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Maggie and Pictures Past….

Jun 23

In Friends, history at 1:11pm

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.

LBI and ice cream.

All of us, waiting for the bathroom at the Chalfonte, Cape May.

Kids on wheels.

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.

More tk….

71 Responses to “Maggie and Pictures Past….”

Dave Dugdale says:

on June 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm

That is one of your coolest post Joe. Thanks for sharing that long history. I am watching all your videos on Kelby and really enjoying them.


stephen diroll says:

on June 23, 2011 at 1:21 pm

great post! I’m at that stage where all my friends have had their first round of kids. Can’t wait to look back years from now at the pictures i’m stockpiling.

Jenn says:

on June 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm

You’re words are beautiful….looking forward to seeing her wedding photos. Thanks for sharing!

Dennis de Jesus says:

on June 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Great story Joe. I really like how you incorporate your photos with stories that only you can narrate. Excellent as always.

Jim Wells says:

on June 23, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Now this is what life is really about !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Todd says:

on June 23, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Have a great time Joe, I’m sure this means a lot to you :)

Bret says:

on June 23, 2011 at 1:42 pm

My gosh Joe. You can tie a picture to emotion better than any photog I’ve seen. Your written stories serve the images and make me a part of your world. After reading this blog I feel as though I’ve watched Maggie grow up myself.

Ade says:

on June 23, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Thanks Joe for a wonderful post; and congrats Maggie!!!!!

JSturr says:

on June 23, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Thanks for sharing those memories.

Shoji says:

on June 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Congratulations, Maggie!

Mike says:

on June 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Tears welling up. Well done.

Tonia says:

on June 23, 2011 at 2:11 pm

What a sweet post. Yes, definitely what this thing called being a photographer is all about.

Jim says:

on June 23, 2011 at 2:14 pm

As usual, terrific post.

Michael Fisher says:

on June 23, 2011 at 2:18 pm

I teared up thinking about my own girls and them growing up. Well done, Joe. Thanks for making me cry, ya bum! :-)

Matt Welsh says:

on June 23, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Joe, this is one of the coolest posts you’ve made. I love the human side of photography and this story really emphasizes it.

Thanks for sharing it…

Richard Davis says:

on June 23, 2011 at 2:31 pm

You light your prose as brilliantly as you craft your images. Fantastic post! And best wishes to Maggie and her beau for Saturday and beyond.

Johan Sopiee says:

on June 23, 2011 at 2:33 pm

you’re great with images, Joe. and you’re amazing with words. put the two together, like how you’ve done with this post, and i’m just blown away with how close i get to feeling that i’m there, in your shoes, right now. feeling what you’re feeling and everything.
i admire you. you inspire me. and for those of us who get to know you not just as a legendary photographer, but also as a wonderful person with a beautiful heart, a giver and mover of mountains, i’d say i’m blessed and my life will never be the same again.
and every single time you teased me about whacking someone’s head with a softbox i was holding for you, i feel like whacking someone else’s head and get to hear you, Drew and Louis laugh at and with me. hehe

jk says:

on June 23, 2011 at 2:47 pm

After seeing the last image I was like…awesome post! Wish you a lot fun at her special wedding!


Tim Skipper says:

on June 23, 2011 at 3:01 pm

As always your blog is an excellent read and wonderfully real.

Kevin Glackmeyer says:

on June 23, 2011 at 3:15 pm

nice…whoever you have writing this stuff nailed it this time.

Joe S says:

on June 23, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Joe, I have been a long time reader and fan. Great post as usual.

I came across this recently in reading a book. I thought it was an ironic parallel to what folks say today about digital cameras.

“Toward the end of the 1870′s, a revolution in photography occurred. This was the introduction of the dry plate. No longer did photographers have to struggle with wet collodion poured painstakingly over the enormous glass plates in all climes and places; now, smaller, faster dry plates in cameras with faster lenses could be carried anywhere with a minimum of difficulty. It was the beginning of the ultimate democratization of photography, for now any amateur could pursue images. And as the camera speeded up, there was the possibility for amateurs to capture action scenes and even horses heading straight for the camera.”

Taken from Fredric Remington, the Camera & the Old West by Estelle Jussim, pg. 14 ©1983

Sound familiar??

Roger says:

on June 23, 2011 at 3:32 pm

That’s awesome Joe, I hope to one day have the same experience. I’ve documented my kids from day one and I’m sure by the time they get married, I will have accumulated many terabytes of images. Congrats.

Chad goldman says:

on June 23, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Love the stories behind the photos. She makes a beautiful bride.


Kurt Wall says:

on June 23, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Awesome post, Joe. And how cool is it for Maggie that Joe Freakin’ McNally takes her engagement portraits?

Chris says:

on June 23, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Joe who?


Lovely girl, great photo & d@mn good story!

Jordan Bush says:

on June 23, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Joe, I’ve followed you for years, seen you speak and teach probably a dozen times or more. I’ve never commented, though, until now. This post brought back a lot of memories for me of my friends/family at LBI, probably on that same bench, and also at Sea Isle City. It’s not about the image, but the story behind it. You certainly don’t need my blessing, but well done.

Lea Ciceraro says:

on June 23, 2011 at 5:32 pm

That is incredibly sweet and beautiful. I love the photos and I love the story behind them. You can even see the kind of relationship you two have just by looking at her expression in her “official” bridal portrait. Beautiful work. Thanks for the inspiration!

