Every March I am reminded of a difficult memory. This anniversary forces me to stare deep into my “Why”. It reminds me that, in practice, my why has relatively little to do with me.
Why Did It Have To Rain?
It was five years ago. I had been communicating with a local model about working together. We went back and forth for several weeks before settling on a time and place. The forecast that day called for rain. We knew we could revisit our original concept on a later date, so we switched it up for something more suitable to the weather. At this point, we were both eager to finally work together and create something fun.
Fortunately, there looked to be a break in the weather, but it was still sprinkling. We made the most of it, playing with an umbrella and splashing in puddles. When it began raining again, a quick check suggested that it would pass in a few minutes. Fifteen minutes later, the rain gave way and we started working on another set, knowing our time was limited. Another wave was coming in fast.
We both felt a bit rushed at this point. Only a few frames in, the fresh sprinkles are evident on her jacket. This wave of rain was not going to pass quickly and we both had places to be. We called it, bid each other adieu, and with just a very light sprinkle in progress, I closed my car door. As I stowed my camera away, the floodgates opened and buckets of rain fell from the sky.
On my drive home, I remember thinking that we really needed to give this another shot. Why did it have to rain today? In general, I felt really good about what we managed but I knew I could do a lot better. First, though, I wanted to make sure she got some proofs to review. I had her proofs ready the next day and, looking back at text messages and emails, she quickly reviewed them, letting me know which she wanted me to edit for her.
Why I Fell In Love With Photography
Let me step back from this story for a moment. In order for you to understand the transformation I was about to live, it is important that you know why I loved clicking the shutter button. It started with being able to capture those things that I had seen first hand. Favorite places, people, and things were common subjects. If I saw something that looked especially cool, I would first snap photographs, and then enjoy it. And then take more photographs.
This “See It, Snap It” mentality slowly moved to a “See It, Capture It” ideal. I began photographing the scene itself less and began focusing on how to capture the moment. What I really want to capture in a landscape is not the scene, but the smell of clean air, the light breeze, and the dappling of sunlight piercing the clouds. It was about this time that I began photographing people. It was also within this time frame that I first heard the term, “High Priest of Memory Protection”, spoken by photographer Scott Bourne.
How My Why Changed
A few months removed from hearing that call to duty, I found myself in less than ideal conditions, photographing a model in sets that were not at all what we had originally planned. There I was, photographing a model during a break in the storm, trying my best to create something fresh for both of our portfolios. I was stepping out of my comfort zone, looking for a connection that would somehow spur my creativity. This wouldn’t be just a “Plan B” shoot. We would work together to make this special! Only it never quite coalesced as I had it pictured in my head.
Those proofs I sent her were some of my best work at the time. They still didn’t meet my expectations for the day, but I was proud of them. Looking back, five years on, I wonder what I was thinking. There are some gems in the mix, but they are lacking what my current skills would add. I could probably go back and do some editing, but I cannot find the strength to do that now.
You see, a few days passed without any contact with the model. This is nothing out of the ordinary. We had shot, I had delivered proofs, and she had made her selections. The expectation was that her final, edited images would be ready in a week. I never shared those edits with the model.
I can only imagine the punch to the gut her family experienced. When a fellow photographer contacted me with the news, I was stunned. Even now, my head goes numb just thinking about it all, but at the time, thanks to that duty I had felt called to perform, I knew what I had to do. I had to finish this job now more than ever. I contacted a mutual friend who reassured me that, yes, this is something that the family would appreciate. When I delivered the images to her father, I am sure it caught him off guard. I imagine it may have even angered him. It was a deep, fresh wound and I was poking it with the sharpest of blades.
I still wonder if I did the right thing, but at the time there was no question. I am certain that I would do it all over again. My hope is that the life those photographs captured is remembered more than the pain.
Defining My Why
I woke up from an induced coma almost two years ago. My life came to a complete halt. I did a lot of thinking over the month I was confined to a bed. Let me tell you, it is one thing to have a life-changing experience, quite another to wake up to realize you almost died and you don’t even recall the circumstances.
If I had not pulled through, what would it mean to my wife and son to have a recent photograph of me? We live in a wondrous age where we can easily capture our likeness and share it with others. We should share it with our loved ones often. That is something almost anyone can do these days thanks to modern technology.
So, what is my why in a nutshell? I want my photograph to be a reflection of who you are, what those who love you see when they look at you. Perhaps my photograph is a reflection of who you want to be, how you want to be seen. Either way, my why is give you a cherished keepsake of a moment in time when you are at your best. It doesn’t matter if you are a high school track star or a great-great grandmother. You deserve to see that “best” that everyone else sees in you every day.