My pal Skip Cohen had a great quote the other day. “I’m a time traveler and Jules Vern has nothing to do with the trip.”

Man that resonated with me. Here’s why. More than 40 years ago, a man named Jack Russell gave me a Nikkormat 35mm film camera. I distinctly remember asking him, “What’s this?” He smiled and said “It’s a time machine,” and walked away.

I’ve written about Jack many times here on Photofocus. He was my high school girlfriend’s father. I’m not sure if he ever liked me, but he wanted to keep me out of trouble since I was with his daughter, so he gave me my first real camera and my first real camera lesson. It didn’t seem like long before he was out of my life, along with his lovely daughter. I got to keep the camera :)

A little later I made my first published photograph. It was a shot of Tom Sneva crashing in the short chute on turn two during the Indianapolis 500. Decades later I look at the photo and I am instantly teleported back to that moment.

I can hear the roar of the engines and feel the heat of the cars. I can smell the rubber and the brake dust. We were allowed to get VERY close to the racing surface back then. Now we shoot the race 50 feet back from that spot. I remember Sneva’s car coming right at me. I remember the disappointed look on his face. I remember the way I felt when the AP editor said “Good job kid, you got a front page picture today.”

All of that – as my pal Skip Cohen says – without the help of Jules Verne. I can’t show you that picture because it’s under exclusive license. But I can show you a picture of my beloved 2010 Dodge Challenger SRT8. It was stolen in Las Vegas shortly after I moved here. Again, because of photography, I can be transported right back to the driver’s seat. I can feel the power of the big Hemi as I let the revs wind out through the gears. I miss the car but have photos to remember it by.

The point of all this is that what we do as photographers is very important work. We are in the memory protection business – which is just another way of saying we’re in the time travel business. We can help people remember their favorite moments in life. We can take them back to that first kiss with their new husband or wife on their wedding day. We can help them recall the first steps of their children, their favorite vacations, their beloved pets, cars, etc.

The camera is a time machine. We as photographers are the conductors so to speak of the time machine train. Remember that what we do impacts others in profound ways. There’s no unimportant picture. Each is a snapshot in time that we can travel back to and visit any time we like.

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