Single Shot Stories No. 011 – Matthew Morse, This is Normal

Single Shot Stories No. 011 – Matthew Morse, This is Normal

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My daughter turned five just before Christmas. The biggest heart I know got a whole year older and wiser and more stubborn.

She’s been through a lot in her first five years. Her mom and I split, and she’s had to learn to live in two houses when all she really wanted was one. She got a great step-dad and, subsequently, a new little brother. The latter, more so than the former, ushering in a new wave of feelings — everything from jealousy and worry to a mom-like adoration for her new partner. She had a large tumor removed from her neck, the remnants of which are just barely visible in the form of a tight little scar on her right side — a reminder to me that I didn’t know anxiety, worry, or discomfort until I experienced it as a dad waiting in a coffee shop for the news that her surgery was over, and then the subsequent wait for her biopsy results to confirm what we hoped and prayed for — a benign mass.

Like many kids during the pandemic, she’s had to experience zoo closures and Door-Dashed dinners and limited access to public parks and amenities. My job at the time declared me an essential worker so she had to experience many of these things without me by her side. But I did (do) my best to make sure I’m present and engaged with her. We worked on riding a bike. We built a swing set. We dug in the dirt. We watched a thousand movies (or rather the same movie a thousand times — Frozen or Moana, whichever she picked until Halloween when she switched to watching Hocus Pocus obsessively).

And she grew up a little more than I wish she had to.

This shot of her, taken with my Leica M6 and Zeiss 50/1.5 Sonnar on Kodak ColorPlus 200 is maybe my favorite summation of her pandemic experience. She’s standing in our yard in Christmas pajamas (not even close to Christmas), insisting that she hadn’t outgrown her tricycle that she received for her first birthday. Like an eco-warrior chaining herself to a tree, she held fast to her first mode of childhood transportation, damning me for even considering the thought that perhaps another child might like to have it donated to them. She doesn’t need it. She doesn’t even want it. She has a bike. And two scooters. But for her, that little red trike is comfort. It’s a leftover from when she only had one house and all the parks were open and Door Dash was a luxury, not a necessity. When she was an only child and her neck was whole.

So, I’ll let her keep it. For a little while longer, at least. Because who am I to take away one of the only normal things she knows in a time when nothing is normal? Even now. Nothing is normal. But that tricycle… That tricycle is normal.

Many thanks to Matthew for their contribution to Single Shot Stories! More of Matthew’s photography can be seen on Instagram, and his website (which also features his design and illustration work).

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  • Merlin Marquardt April 4, 2022 at 6:11 am

    A beautiful story including some things that are not so beautiful. A beautiful photograph of a beautiful daughter.

  • A beautiful daughter, a nice M6, a nice Zeiss Sonnar, a good Kodak Plus 200 (not a Gold), a happy great photographer to have a beautiful daughter = a wonderful picture. BRAVO and thank you for sharing.

    • This is so kind of you to say. Thank you, thank you. <3

      • Hiiiii Matthew, this is in this world what people do need the most with love : nice words from the heart. Especially when people are so nice, like you 😉 Your text, your image, your daughter, your tools give freshness, sweet freshness about what human beings should be : sensitive, sweet, tender, … A peaceful world un by peaceful people.
        Sometimes I miss my M6, but I love the M3. The Zeiss Sonnar is an exclusive lens, maybe the best for M cameras, Kodak films have this trueness that only Kodak seems capable to create when it comes to people and emotions. I really like this image, not only for the tools, but because the kid is great and the father knows that, this simple images speaks strongly, a great story : A FATHER AND A DAUGHTER. This is also the miracle of photography.
        Thank You.

  • I wonder how your story reverberates with your daughter (and how it will in, say, ten years). Beautiful photo.

    • When I see her tonight I’ll be sure and ask her what she thinks of being “internet famous.” I’m sure I’ll get a shrug. She doesn’t think much of the internet (thank goodness) outside of the couple of games she plays on her iPad. And in all honesty, she’s not crazy about having her picture taken. Her mom and I are both photographers and she’s quite possibly the most photographed girl in the state — haha!

      She’s apathetic at best about photos. But you’ve given me an excellent idea… To print this along with the essay and put them in her keepsake box for when she’s older. Maybe it will resonate with her. Thank you for the inspiration, my friend. You’re kind for stopping long enough to read it and leave a few words. I appreciate it so much.

      • 😉
        Such a great dad.
        By the way, human beings who use films and old me cameras must be good persons 😉
        This image and this story get from me the special ***** 100/100 of the spirit of Casualphotophile : PASSION with and around film photography. The gold film camera for 20222

  • “And she grew up a little more than I wish she had to.”

