I've had a torrid love affair with camera lenses and the space in front of them as far back as I have memory. The daughter of a talented hobbyist photographer (my mom) and a circumstance-driven videographer (my dad), I naturally grew up pointing and posing and flashing a smile whenever anyone lifted anything camera-esque to their face.
Even as a very small girl, I knew that I could be anyone I wanted in these captured moments - regardless of how I was actually feeling the seconds before and after the flash went off. So what if my tiny body was bone-weary and my bleary eyes felt pebbly and harsh staring into the sensory din? And what of the garbled, intertwined sounds of voices dredged with the whoosh of taxis and the occasional prolonged honk of an impatient motorist? What of the anxiety? That moment - the forced pause, the poised position - helped to ground me and connect me to my immediate reality. Stop, it suggested gently, and be that graceful, joyful girl. Smile and embrace the world. You are more than your sensitivities.
I may not have known where my body was, but the camera knew - it saw me when I could not see myself. Here you are, the photos reminded me from between the pages of my mother's carefully planned album, here's that time you trekked between the orange trees. Here's that time you felt like a magazine model in your new dress.
I should state here that I came of age during the first waking moments of internet culture. I was 12 the first time I heard the muffled static and ringing of a dial-up modem and the tinny, most prized words of the mid 90s - YOU'VE GOT MAIL. Then there was AIM with its away messages - those proclamations of personal philosophies - and Geocities pages imbued with inside jokes and arcane love messages of the forlorn. As time passed, photos began to matter again. There was simplistic Friendster with its naive Testimonial wall and its flashier, more melodious sibling, MySpace. And then along came Facebook and changed the way we all perceived ourselves and our worlds.
For me, each one of these outlets was an opportunity to be seen, to be located - not just by old friends and flames, aunts and coworkers, but by myself. Here's that time you helped lead a club and cooked gourmet meals in a crisp, steel kitchen late into the night, the photos whisper. Here's the time you played tourist in your own sleepless city. Here's the time you pretended to know the Tango.
These days, I am guilty for perpetually flooding my personal Facebook page with photos. Well-meaning family-friends remark "think you put up enough photos of this already?!" and I try not to take them personally as picture after picture gleefully form on the screen. Here's one of you with your new haircut looking pensive and mysterious, they say to me. Here's one of you and your husband/handler on a rocky outcropping. Here's what you're looking at right now. Here are your matching Converse sneakers on a railing. Here's your dessert baking in the oven. Here you are with cousins. Here you are with friends making faces.
There's one commonality to my photos as I'm sure there are to yours - I'm almost always in them. Like a tiny person making their way through the tall grass, each photo is a leap into the air and a visible, waving hand. Here I am! Here I am! Don't we all just want to be seen? Perhaps some of us more than most, those of us who cannot always see where the tips of our fingers end and the world begins.
Sure, there are activities I cannot entirely complete without a swift sensory unravel. I've come to accept this fact with the same poise and grace I've always mimicked in photographs. Posing has taught me how to see my way through the viscosity of the everyday and hold on to the fleeting moments, the pause in which I can be anyone feeling anything. Those times that I prevail in whatever it is I'm trying to do, the minutes in which I can set aside my SPD and insert myself into a situation with near comfort - well, I'm proud of them. I want to capture them. I want to learn from them. I want to remember them.
This is why I am always pulling out my smart phone, primed for a selfie with whomever happens to be within my reach. It's why I'm handing you the camera and tossing my chin over my shoulder. Here's the time you put your SPD aside and really lived, the photographs state firmly. Here's that thing you managed to do in spite of your challenges, in spite of everything.
To learn about my adult life with SPD, read more of my blog, Coming to My Senses, and visit my website at www.rachel-schneider.com.