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She’s untouchable. Unless she gets really upset; that’s when tears well up in her eyes. She was born with big eyes. People say that I have big eyes…until they meet her and then they stop saying it to me and start saying it to her. We used to have the same color hair, the same texture, the same type. Then she dyed hers. First it was black then red then purple. It’s back to black with something called a “peek-a-boo patch” which I think is platinum blonde; I haven’t seen her for a couple weeks so I can’t be sure. She’s always changing but she’s still the same.
When she came home over winter break of course she brought her camera. The routine starts as she grabs mascara and sloppily puts it on me, messes up my hair and keeps it in place with hidden barrettes or bobby pins, then places tons of bright red blush on my cheeks. “It’s too much!” I protest. “It’s black and white film, it will hardly show up”, she replies.
She tosses me my black dress, the one I wore to the semi-formal last year and I slip into it. The curtains are opened; whatever is on the windowsill is tossed on the carpet; the comforter on my bed is thrown on the floor along with the two pillows. The clicking begins. I stand, I sit, I tilt my head. “Tell me a story,” she says. And so I begin. But what comes out of my mouth hardly matters at all; what matters is how it looks on camera.
Within fifteen minutes she’s completed the thirty-six exposure roll of film that was loaded into the camera she got for her high school graduation. She leaves the room that I’m left to clean up. By the time the film stops automatically rewinding she’s already downstairs. I go into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror. I look like a mess, someone who would definitely get some attention out in public. I wash my face and return to my sweatpants and t-shirt, hanging the dress up in my closet.
Sometimes I’ll take some pictures of her, but they never come out as good as the ones she takes of me. She’s a photography major in college; I’m just a high school art student. But I can’t help the competition. She pushes me to strive to be something better. A better photographer, a better artist, a better person. Once she’s gone I’ll look through her photos from high school or her freshman year in college. I’ll glance at the more than 3,000 digital pictures she has stored on our computer. The composition of each picture is perfect, the lighting is faultless. Her pictures reflect her natural talent, they appear to be effortless. I manually load the film into my grandfather’s old camera. This time, I’m the photographer. But I always return to her pictures; I have a couple in mind as I set up the next shot.
She’s my favorite teacher, my biggest inspiration. It’s because of her that I have grown and developed not only as an artist but also as a person. My passion for photography branched off of hers. She has taught me how to see the world in a totally different way, whether it be through the lens of a camera or not. In a couple weeks maybe she’ll send me a bad test strip or a messed up contact sheet of the pictures she took in the form of a post card. On the back she’ll write something with a thick black sharpie, maybe one of our inside jokes. I’ll turn it over to the front, not really recognizing the person in the pictures. I become what she makes me. But I’m happy to do it. After all, she is my sister.
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