After Ja first made me see what light does to the shape of an object, I began to be an avid student of light. I fell in love with lights and shadows, closely studying them every time I get the chance. Then, I introduced Sean to the “magic hour,” as the hour when unbelievable things happen. Like most other six-year-olds, he mistook my “magic hour” for the “magic R,” perhaps, because of the way I pronounced it, pointing to the marks the sunlight makes on the wall when the sun starts to slant in the horizon.
Then, I made him pose, midway between the rays of the four o’clock sun slowly sinking in the west and the white wall of the house directly facing the glass window. The photo showed the soft face of Sean, half illuminated and suffused with the sun’s orange glow, occupying the first third of the frame. On the frame’s remaining two thirds was the shadow that Sean’s face cast on the wall.
It could probably be one of the most striking pictures I’ve taken of him, so full of irony and rich in metaphors; a photograph of life, itself; a revealing moment captured by a click of the shutter, etched on the mind for eternity. But remembering the power of metaphors; and the cruelty that ironies can assume at the most unexpected moments, I took one look at it and decided to erase the photo.
I finally realized that that love you have as a mother could only be measured by how much you could sacrifice your love and lust as a photographer.
For photography demands on its altar the same sacrifice that God once demanded of Abraham, who made an offering out of his son Isaac, a sacrifice that I, a mother, could never probably make of my boy. This reminded me of what my mother told me one day when I happened to ask her why she remained a public school teacher handling Grade Six all her life. “Didn’t it ever occur to you that you can be something else?” I asked. “How come you never chose to defy Fate?”
I asked her this question at the most crucial point of my life; when we were packing my things because I was moving out again from a failed relationship. For I was the kind of person who has always been defying fate and as a result, ending up in all sorts of trouble. There and then, it suddenly crossed my mind that my mother had never moved and never packed her belongings the way that I usually did in every five years. She never ended her relationship and never made any life-threatening decisions. She had married and never left my father, never questioned the conventions and simply took, unquestioningly, what life has laid down for her. It dawned upon me that, perhaps, she never really followed where her heart wanted her to go. My mother’s answer almost made me choke. “You were still very young when beautiful things began to happen to me,” she said. “I was terrified of having to set you aside if I accepted new responsibilities.”
From what my mother said, I had a sudden illumination about the nature of women’s lives. Every woman is condemned by the choice she makes of that magic hour, that crucial moment when she can either choose to reveal herself before the light; or stay in mediocrity forever, lurking in the shadows, unnoticed for life.