    Right in the feels. My son (see Single Shot Stories #010) is about to turn the big T-W-O, and I’m having a hard time believing it. If you would have told me back when I was a kid that life would one day feel like it was speeding by too quickly, I would have laughed you out of the back yard. I remember wishing I could blink my eyes and fast-forward through the summer days just to skip ahead to my baseball games in the evening. Those hours and days felt so long! But not anymore, not even a little bit.

    Great writing, Matthew. I love the photo and stories. And I’m so happy the results of that test were benign. I can’t imagine the weight those hours must have held. Your daughter is a true beauty.

    Enjoy that M6! I considered that Sonnar 50/1.5 recently but ended up going with the Voigtlander 50/1.2, which is a little big on my M3 but working well for now. We’re spoiled with options, aren’t we?

    • 😉
      Touching too.
      Go for Sonnar or why not make a try, this is my choice, for the awesome Canon LTM 50mm/1.4 the “Japanese Summilux”, yes bigger, but so nice with his old school rendering, I will say a mix-a fusion enter the Zeiss and the Voigtlander, if you put 400 bucks you can get a mint one ;-), just go with a B&W UV 10 mmc or a Zeiss and you will be surprised. It works very well on my Sony 7RII.

      • Eric, I actually have an extremely nice copy of the “Japanese Summilux” that usually lives on my Canon P, and I have adapted and tried it out on my M3. It’s smaller than the Nokton 50/1.2, if you can believe that. My only issue is the long focus throw and the infinity lock, which I’m not a big fan of in actual use. Great lens, though! Definitely a keeper for me. However, we can’t have just one 50mm lens, now can we? 😉

    • I loved your piece. It’s actually yours that inspired me to write my own. I’m humbled that you took the time to read through and comment on this. And I agree… Some days, when she’s being particularly difficult or ornery or she’s called my name a thousand times, I think, “Man… is it bedtime yet?” But most days, I just pause and try and remember that one day she won’t be here anymore. She’ll be off with her friends doing things I can’t see, saying things I can’t hear. She’ll be making choices that I won’t be there to help her make.

      I guess I just have to hope that we’ve done a good enough job that she’ll make the choice we’d want her to make. Or the safest or smartest or kindest one. It reminds me of a quote I read once that reads, “One day we pick our kids up for the last time, and we don’t even know it.”

      That quote doesn’t always resonate with me, like I said above, when she’s being particularly difficult, but one of these days she won’t need or want dad and I’ll wish for just one more demanding call from her bedroom to bring a toy or juice or to see her latest painting.

      As for the M6… I love it. It was a camera I wanted for a long, long time. I remember seeing the M6 as a senior in high school and thinking, “That’s the camera I want.” And, 20 years later, I finally have one. And it’s everything I wanted and hoped it would be. It’s a stupid camera for me to own. It’s expensive. I could do so many things with the money I’d get from selling that thing now. But why would I? It inspires me to shoot. It makes me want to pick it up. It sits on a shelf in my office when it’s not with me and I find myself looking at it sometimes, just taking in the camera that took 20 years for me to acquire. For me, it’s perfect. It does everything I want, nothing I don’t and it gives me a sense of accomplishment. I made it. I got to a place where I got my dream camera. And nobody bought it for me. My parents paved the way, but this thing, I built it. And I guess, I want my daughter to have her own “M6” someday. Be it an actual camera or a house or a car or whatever.

      I just hope I can pave the way to make her journey a little smoother, a little more approachable, a little more doable so when she gets where she’s going, she’s not too tired to enjoy it.

      • “One day we pick our kids up for the last time, and we don’t even know it.”

        Man, that is powerful. Thanks for that. I’ve just been sitting here thinking about it for a few minutes. I’ll keep that one with me, as well. I’m with you in the “Is it bedtime yet?” struggle. We’re in toddler tantrums right now, and it’s hard. But the thing about the fits of crying is that they stop on a dime, and you’re being hugged and loved on just seconds later. It’s a wave I’m learning to ride.

        I feel like you and I are kindred spirits in regard to the absurdity that is owning a Leica. Such silly things, really! But you’re absolutely right, they do inspire and delight. When I finish a roll, I leave the camera empty for a night or so, and I just wind and shoot, wind and shoot… I love to feel those mechanical gears working. I have an M5 (35mm attached) and and M3 (50mm attached), and they’re absolute treats. I don’t think my photos are better than those I get from my SLRs, honestly, but the cameras themselves are lovely to use. It’s the one true luxury I allow myself, and I pursued photography primarily as a way to document my family through the years, so, in that way, I honestly don’t think I could ask for a better ROI. Of course they’re just tools, but every beautiful thing in the world was made using tools.

