He Taught Me


I’m not really sure how to share this, or really how to word the writing that goes alongside this photograph of my grandfather that I took while I was in art school. But it’s with a heavy heart that I share this photograph to honor his life. To honor and celebrate all that he did for me and my family. This weekend we laid my father to rest—he passed away on January 13th of this month.

I'd have to say this year has started off incredibly hard for my family, but in the end, I don’t want to feel sad. I want to feel what he felt toward all of us; compassion, selflessness, love, and encouragement. I want to be all of those things to the people around me. My grandfather inspired me—even at a young age. He taught me how to slow down, think about a problem and come up with a solution. He taught me the importance of building something with your own two hands, which I value SO much to this day. He taught me to slow down, think about why and what you’re making a photograph of—he showed me the value of every piece of film on the roll. He taught me to be intentional about what each frame held inside of it. He taught me patience when I hardly have any. He taught me, by example, what it meant to selflessly love the people around you and to do things for people without ever expecting something I return. He was an incredible human being and someone I respected so much. I don’t want to post this just to post a sad story, but to honor who my grandfather was to me. He taught me what photography was and he taught me how to load and unload a 35mm film camera. He showed me the value in capturing the mundane. He showed me how important it was to bring a camera with you wherever you go and to make photographs of everything. They don’t all have to be amazing, but they need to mean something to you. A lot of this I didn’t learn till far after he taught me the lesson. It’s when I look back on all of those days I was confused about why he was bringing this giant camera with us everywhere we went—even if it was just to the barber shop, or the park, or on a field trip. Making pictures is something he loved, but what he loved more than making pictures, was his family. Me. My sister. My dad. My mom. My grandmother. He made pictures of things he loved and he showed me the value in that. A few years ago I got the crazy idea to start to scan in his old negatives and his old prints of those everyday moments. So far the idea has been less than satisfactory—right now I don’t have a proper photo-scanner, but I’m looking to get one very soon. I want to continue to honor those everyday moments from his time in the Air Force, and those everyday moments around the house. So far I only have a handful of photographs uploaded to the @thefoundphotographs account. But I plan on many, many more being up this year, with quality scans. That account is for anyone that is curious of how brilliant of a photographer my grandfather was—even if he didn’t know it. I see his eye and I am blown away by what I  am finding in these negatives and positive slide film. I can’t wait to show the world these moments and to show just how incredible my grandfather was.


So I will conclude with this; yes this week has been incredibly difficult to wrap my head around. But it’s also been incredibly eye-opening. I have learned so much and have wanted to love those around me better then I did the day before. Even if he isn’t on this earth anymore, he’s teaching me things. He’s making an impact on me. He doesn’t have to suffer anymore. He doesn’t have to be sick. He doesn’t have to hurt any longer. Even though those things are all good things—it doesn’t make this month any less difficult for everyone. But I know I can continue to look through these photographs of his and the photographs of him that I made and be proud of who he was to those around him and be thankful that he was my grandfather and that I was able to know him for all of my life.

Ryan Belk1 Comment