Over my 40 years I have learnt much about friendship and typically along the way I have experienced times of stormy seas and there has been the odd casualty. Thankfully I have emerged into calm waters and have fantastic relationships that span decades and the different life stages.
Why is this relevant? All friendships need a healthy balance of give and take – not necessarily at the same time – but over time. As we all develop along our individual paths, how and what we can give varies including physical time, emotional support, financial backing etc. Photographers have something very special that they can offer – the gift of memories that can (and will) be passed from generation to generation.
I have realised the importance of having a camera and a couple of lenses to hand when I spend time with my friends. They would never ask me to take pictures because they are very respectful of the fact that photography is both a passion and my day job. They all know how hard I work and how precious my social/down time is. They also own their own cameras (phones) and document their lives far more prolifically than our parents ever did.
Interestingly the tidal wave of imagery that greets them via social media every morning has not made my role of photographer redundant. If anything it has made them even more aware of what a professional photograph looks like in comparison. It makes perfect sense of course, because image makers are skilled in light and composition but also in the art of the decisive moment. As a people photographer I am particularly sensitive to how we choose to communicate affection and love. Portrait photographers learn to watch and anticipate human interaction and how love is expressed between couples, friends and families.
“That melts my heart” was the response that I received from one of my friends within 2 minutes of sending him one of these images I had taken of him and his son. He was 5 hours behind my schedule in New York and the image (sent via Whats App) had cut through his day of trading and stopped him in his tracks. I will never tire of the ability of an image to trigger emotion – to make the intangible… tangible.
Whilst I was in New York I also took photos of his wife (and my dearest friend) and their newborn daughter. She was still in that intoxicated first flush of ‘mummy’ love that is nature’s way of making the broken nights and exhaustion bearable. I watched the way she communicated the strength of these feeling and felt the need to try and capture just a sense of it in an image. I only have the odd snap of me with each of my babies but when I see the pictures the feelings come flooding back. That is the gift of photography and one we should share generously with those that we love.
I also took some photos of my gorgeous godson who, at 2, has entirely no interest in my camera or standing still for even a second. He was in his own world, exploring the magic of their home on Shelter Island, so I just followed him and waited patiently for the odd moment when he hit some interesting light.
Of course some of you reading this choose to take pictures of almost anything except people – landscapes, cars, birds etc. We all have our specialities – the thing that makes us strive to be creatively better, get up earlier and wait longer – just in case. I think what I am suggesting is that you put yourself out there for someone you care about. That you offer up your time, energy and skill to create some memories that will outlive us all. They don’t have to be ‘perfect’ technically. Far from it – they just need to be able to reach out and touch someone connected to the people in the pictures.
I once shot the wedding of a couple who both worked in medicine (Oncology and Paediatrics) and found myself commenting on how their vocations had so much more value than mine. They turned around without hesitation and said; “don’t underestimate what you do, you make people happy”.
So make sure that includes your ‘people’.