returned to me. Rather, this article is purely for me—closure of sorts, but most of all a paying of respect to this magnificent item and my relationship with him, which was so intense that I believe it to have changed the trajectory of my adolescent and adult life.
My camera was a Sony NEX 7, which looks like this:
He was a gift from my grandfather. I was just a little kid, running around and taking photos of anything that moved. I took photos upon photos, took him to the mall, showed him to my friends and took photos of them. Photos of my parents, my mom as she walked in the door after work, my dad at 6:00 in the morning, my dog when she was still young. The house I don’t live in anymore, the friends I don’t have anymore, the clothes I don’t wear anymore—everything.
Then I put him away one day and never took him out again. He lived in my closet for years and years, never to see the light of day until the middle of the pandemic. I used to go out and take photos with my phone, decent photos that I took home to show my photographer mom. I did that for years until I remembered I had a horse-powered, sleekly designed, touched by the gods photo-taking machine in my closet. The first time I held him since I was a kid, the feel of him in my hands, the itch of the strap around my neck, the way the bag looked on my side, the way I looked holding him, it was all magical and powerful and correct.
And the photos I took on him were even better. ISO settings, focus controls, the incredible zoom, the orange-ish look I found and used for so many photos—this camera turned me from a boy to a man, a spectator to a participant, a student to an artist. I felt powerful. I could go anywhere. I could look at anything. Anything, everything, everyone, the whole world was art; it was all mine to capture in exactly the way I saw it. Soccer players, sunsets, my friends. Clothes, graffiti, architecture. Love, nostalgia, emptiness. Cars and lights and food, trees and rain, the way hair moves, real smiles, my friends falling in love. Nothing was safe from me and my camera.
He went everywhere with me. I let my friends hold him (gently), I let my parents look at my work. I published art in the newspaper. I took every single photo assignment until I was the most published journalism staff member. I photographed my way onto the journalism board, into school events, into getting my name on things, into other people’s personal space. I loved who I was with him. Me and my art.
And yet, I left him with a never-been-backed up SD card tucked safely in the bag, on the floor of the auditorium.
I don’t know what happened to my camera, and I’m not sure I want to know. As much as it pains me, I’m content with just the memory of the photos I took, the time we spent together, and the lessons I learned from this experience—lessons I know I can never unlearn.
Hold on to your loved ones. Take care of what you care about. Stay aware of the world around you. Protect.