One of the best things about being a shooter, and, sorry young photogs, you have to wait for this particular delight–is getting older. Reason being is that you accumulate. Throughout all the travails and disappointments, the blown jobs, the missed calls, the times you zigged when you shoulda zagged, the broken pixels, the random attaboys, the monthly stare down with bills that aren’t getting paid, you receive, occasionally, the sheer unadulterated joy of having a camera in your hands at just the right split second when it all works. Not to get too frikkin’ Catholic about it, but those shards of time when gesture, light, and lens all work in concert with your head and your heart and that click becomes a frame that stirs emotion, creates memory, and provokes reaction–well, that’s like confession and communion all at once.
You accumulate pictures, to be sure, by the pound. Also stuff–trust me, you don’t want to go into my garage. (I needed that fiber optic unit precisely why?) But, just like an intricately woven fabric, the threads of a photographic life interweave, repeat, and get denser and richer over time. Those accumulated photos make connections, sometimes powerful ones. Sometimes ones you go back to, time and again.
In my freshman year of college, in gym class no less, I was alphabetically arrayed behind a guy named McDonald. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was already a fine photographer, and had firmly and completely cast his lot in school already. He was a photo major–done deal, no looking back. A photo major then and now, after spending an amazing career 35 year career as a newspaper shooter in Jersey. I of course was still deciding whether I was gonna major in journalism, peyote, hitchhiking around the Northeast, or pissing off my parents. (If they awarded a GPA for that last one, I’da graduated with honors.) Fast forward a bit, and Dennis married a wonderful lady named Maureen, and they had a daughter and a son–Maggie and Brian.
Maggie became over time, one of my all time favorite models. She was always a sprite, so she looked younger than she was, and was way smart, so she could take direction and pull off a shot. Like the one below, where she became a “latchkey kid” for a story about caring for your kids. I needed some pathos, some sense of “It’s getting dark out there!” for the photo to work, and Maggie pulled it off.
I’ve shot her for Nikon, for LIFE, and occasionally, just for fun. Maggie loved the camera, and it loved her back. She would resolutely take the modest modeling fees I would offer and do her own form of accumulation, called “The Europe Fund.” I always knew she’d be a traveler.
She has covered lots of ground in her young life, to be sure. She went to Williams College, which incidentally was rated as the #1 liberal arts college in the country, and amassed a lollapalooza of a GPA. She now holds two separate Masters degrees from University of Pennsylvania, and has worked already in India and Cambodia. Her field is foster care, families at risk, caring for kids. Helping people, in other words.
Her version of runaway bride.
My daughters, Caitlin and Claire, basically grew up with Maggie and Brian, every summer for 13 summers, down at the shore.
She was a beautiful kid, playing dress up all those years ago. Then, just this past spring, I shot her engagement portrait. The real deal, this time. In a few days, she’ll be a beautiful bride. Everybody accumulates memory, but as a shooter, you get to illustrate that memory book.
On Saturday she gets married, down at the shore. I think I’ll probably shoot some pictures.