Milosh Kosanovich says:

on June 23, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Poor Girl. Imagine trying to hold a wedding during a photoshoot with 50 speedlights hanging from the rafters.

Ivan says:

on June 23, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I love your stories and how photography connects to life experiences. Fantastic. I hope you can share more of your Maggie photos with us.

William Chinn says:

on June 23, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Just this once the pictures are just as good as the story. You show the child growing up into a beautiful bride. And for once I don’t care about the lighting. The next book date is getting further away emotionally. Please add a chapter of family stories.

Bob says:

on June 23, 2011 at 8:45 pm

the hook at the end really moved me…nicely done Joe.

Andor says:

on June 24, 2011 at 2:21 am

‘On Saturday she gets married, down at the shore. I think I’ll probably shoot some pictures.’ :-D

Great story and awesome pictures again – as usual :-)
Congratulations for Maggie, and have a great time!

bycostello says:

on June 24, 2011 at 3:56 am

great read as ever.. also enjoying your dvd although not sure u gonna make it as an actor.. strobist, sorry u neither!!

Scott says:

on June 24, 2011 at 4:13 am


Like you, I have a love, no, a need to take photographs Unlike you, I couldn’t see how to make a go of it in the photography business. Instead of becoming a pro when I was a kid, I decided to shoot for charity and take photographs of my life’s journey (and of those around me).

I call my pictures “Postcards from a Life Well Traveled” and I can think of no higher calling as a photographer than recording these life moments for yourself and for others.

Have fun at the wedding.

Kris Mitchell says:

on June 24, 2011 at 6:01 am

You have a way with words Joe. I was completely wrapped up in the story and if I’m honest, a tiny tear of joy for this person I’ve never met welled up in the corner of my eye upon seeing the final frame.

Stu Elwing says:

on June 24, 2011 at 8:19 am

Joe, What a wonderful blog entry! Thank you for posting it. I hope Maggie, her guy, you, her family and yours all enjoy the wonderful day! And I hope you get a few shots where nobody blinks as you click … shots where all the flashes all actually fire together.

David says:

on June 24, 2011 at 8:51 am

The story is better than the pictures. The pictures confirm the documentary and history. As Henri Cartier-Bresson says “It is through living that we discover ourselves, at the same time as we discover the world around us.” You have, without a doubt, captured Bresson.
Thank you for sharing.

Debra says:

on June 24, 2011 at 9:04 am

thank you for sharing your memories, your photos and your Maggie with us Joe. Congratulations to the McDonald family.

JerseyStyle Photography says:

on June 24, 2011 at 9:04 am

You brought a little tear…just a litte one, mind you…to the eye here. Special stuff. Making memories… ~ Mark

Dave D. says:

on June 24, 2011 at 9:05 am

Great quote, “Everybody accumulates memory, but as a shooter, you get to illustrate that memory book.”

I often joke that my 8-year old daughter (who is already the subject of thousands of stills and hundreds of hours of video) will have the most documented life in history — thanks to the nature of my business (videography/photography). Recently, however, when we were packing for a trip to Mt. Washington, she saw me pulling together my usual gear and she asked me timidly, “Daddy, do you think you could just be dad this weekend and not a photographer?” Wow. I felt like such a dope.

Needless to say, the professional sets ups are now few and far between as nifty little point-and-shoot is at the ready for those more candid moments.

Thanks, JM.

Mike Neale says:

on June 24, 2011 at 9:07 am

C O N G R A T S,…M A G G I E ! ! !

Thanks, Joe,…;-)

Fred says:

on June 24, 2011 at 9:33 am

Wow I can’t believe it! My youngest son Jonathan is getting married this weekend at the Jersey Shore. A beach wedding in Bemar. This was a great post Joe. Thanks. By the way I’m shooting the wedding too.

Nikki says:

on June 24, 2011 at 9:57 am

Wow, what a great story. That’s what being a photographer is about, all those precious moments. Hope Maggie enjoys her special day.

Carl Hensley says:

on June 24, 2011 at 10:37 am

This is so moving and motivating Joe. I was provoked to thinking of my two daughters, and now will have to start scanning the old photos (film days). I appreciate that you are so transparent as a human being. It empowers others. Thanks Joe. :)

Nicolae Cioloca says:

on June 24, 2011 at 10:48 am

Oh, the stare down at bills… will it ever end?

Love the second last picture…

Nico – Backstage photography: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R18ukiNNZcs

Steve L says:

on June 24, 2011 at 11:09 am

Great story.
Demonstrates your fundamental “photo spirit” and motivation.
And your feelings toward Maggie are obvious.

Congrats to Maggie!!
Looking forward to “Maggie and pictures future!”

Kevin says:

on June 24, 2011 at 11:48 am

Surfing photo blogs while drinking my (late) AM coffee. This post brought tears to my eyes. Wel, l that was not expected. Awesome post!!

steve says:

on June 24, 2011 at 12:28 pm


Thanks for sharing your world with us. I always enjoy both your photos and the stories that accompany them.


Glyn Dewis says:

on June 24, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Such a great read and as always accompanied by wonderful imagery!

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts & memories Joe!

All the best to you and yours,

joe says:

on June 24, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Kids…they grow up way too fast, LOL

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