In the midst of all the bustle of our daily life, I had reason to pause several times this week and think about the true value of photography. Guess what: it’s not the price tag.
Yesterday I went to an event with a young widow at the CT Historical Museum and we toured the conservation areas behind the scenes. Textiles, furniture, books and of course photos form a large part of their collection but obviously they were all part of personal everyday lives in an earlier time with no thought to possible historical significance. As they carefully preserved these simple artifacts for future generations, I thought about the transience of our lives and what traces we may leave behind.
It seems that at every meeting this week I have been introduced to someone who is fighting a serious illness or caring for someone. After months of declining health, a good friend’s husband was suddenly admitted to hospital in an emergency situation. This morning as I was rushing to a meeting I opened a drawer and one of my mother’s scarves fell out. I suddenly reframed an image of her in my mind, yes one of those casual “happy snaps” relaxing with family on Christmas Day when you think there’ll be time to make a nicer portrait later - except there wasn’t. She was passed the next morning.
Last week an old soldier passed away peacefully. I didn’t know him but I heard wonderful tales of his love of horses as was evident by 61 years association with the Governor’s Horse Guards. On a cold November morning at very short notice I was asked if I would like to photograph a special visit that touched my heart. Because he was too frail to visit the horses, the cavalry came to him. In a rare outing, a single gleaming horse and 3 troopers surprised him and delighted the crowd but the tears of the tender moments in this brief encounter were truly special. I heard the photos gave him great joy in the past 4 months as he relived the glory days when he could ride the geldings without a care. Photos of that reunion were mounted in a collage for the memorial service and I hope they give the family some peaceful memories as they see the joy in everyone’s faces that day. I don’t know them but I am honored to share that small gift of a moment in time.
Just a few moments ago I read that photographer Jeremy Cowart’s brother Mike died suddenly after a heart attack 3 days ago. I saw Jeremy speak at PDN in NYC 2 years ago and was impressed by his sense of humanity that lead to projects such as his work in Haiti and the creation of the “HELP Portrait” project. After offering such generosity of spirit to others, now he is dealing with his own loss but still has the grace to ask people to honor his brother’s love of music by purchasing his 5 song EP: jcopho.to/mikecowartep All proceeds go to Mike’s 2 young children. It won’t replace a father but it will help them in a practical way. It’s little steps to help them heal and to have an education.
Late last night I was writing to a person I’ve never met. For 6 months I have been casually reading Jill Konrath’s business posts which have been interesting but yesterday she wrote a piece that was meant to stop us in our tracks. Jill and I connected in an unexpectedly powerful way as we exchanged several emails about the senseless tragedy that results from preventable road accidents. Jill asked that I share her husband’s story in Avoid This Killer Sales Strategy at All Costs in the hope that you don’t drive distracted either. Considering there are 10 people injured for every fatality, we are inflicting damage far greater than 9/11 on our own roads every year.
So why all this “gloom and doom”? It’s a wake up call to love yourself, the people around you and to love what you do because our time is too brief and uncertain. Surround yourself with experiences and items that give you joy. Don’t wait for the perfect moment or the perfect weight to have a portrait done. Take every opportunity to celebrate the beauty of the day and the people you care for.
Many of the people in this blog have photos of their loved ones in prominent places in their home in a family jumble. I have a pile of photo frames sitting on my floor waiting for “the right image” and help to hang them but it never seems to happen because I am too busy working on other people’ photos. However, forget being precious and debating which one is “best” of the millions of photos. This weekend I will finally whack holes in the wall and put my family up in pride of place. They deserve it and so do I. I want to celebrate my special people in my life by getting them on my walls and I encourage you to do the same. Create your legacy.