'Life Through a Lens' by Karen Storey
A tear escapes her clenched lids as she relives the last few minutes: the sudden panic as the ground gives way beneath her, the giddy feeling as she tips relentlessly forward, the welcome shock as Paul grabs her and they fall back onto the clifftop’s scrubby grass. But this isn’t why she’s crying.
What the hell did you think you were doing so close to the edge? No, actually don’t bother to tell me - you were taking another photo. Look at you – you could have killed yourself, but you still didn’t let go of that damn camera, did you? You never see anything anymore except through that bloody lens.
And with that Paul jumped up and stormed off to release a bemused Jack from his buggy.
Anna lies still, feeling the cool weight of the camera in her hand, smooth and reassuring; it is her lifeline in a world in which she floats, detached. Sometimes she wonders if she didn’t survive that horrendous birth and is simply looking down on husband and son from another place. She pushes the thought away, reminding herself that it is because she nearly died that Paul has become Jack’s main carer. Not for Anna the broken nights, the endless nappy changes, the mind-blowing tedium of chanted nursery rhymes. Her friends talk enviously of Paul as a miracle worker, and he is - he leaves her nothing to do.
But the one thing she can do is to take photographs. At first it’s just with her phone as she rests on the sofa, watching Jack flailing on the baby mat, then, as she grows stronger, she uses the compact Leica bought for their honeymoon in Thailand. Doting grandparents love the photo books she sends them. Visitors always comment on the array of beautifully framed images that adorn their walls. Anna takes pride in her contribution to the family, a record of their son’s first months for them to enjoy together in the future.
But what about the present? She shivers in the salty breeze, acknowledging for the first time the truth of Paul’s words. Even when she has no camera to hand, she isn’t really engaged with what is happening around her, so intent is she on thinking about composition, light, the merits of black and white, or even sepia. Slowly Anna opens her eyes and, raising herself on one elbow, looks across to see Paul patiently guiding Jack’s unsteady steps over the rough turf. Instinctively she lifts the camera to capture a perfect family vignette, but, as she stares through the viewfinder, she realises that the picture is incomplete. She drops the camera into her bag and scrambles to her feet to join them.