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Tommy Druen: Take the Picture

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By Tommy Druen

In the summer of 1995, I embarked on my first trip to Washington, D.C. It was the summer before my final year of high school, and I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the Kentucky Rural Electric Washington Youth Tour. As a seventeen-year-old with a deep fascination for history and government, the experience proved to be truly inspiring. We met with Kentucky's congressional delegation, toured our nation's most iconic buildings and monuments, and even caught sight of a 6'8" figure sporting a full beard and a mini-skirt. Some aspects were more memorable than others.

Before setting out for that first day in the capital, I vividly recall the wise words of Dennis Cannon, one of our chaperones and then the Director of Public Relations for Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. Recognizing it was the first time in Washington for many of us, he anticipated we would be taking pictures of the customary tourist attractions. His suggestion was that we take the bulk of our pictures with each other. "You'll never get a better picture of the Washington Monument than one on a postcard," he said. "But you will never find a postcard featuring your friends."

Times change and we now live in an era where almost everyone possesses a camera on their phone, no longer restricted to the constraints of limited film exposure. Without worry of outcome, we are now able to take as many photos as our hearts desire. So, if I was to offer this year's youth group advice, I would amend Cannon's advice to say, "Take all the pictures of monuments you want, but make sure to capture moments with your friends."

Despite Bruce Springsteen's admonishments in "Glory Days," occasionally I find myself looking at old photos or flipping through yearbooks. It is during these moments that I'm most reminded of Dennis' words. These photos are more than just visual records; they serve as triggers, reigniting memories of friendships, stories and unforgettable experiences. That's what I love most about the photos.

We live in a world where photos have become more prevalent than ever before. The advent of digital photography, phone cameras and social media platforms has fostered an environment that thrives on visual content. Instagram, a smartphone app solely dedicated to photos, consistently ranks among the top ten most downloaded apps each month. Oddly enough though, this ease of capturing images is exactly what causes hesitation among some individuals.

Undeniably, social media envy is a genuine concern. Many people perceive others as leading seemingly flawless lives, damaging their own self-esteem. Whether it is individuals frolicking in exotic locations, seemingly part of an ideal family, or simply being physically attractive, the comparative nature of social media frequently causes a sense of depression in some when looking at their own lives.

Recently, I read an article that addressed this very issue, with a theme of "Take the picture!" The article's aim was to address people who avoid being the subject of photos due to an impossible quest for perfection. We are all familiar with these people. They may strive to shed an extra ten pounds or detest the way their clothes look. Or it may be something as simple as always claiming to have a bad hair day. Regardless of the excuse, they persistently evade being in front of a camera.

What these folks fail to realize is that, ten or twenty years from now, they will likely fondly reminisce about this phase of their lives, yet there will be little photo evidence to spark those cherished memories. Furthermore, once they are no longer with us, their loved ones and future generations will possess fewer photographs to help them remember their loved one, and the wonderful times of the past.

Photographs are moments frozen in time. Of course they can be staged, and with the aid of various software, they can be altered to meet any desired image. However, is that what we truly desire? Do we wish to be remembered in a contrived manner, conforming to some perceived ideal? Or do we want to express authenticity and sincerity?

Renowned photographer Aaron Siskind once stated, "Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever . . . it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything."

Simply put, we take photos to remember. We do so to gaze upon a fleeting moment from years past and allow it to stir our emotions. I want these memories to be abundant and genuine. While I understand that it is easier said than done, let us set aside envy, vanity and any inhibitions we might have, if not for ourselves, then for the sake of our loved ones and future descendants.

Take the picture.

Tommy Druen is a native of Metcalfe County, with roots in Adair County going back to the 18th century. He presently lives in Georgetown, Kentucky and can be reached at

This story was posted on 2023-06-02 09:25:10
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