My mom, Jane Mountain Goff, died on March 10, 2010, and my brother and I were faced with going through all her earthly possessions. The greatest item she passed on to us was her enormous archive of slides, negatives, home movies and prints that spanned over 70 years. She was the greatest photographer I have ever known because she recorded the images of everyone we knew in the town of Chilhowie, Virginia. She was absolutely committed to photography her whole life, and she documented a generation.
I can’t remember her NOT having some kind of camera in her big purse. She took thousands of photos of parades, band competitions, flower judging, church picnics, bridge games, funerals, Christmas pageants, swimming, cutting grass, washing cars, family reunions, weddings, bridal showers, Christmas trees, gardens, houses, and gift openings. She would seize any opportunity to “make a picture.” Anytime we were dressed for some special event, she made us stand in the front yard with the sun blazing in our eyes and take our photo in front of the giant maple trees that lined our street. And as if this wasn’t enough, she took us to a professional photographer once a year for a “good picture.”
Sometimes when I was leaving the house, she even tried to make me take a camera. I shrugged this off as an annoyance most of the time. Thinking back on it, I didn’t want to ask people if they would pose. Mom had a talent for popping up with a camera at just the right moment saying, “Let me make your picture.” This was not a request. She never waited for a response, and she took a photo before anyone knew what hit them. On rare occasions people would flat-out refuse, but she was never defeated. She would just put her camera away and wait for the next moment. I wish I possessed that courage back then. Even though I have all her photos, I still think back to all the images I could have created if I had just taken the camera like she wanted. I missed so many opportunities.
I’m not going to make this mistake again. I continue to be inspired by her body of work, and I hope I can leave something behind for someone when I’m gone.