        Gah, I could chat about kids and fatherhood and photography forever, but I won’t. Great chatting with you, Matthew. I wish you all the best.

  • I like everything about this. Excellent writing and a great pic for the fridge or album, or both. Man, Christmas jammies in the summer are the best! The kids barely fit anymore but they still love them.

    • Thank you so much Adam. It means the world that you took a moment to comment. She has no boundaries with pajamas. She’ll mix and match. And some days, she never wants to change out of them. I’m good with that. 🙂

      Be well,

  • You see this great image, great text create many comments. I will put more here.
    M6 a great camera for sure, I still have a little regret to sold mine, but M3 I love it. M6 is probably one of the best M for film.
    Canon P : 😉 such a wonderful camera. Canon was not my favorite brand, but it enters in my photographic life step by step with some gems : Cannonet Q17 III, LTM lens, …
    Here I love also the rendering and I have a question for all, I would like to ask for some advices from all of you : this Kodak Color PLUS 200 is great, how it is process and scan, please? By the way I would like to return on coloraturas films, I am hesitating ProImage 100, Coloraturas Plus, Gold, New JCH slide 400 iso FUGUFILM 400, or Ektachrome 100, Ektar 100, Portra, Cinestill. What ara your choices and for what, please? Thank you for your help. Here I find the results very very very good, so why to spend more than this film, the scan is gorgeous.

    • Thanks for the continued conversation. I appreciate your kind words about the photo and my daughter. As for this photo, it was just a basic lab scan. I use Nice Film Club for a lot of my work, but have used The Find Lab, Reformed Film Lab and Richard Photo Lab in the past — all with similar results. I gave up on scanning my own photos a long time ago. Haha!

      Regarding the film you should use… I think it depends on what you’re shooting. I personally am not a fan of any slide films. It’s finicky and I’m lazy so we don’t go well together. But I do think slide film has a really beautiful way of rendering and reproducing color, especially for landscape work (which I almost never do).

      My favorite films are Kodak Ektar and Portra 800 (usually I expose Portra 800 at ISO 400). I’ve shot a couple of rolls of ProImage 100 and I didn’t find it to be particularly memorable, which is probably a good thing. It was neither good, nor bad. It worked fine for me. It’s rare for me to load a roll of film for a specific project EXCEPT when I’m shooting at night where I’ll purposely shoot CineStill 800T exposed at 400 and with a bloom filter.

      I don’t like the remaining Fuji films (like Fuji 400Xtra or whatever it is). I find them to be a little grainy and sort of lackluster.

      For black and white film, I really like Ilford HP5 or Tri-X 400. I also sometimes shoot Ilford Ortho Plus 80 for a slower black and white film.

  • We have here so many great comments about many things : kids, photography, gears. It is deep.
    There is a great french movie “le papillon”, “the butterfly”, the end of the movie remember the power of 3 words, only 3 words we can tell to anybody, especially to kids.
    I have never tried a M5, but one day I will try.
    It will be mostly landscape, reason why I am thinking about slide films, but Ektar is also a winner.
    I will use my Nikon 28TI, I dont know why. Probably I havent used it since long time, and I feel I have to give it a little time.
    Me too I done scan myself 😉
    Probably many would like to add a comment to this excellent picture and text, and comments.
    I have pushed myself to react to the purity of all this page, because in this world it is precious, and this is a great moment of deep feelings as human beings who have to make a better world for you and for me, you especially kids. Despite all the technologies, if all epochs are different, I dont think this one is easy for them. And they grow better with our love that one picture can simply and deeply express 😉
    Thanks also to James and Casualphotophile

  • A beautiful shot of a beautiful daughter. And her expression is one of an old soul!
    At the moment I am wearing Christmas socks. Not socks that were given to me over Christmas, but ones with little Santa Clauses all over them.
    So I can relate to your daughter’s fashion choices!

    • 😉
      Lovely socks
      To be is to do
      To do is to do
      To be do be do
      To be is also to wear this kind of socks.
      I am thinking at the same time : M6 + Sonnar Zeiss 50mm/1.5 + Coloraturas Plus … such a great cocktail, imagine if you will have the same socks than Huss,
      I will also try one day.
      By the way my last socks which are so warm, I have bought to big, so the heel is on the ankle 😉

  • Beautiful story and so well written, it actually made me tear up. You’re a good dad and that’s the most important thing.

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