Super 8: The Medium of Memory

My love for Super 8 began one Thanksgiving when my mom popped in a VHS tape and said, "I got these old home movies from my Dad." Her father had digitized their super 8 home movies from the 60s. Watching it, I could see the thread of intention and love that connected their family before the waves of brokenness came in... before the divorce, the Vietnam war, the unspoken trauma that characterized their later years. 

There was love and connection. They visited the Grand Canyon as a young family of six, the girls in bob-haircuts and the boys in shorter than short shorts. They had Christmases and they were good. There were hard-won presents unwrapped with joy. There was a kiss between my mother's parents, at that time high school sweethearts who were trying.

When we decided to take our first family vacation to the beach, I knew I wanted to revisit the medium I had come to associate with family memories. Super 8 film. The  permanence, tangibility and nostalgia of film allow it to capture the visceral nature of memory. It looks like how we feel when we remember: sun-drenched and hazy, clips instead of long, hard days. Joy.


AT THE LAKE
Saguaro Lake, Arizona

Canoes and kayaks take off from Butcher Jones Beach. My girls play sand and splash, taking turns being swung by Daddy. I hang under the canopy with my backpack of metal cameras and film and think: I am proud of us. I am proud of the life we are giving them. This is my girls’ favorite song.

 

RIVER DAYS
Verde River, Arizona

This film was shot at the Verde River when my Dad was visiting from New York. I grew up in and around natural bodies of water; the Jersey shore, Lake George. Taking my girls to Arizona's rivers and creeks is both an important act of mothering and a desperate need to see life in the middle of the summer. We live under a blanket of heat for five months out of the year; yet cold rushing water is a short drive away.

 

SUMMER SUN
Glendale, Arizona, 2018.

For eight months my family and I lived in a guest house on the acre property of some dear friends. While that parcel is small to some, in metro Phoenix this neighborhood is country, striaght no chaser. We had a donkey as a neighbor (Andy) and several horses to the north. But the thing I will always remember about living here is my girls playing with the kids next door almost every single day. They have four boys and one girl my oldest's age, and did they ever tea party, trampoline, tag, chalk, and princess-dress their hearts out. The older ones especially adopted my girls, pushing them in the swings, playing peak-a-boo, pulling them (too fast) in the wagon and giving them piggy back rides. All of that unofficial, unpaid childcare gave me a needed rest in a season of stress. They had a huge hard to explore; Mama could think. Not have to talk for hours on end, although mine were too old to leave alone, so there I'd sit in my camping chair in the shade, glancing up from a novel. This was a precious and sweet season of my girls lives, and capturing it on Super 8 was the perfect medium.

Music: You Were Born by Cloud Cult

MANDALAY LANE
Phoenix, Arizona

At the time of shooting this sweet family had five children five years old and under. They were about to embark upon a year-long journey of moving far, far out of town in order to save up for their dream home. One that could accomodate their homsechool vision and sheer size (and noise level) of their family. This film captures their last days on Mandalay Lane, their first home.

Music: Honey by Us and Our Daughters

CALIFORNIA MEMORIES
Irvine, California

This was our first trip as a family of four, and was a mighty success despite the usual logistical hurdles of small children. Oh to see my babies making sandcastles, being buried in the sand, dipping their toes in the ocean, eating messy ice cream cones. They were ELATED. The beach is messy, I discovered. Sand! We bought an epic sand tent that essentially housed our belongings and my cameras. Walking back and forth from it to grab a polaroid camera, grab my camera body, grab my Super 8 with no neckstrap. My Canon 518 is the heaviest and most cumbersome camera I own; to shoot with, to transport. But yields these movies for us, unlike any other medium. The form of our memories; in this video I can feel our trip again — hear Vivian singing the words to this, her favorite song — and I’m so grateful.

Music: We Will Say In That Day (Isaiah 12) by Wendell Kimbrough