This was a blog I wrote to family and friends last January.. pre my amazing childcare provider Bret, and even my youngest son Brennan.. I really enjoy it though and it touches on something all photographers face.
Oh by the way the baby mentioned at the end of the story is little Kendall. Not only did I make it to her birth, she waited for me and was born very late that evening. Many of you know her well.... she's the darling angel hanging in the cheese cloth you see on so many of our flyers... sometimes the journey does work out nicely and that album in our head becomes the album in our hands...
The Album In Your Head..
When I first started down this road called photography a very good friend and fellow photographer told me two things that stick with me. The first was always have a camera. The second was there are going to be shots you miss. The photo album you keep in your head of the images you couldn’t get for one reason or another.
I’ve learned both lessons the hard way and still often break the first and pay for it by living the second. But sometimes like my friend said there are images that you just can’t capture.
Sometimes your part of the image. At Christmas time this year my husband and children were out shopping and I was at home resting in my glider by the Christmas tree. My three dogs took this opportunity to watch over me. My lasa jumped up on the footstool to sleep by my feet, my dane sat beside the chair head on my lap and on the other side my Newfoundland lay on the floor. The perfect image of devotion to ones master. There was no way I could photograph it. No way I could capture it. I was it. My camera was only a scarce 4 feet away but it might as well have been a mile. Separating myself from the image would have lost the image. I hoped when my husband came in the dogs would remain and he could grab the shot. To no avail. The fed-ex delivery man bringing presents arrived first and the moment was lost except for the image I have in my head of what it must have looked like through the lens.
And sometimes you just don’t have the camera, even if you do always carry it. Just the other day I was at the hospital for a check up with my doctor. It was late in the day so the halls of the hospital near the clinic area were pretty much deserted when I made my way out of the lab. There smack in the hallway was an image that I would have given anything to shoot. A young black mother was sitting in a wheel chair in pajama pants wrapped in a blanket. In her lap a young child maybe 3 was asleep. Curled into her mother the child, although obviously sick was sleeping so peacefully. This alone would have been a touching image, but it was made only more so by the three older women around the chair. With one behind and one on each side their ages varied leaving me to believe these were probably a sister, mother, and grandmother of the young mother in the chair. They looked like guardian angels watching over the pair and I was so touched by the image.
Perhaps to some it would be sad to see a sick child, but to me it was an image of complete love and devotion to family. The strength in these women was overwhelming. I could see it in black and white. The hallway behind them stretching behind them but out of focus pulling the looker into the image. I had no camera, and I also have a sense of allowing people their space, their dignity. It was the downfall of me ever being a photojournalist. I just couldn’t invade the privacy that people need in times of crisis. Even to tell the story that needed to be told.
However, I think had I had my Nikon I would have snapped the shot and then explained to that family. It was an image to powerful to walk away from. As it was my friends words floated into my head, the album in my head, I turned down the neighboring hallway. Still I couldn’t let it go. I walked back to the family and said “I know this sounds very silly, but I’m a photographer and you all make such an image. If I had a camera I would have had to shoot it..” I turned to the mother in the wheel chair “You can tell you are so loved.” She smiled at me and said “Yes ma’am I am.” and I walked away. What else could I do.
Still that image is burned into my brain. What it could have been. I told my husband later about it with a deep sigh. “It would have been amazing” I said wistfully. He smiled at me and told me that it was. I just get to keep it all to myself. A sweet gesture from him, but little comfort when you want to share it.
Sometimes it’s not a lack of camera but simply not being where you so want to be. Today I got an unexpected phone call from a client. An expecting mother whom I had documented her pregnancy and planned on shooting pictures of the baby at the hospital and then images of her family when her expected daughter was three weeks old.
The labor and delivery wasn’t promised, simply something we both desperately wanted me to shoot for them. Having just moved to the area I was still trying to find a good babysitter. Lucky for me my husbands work is very forgiving and often lets him go if I have an doctors appointment, sick kid, ect. The baby wasn’t due until the end of February so I was working hard to find the right sitter for my two little ones.
So here it is January 28th and my precious mom to be calls me. Her daughter has decided she isn’t so cool on the idea of being born in the month of Valentines and red hearts and had decided to come today. The moment she said it I felt my chest tighten. No way. Any day but today. I had no sitter yet. No one I trusted to watch my three and five year old. The only one I might call was sick. I called my husband. He was sympathetic but there was no wiggle room. He had to be at work today. Big things going on, trucks that had to roll out to missions. No wiggle room. He was off on Friday, maybe could have managed something tomorrow but not today. Today he had to be there. No choice, no chance.
The mom to very soon be was understanding and not upset. We both knew that it was no ones fault with the exception of a very impatient daughter. “I’ll be there the moment I can.” I promised. The nurses were expecting her to deliver around 1. My hubby’s lunch is from 11:30 to 1. Maybe the baby will come in that time frame… or maybe she’ll hang on until he gets off at 5. Maybe…. You never know with nature. Never know with babies.
I know there is nothing I can do. She knows it too. She has a friend who is a hobbyist photographer. Maybe she can come she says. I hate that. I want someone to be there, but I want it to me. My images, my client, darn. Sigh. I don’t want to see those images shot by another person. Sigh again. Darn. Nothing I can do. Still the slideshow of what I might be capturing rolls into my head.
So I sigh, but I remember the other thing that dear friend of mine told me about that album. You have to accept it. That it happens or it will drive you crazy. So I’ll prep my gear and hope for the best. Hope that little angel waits a few extra hours to be born. And if not I’ll accept that for every amazing image I manage to capture there will be a few that I miss. It happens to every photographer and it’s our payment of sorts. Sometimes the Gods give us wonderful art to capture and sometimes they just let us see it, experience it, or want to. To keep us driven, to keep us reaching and wanting. Because if we caught the dream every time it wouldn’t be much of a journey.