WHY I DO What I Do
It is a scientific fact that no matter how much impact a moment, person or event has on us, sooner or later, every memory grows less vivid. Memories morph and change over time, and some fade away completely. THAT is why photography is, and will always be, important to us. Photography has a permanence that withstands the eroding forces of time. Collectively, our photographs are a visual monument to our lives – the legacy of what we want people to know about us: who we are, who we care about and what matters to us.
I have been a photojournalist all of my professional career. Much as I enjoy the front seat to history my career affords me, I recognized long ago that my legacy as a photographer will be the simple moments of everyday life. That's what moves me, and stays with me. It's why, of all the people, places and events I’ve photographed, the photographic record I’ve created of my family and friends is the most treasured of all my work. In the scrolling gallery below are a few personal favorites from this past year.
I look at these pictures and desperately wish I'd understood then just how much I would one day treasure the photographs of my life. Thankfully, my dad enjoyed making family pictures and persevered thru all our moaning and complaining. I think about that when my kids get tired of being photographed and reflect on how much I treasure the pictures I do have of my youth.
As most families do, we all went in for professional family pictures every few years. They were perfectly fine, but none of them sit on my shelves or hang on my walls. For me, it's the "in the moment" pictures I love. No doubt that's a big reason why I gravitated to photojournalism.
I look at the snapshot my mother made of me coming out of the kitchen cabinets and hear my mom laughing about how it became the first place she'd look for me when I'd go "missing."
Looking at the photo of me with my hand in my pockets, I hear my grandmother giggling as she recalls how I kept reaching into my pocket to feel the new penny she'd just given me. I cherish these pictures as much for what they are as for the memories they bring back of my mother and grandmother who are, very sadly, both gone now.
Years later, I made this portrait of her and I holding what she always called "my favorite picture." She was a warm and wonderful woman.
I have precious few photographs from my life as a teenager. With two teenagers of my own, I now understand what a challenge it is to make pictures of teenagers...which is why I am so grateful when my kids put up with me photographing them these days. I love these pictures of my brothers and I. It was really important to my parents that the four of us had good chemistry between us, even though we were (and are) strong-minded and independent, with different interests and views of the world. That value of having a strong sibling relationship is something I remain very aware of in raising my own kids.
I appreciate the expertise and artistry of carefully posed and lit studio portraits. They can be very beautiful and flattering photographs. What they lack for me, though, is connection to something significant in my life. Two pictures I came across recently really brought this point home. The first is a relatively pedestrian photograph of lower Manhattan and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. I grew up in New York and remember my parents bringing us down to see the construction of what were to be the tallest buildings in the world when they were done. As is true with many New Yorkers, I had an affection for how the towers defined and dominated the southern part of that magnificent skyline. On lunch breaks from one of my first jobs after college, I'd drive down to the end of Essex Street in Jersey City and gaze across the Hudson - enjoying a deli sandwich, listening to WPLR on the radio. This was my view and I never grew tired of it.
This last picture from an afternoon touch football game in 1979 is one of very few pictures I made during my four years at the University of New Hampshire. It is also the only picture I have of one of my best friends from college - the young woman, second from the right, peaking out with her ever-present smile. If you're interested, you can see two more pictures of her above, in the scroll thru gallery (above). She is in pictures #3 and #6, taken 37 years later...still smiling, but now so much more than an old friend from college.
Far as I know, we only get one trip thru this life. I hope yours is rich in memories and surprises and that you have plenty of pictures to remind you of what an incredible gift it all is.
These are the things I believe, the things that matter to me and the reasons I continue in my work as a photographer - the most time-consuming, demanding and fulfilling work I've ever done.