I went to a christening the other day. When I entered the church, the baby's mother handed me her digital camera and asked if I would take pictures. I was flattered, and happy to do it. I joked that with my experience as a newspaper photographer I would push past the priest to get the perfect camera angle. Well, she thought I was joking.
What I had forgotten was that digital cameras have made everyone a photographer. People who never took a picture in their lives now have a Sony or a Canon in their pockets. Not one of them uses a viewfinder; they all hold the cameras out (with one hand) at arm's length. So not only was the church filled with avid, pushy photographers, but they took up twice as much space as they might have years ago with their Brownies or Instamatics.
"Our" baby wasn't the only one baptized that day. When the priest moved to the baptismal font, accompanied by three infants, their parents, and three sets of godparents, a crazed mob of photographers, arms outstretched, stormed the front of the church, some crashing into the Steinway grand a few feet away. (Navigating via an LCD screen is risky.)
My thoughts of camera angles vanished, and my goal shifted to simply getting the baby, or part thereof, in the picture. Even so, my chances were slim. Whichever way I leaned, reached, or ducked, the same thing filled my lens: the permed, dyed, rather thin auburn head of hair attached to the woman in front of me. As the priest mumbled holy things, I sent hateful thoughts to that hair. I wanted to pull it out by the roots. I imagined setting fire to it.
Then a miracle happened. (This was a church, after all.) Ms. Auburn ran out of battery, memory, or steam--I don't know which. She turned and pushed (old habits die hard) her way back to her pew. I jumped into her space and stuck the camera, at arm's length, between the necks of the two people now in front of me. I squinted at the screen. Yes, there was a baby in there. Our baby. And--omigod--her smiling mother! With no time to even pray they were in focus, I took the picture.
Remind me never ever to photograph a wedding.