Why I am a photographer: Part I


When I was just four years old, about a month after my birthday, my family and I went on a trip camping together with another family. Our family's setup was a gray Ford pick up with a topper on it pulling a pop-up camper with our fishing boat upside down on top of the camper and the outboard motor in the back of the truck. My parents would put down a piece of blue carpet remnant in the back of the truck where I would ride along with some of my siblings, the boat motor and the rest of our camping supplies. The topper and the truck had sliding windows that matched up so I could crawl through the windows to get into the front of the truck if I needed to and I could get into the back of the truck and sprawl out when I needed to. This was before the time of mandatory child seats.

Our friend's setup was a pick up with a camper that went in the back of the pickup and they pulled their boat on a trailer behind the pick up. All of us kids wanted to ride in the back of their pick up because it was a camper with the table that you could sit at and play games and have fun, plus it was just "cooler" and I wanted to be one of the bigger kids.

Until this trip I was deemed too young to ride with the other family, but my persistent begging paid off when my parents finally allowed me to ride in their camper with all of the other kids instead of in the back of our truck. At the next rest stop we used the restroom and had a snack then my parents allowed me to get into their camper with the other kids. Not much further down the road, perhaps 30 minutes, my parents were T-boned by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel. His car collided into our truck directly on the passenger door where my mother Betty was sitting. My mother died shortly after from brain hemorrhages.

I lost my mother at 4 years old. So did my 3 sisters and brother. My father lost his wife.

I've seen maybe 15-20 images of my mother (she was the one usually taking the pictures and shooting 8mm 3 minute silent film). I have these two professional portraits of my mother and some of my siblings have a few others as well. But, as far as I know, I have two images of her and I together. Two.

When you lose your mother so young, you hear many many stories of how she was, what she did, what she was like, etc. You hear so many stories that they begin to blur together with your real memories so that sometimes it's difficult to know which is which, memory or story you've been told. 

I miss my mother every single day.  I named my last daughter after her: Betty. I wish I had just one good photograph of her and I together, just one.

It is impossible to sum up all of the reasons that we choose the vocation with which we attempt to make a contribution in life and I hope that this post isn't perceived as being pretentious enough for you, the reader, to think that it is attempting to be all encompassing, but simple one factor of many.  I do think that the value I place on a photograph or video is greatly impacted by the very very few that I have of and with my mother.

As an aside, to all of the mothers and fathers out there. Don't wait and be truly humble.  Many people get photographs made of their kids for themselves, but never of themselves and with their kids for their kids.  To do so feels too vain or pompous, "who would want a photograph of me?", but true humility is not thinking your worth nothing. True humility is recognizing the truth of who you are: somebody really really values you and would love a photograph of you, or even more, a photograph with you.