Years ago, when digital cameras were still an expensive toy not yet capable of producing the photo quality that even a cheap camera loaded with 35mm or 110 film could, I was asked to shoot pictures at a wedding reception. The bride wanted lots of photos, so in addition to recruiting me, she set out several disposable cameras on each table. Remember those? Generally, they had about two controls. One was for the shutter, to snap the picture, and the other was a dial to advance the film. Sometimes they’d be unusually fancy, and there would be a flash, or maybe they were waterproofed! You’d shoot until you were finished and then take the whole camera, instead of just the film, to the developer of your choice. They were great for people who didn’t like to mess about with loading film, or for kids to take to camp, or for events like wedding receptions.

At the reception, there were shutters snapping everywhere. Any more, that’s pretty common. I’ve been asked to shoot some events and had trouble doing so, because it’s so crowded. Everybody and their brother and their brother’s fat, old cats named Snookums are right there with their digital cameras, phones, or other devices madly snapping away. Ten or fifteen years ago, I didn’t run into that so much, which meant shutters snapping everywhere was something of a novelty. The kids were the worst. They were really having a good time.

A couple of weeks later, we got the pictures back from the developers. I was fascinated by them. Now, what I should explain is that I am not typically fascinated by snapshots. Frequently, they irritate me, because, frequently, the photo is technically deficient. It’s overexposed, underexposed, too much flash, too dark, huge glare where the flash mostly hit a window, not in focus at all, blurred due to movement, so on, so forth. That’s not even touching composition issues! I was like this, by the way, before I even started taking pictures. That annoyance is in fact what got me started and helped prompt me to refine my own ability. Anyway, these pictures were an exception to my normal lack of fascination, even though many of them were technically deficient. Shoot, many of them were taken by small, two-legged camera bandits who popped out from behind chairs and under tables to “get” you. Of course those photos weren’t of fantastic quality!

But I was still fascinated. You see, I’d shot this event. I had a hundred or so photos of my own to look through showing what I’d seen of the reception. I could put them together and show a portrait of the reception as I’d experienced it with all of the officially significant moments, like the cutting of the cake, and the candid shots of people there. The other photos, from all those disposable cameras – I realized that I was seeing so many different perspectives on the reception. All those photos showed various individuals’ differing interests and priorities. People made a point of shooting certain things that were important to them, and you could tell sometimes that one person had shot most of the pictures from that roll due to style or subject. A roll devoted to one family was something of a tip-off, after all.

Perhaps even more fascinating to me than what people were shooting was the where they were shooting from. Height can make an incredible difference in what a picture looks like. There were obviously some tall people using those cameras. Those pictures were full of the tops of heads. Face shots often began at foreheads, because the photographer was looking down at the subject. Those photos didn’t look much like my photos. I’m short. Thanks to having to look up, I was more likely to capture nose hair than a forehead. It was the shots taken by kids, however, that really hammered this home for me. Out of the mouths of babes, right? One picture was full of this big, green thing and what might have been an elbow. Identifying it was difficult, thanks in part to the shot not being in focus, and then I realized the green thing was my butt! It filled the whole print. It looked huge, much bigger that it really was. I wanna say it was Stephers who took that fantastic (haha) picture. She was just about the right height, and she was definitely one of the camera bandits. She got in a little too close (which is why the picture wasn’t in focus – those cameras certainly didn’t have a macro setting) and snapped the shot, giving me a great look from her perspective. Honestly, I feel a bit sorry for kids. How would you like to run around a world where your head is about level with most people’s rear ends?

I learned a lot about perspective from this, about what a person can see and will see from where that person is standing. Everyone has a perspective unique to them, and I think it’s all too easy to not be conscious of that in dealing and relating with others. I mean, think about it. Just stop for a moment and think about this: no matter how much in common you and I might have, no matter how similar our opinions, background, height, education, desires, religion, whatever might be, I can’t see things from exactly the same place in exactly the same way at exactly the same time with exactly the same priorities as you do. It’s incredible!

Off the top of my head, I can think of two things I gained. One was an understanding or perhaps awareness that it is ridiculously unreasonable of me to ever expect anybody to see things the way that I do. It is even possible that they aren’t not able to. No matter how willing a person is, there are some things about themselves that they can’t control, and I do no favors to anyone when I relate to those around me without that awareness. The second is that I learned to appreciate people more as individuals. Every one of us has something to offer that nobody else does, has, or ever will. I do others (and myself, for that matter) a disservice when I fail to recognize and honor that about them.

One more thing about perspective – it changes. Move a little, shift a bit, and the view will, too. Given that life is a journey, I think it prudent to assume that over time, my perspective will change. I’ll think and believe and feel differently about some things in the future. Chances are good, I’d say, that other folks will, too.