For a few months I've been working on a series of photographs documenting public wedding photography here in Hanoi and a lot of couples about to be married are taken to the gardens to be photographed in outfits rented from the companies they hire to do the work. Anyway, I mostly always have my camera with me and yesterday I brought my wife's small camera so An could use it; she likes to take pictures sometimes. She's four and a half.
When I was four and a half, I don't think I had used a camera yet. I was in preschool, like An is. I also still wet my bed. An wets her bed from time to time but mostly she is pretty good about it these days - better than I was at her age. I wet my bed until I was about 13. When I was a boy, my dad told me - maybe in an effort to make me feel better about it - that when he was a boy he wet his bed and that even his father, my grandfather, wet his bed too. I don't remember if it made me any more comfortable on those mornings I woke up in soaked pajamas, but at the very least I felt like it wasn't entirely my fault. I had inherited something. Oddly, neither of my brothers or my sister were written into this will.
When it seemed clear that my daughter had inherited this legacy of nocturnal enuresis, I wanted to understand what exactly bed-wetting was - other than something I thought I had been bequeathed and passed along from a long lineage of Anglo-Saxon mattress-soakers. It seems there is a hormone in the body that, when activated, reduces the production of urine during nighttime hours. Normal production of the hormone and the ability to wake up from slumber are the two physical ways to prevent this. An hasn't mastered either entirely so until the hormone gets active in her, I make sure to wake her up in the middle of every night and get her to the toilet. I figure it's the least I can do for her - to help her discover the rhythm of waking up so that in time she can make it her own rhythm and find her way with it.
I don't know if my grandfather was a good photographer. I've seen only a few pictures he's taken over the years. He died when I was pretty young and I only think I saw him once or twice at the most so I didn't know too much about him. My dad enjoyed photography quite a bit and he used to do it regularly when he was younger. He had a decent eye and you could see care and thought in the images he displayed in the apartment he lived in New York City after he and my mother separated and ultimately divorced. I remember when I would go to the city and visit him during my teen years, we would go to Central Park together walking from his apartment on the upper east side and he would have his camera along with him. And I would have mine.
This thing I'm doing on wedding photography - I don't know if it's any good. It interests me so I keep trying to find in each image I make the thing that attracts me to it as an idea; I too try to care and be thoughtful. The best thing about it is that more often than not, An likes to come with me - even if she doesn't feel very well, even if she doesn't have a camera. When we come home, I'll show her some of the better pictures I make and she'll tell me what she thinks and she is really happy for me to see what she takes too. I don't try to tell her too much about how to take pictures - I don't want to take the fun out of it and I want her to find her own way in this a bit. If she takes to it, it should come from her and not from me.
I don't know if I'll go back to the botanic garden this weekend; I might. For sure I'll wake An up tonight and make sure she gets to the toilet.