My Dad's funeral was during the week. It was actually a really good day if you can call a funeral 'good'. It was nice meeting some of Dad's friends who I didnt know and hearing stories about him. It was also cool to re-connect with some of my 'half' brothers and sisters. My brother Leigh who is currently touring with his band through Europe couldn't make it to the funeral. He wrote something for me to read at the service about his memories of Dad and how although Dad was absent physically for much of the time, he still had a strong influence on our lives beyond mere genetics.
Dad was essentially a traveller, a musician and an enthusiastic photographer. Leigh said that Dad taught him many things not so much by direct teaching but by Leigh 'watching' him, for example, "Dad never taught me how to 'solder' electronics, but I could do by the age of 10…". I found this really interesting but wondered... How could a man who on the surface seemed so disconnected from us have such a strong influence in shaping our lives and interests?
In the lead up to the funeral I looked through some old Video 8 footage I shot back in the day (1992). Dad and I were on our way back (to Newcastle where I was studying) from visiting my brother in Melbourne. I had my video camera with me and I filmed a lot of the road trip. With my brother's thoughts about indirect learning and influence on my mind I scanned through a section of footage that I had totally forgotten about.
Dad loved a road trip but would never drive for very long without having to stop and take photographs, it used to annoy me because it could add hours to a trip. Perhaps to help deal with the boredom this time I decided to film him while he was taking photographs. It was quite wonderful and a little eery watching the footage back. He isn't teaching me directly how to take photos but I'm observing him and chatting while he snaps away.
I cut a short sequence from the footage and showed it at Dad's service as a way of illustrating what my brother was talking about.
Essentially, when it comes to photography at least, I'm that guy now. The idea of travelling and documenting is ingrained in me. It's become an integral part of my personal life and process as a filmmaker. And much to my families distress on road trips I'm constantly pulling over to photograph something from the side of the road.
I also love seeing Dad and I goofing off and just hanging out like a father and son should. It was a rare moment of togetherness and perhaps we are happy because we are both doing what we loved the most.
I know Dad died thinking he could have been a better father and that he had failed us in many ways. Despite my brother and I having made peace with him, he still lived with heavy regret. If I could tell him anything more now I would say he was a lot more successful than he or I had thought. My brother and I are both living lives exploring our creativity and passions as a direct result of his influence. I know he was 'proud' of his sons and I'm not sure it would have remedied his regret, but I hope it might have eased it a little.
The morning after the funeral I woke up and I really missed Dad. Even though he had been absent for most of my life, Dad was still 'out there' in the world and I had a connection with him. Now he really is absent and I feel I have lost something.
I'm glad I feel this way though. It would be worse if I felt indifferent.
Thanks Dad for 'showing' me how to take photographs. It's a gift you gave me that I enjoy every day. I'll always think of you when I see a 'white bridge' and maybe I'll even pull over and photograph it for you.