Photograph Those You Love
It is with heavy heart that I have to report that we lost my step father this morning. Craig had been suffering from ALS over the past year and a half. It is a nasty disease that leaves your mind but takes your body. I haven’t lost a lot of close people in my life. My grandfather was the closest person I have ever lost and I regret so much that I never made a portrait of him. I just have these grainy disc camera photos of him to remember him by. Nothing that really says who he was or what he was about.
When I was working at Kinko’s I nearly lost my job twice. Both times for the same reason; enlarging prints for someone’s funeral. I would meet a customer at the counter and with red puffy eyes they would slide a dog eared, scratched 4×6 print across the counter. This person in the photo had just passed away and they wanted a 16×20 made to place by the casket. It wasa always some horrible photo. Never a great portrait. There would be a laundry basket in the corner. The drapes on the windows were stained. Reflections in glasses. Scratches on the print. I would take the job, put everything on hold and start to work on the scan in PhotoShop. This is a soul’s last known image on earth. They deserve better than this. My manager didn’t think this way. Scan and print. That’s it. I revolted and continued working on images for funerals. She wasn’t cold hearted enough to actually fire me for the few hours I would spend on those images but she wasn’t at all happy with me either.
That planted a philosophy I have on every single photoshoot. “I’m shooting for this person’s funeral.” I better make images that people will want to see and remember this person by. Something that shows who they were and what they did and how they were living their life pursuing a dream. I’ve made as many visits as I could over the last year to my Mom and Craig. They live in Elkin, NC. I knew this year I had to get Craig to sit for me. I had to photograph him before I lost him. Craig was a retired homebuilder and was now preaching at a church near Elkin. He was born and raised in Dallas, TX but moved with my Mom to Elkin for a slower change of pace and to be near my Mom’s family there. He loved the community and the church he landed in had him start preaching because they were in need of a new preacher. That dying little church began to thrive.
Knowing that things would escalate quickly I had prints made and shipping arrangement taken care of well in advance. Also knowing how many people loved Craig in his community, I had dozens of 8×10 prints made of this for folks to keep.
On my last trip up there a month or so ago I photographed Craig watching the kids play in the backyard. Goodbye Craig. My gosh we are going to miss you. You’re home now though. Finally in a place bigger than your home country of Texas. Are you photographing those you love? I’m not. Not like I should be. I have a big long list of people to get started on. You always think you have time. Sometimes you do. Most of the time you don’t. Had I not known that we would be losing Craig this year, I probably would have never gotten around to making the images above. Sad isn’t it? Me. A photographer who can’t turn a camera on to his own family. There’s your challenge for the week. Family portrait time this week.
PS – Needless to say I am leaving the studio for the next 3 or 4 days. All normal business will proceed later this week or the start of next week. If you ordered your DVD last week before it sold out, it will be out the door by tonight if it hasn’t already gone out the door this weekend.