Driving home from a long day trip to Cleveland when I saw this storm hovering over the field streaming by my window. The sun was setting and lighting up the field and trees, making for some wonderful light and contrasts.
Back in December, I met a young woman at the wedding of some friends. A month later, I received a cryptic text message – Are you interested in a new project? Never one to turn down something interesting, I said: “Sure, what do you have in mind?”
I soon learned that her long term relationship had ended and that she wanted me to photograph her while she cried. She saw the project as a cathartic opportunity to get the pain out of her system. My first thought was – What a terribly emotional and painful thing to do. My second thought was – What an amazing opportunity to shoot some very powerful images.
We discussed our vision of how the results would look. Dark. Black and White. Stark contrasts. We decided that the location would be her home. I brought a single light and stand as well as a backdrop. She provided a small chair. I thought the simplicity would focus the viewer on her expressions, making their experience profoundly emotional.
She had a fear that when we started shooting, she would not be able to cry. However, she had a stack of old post cards and love notes that quickly stirred up the pain inside of her. Crying was not a problem at all.
As a photographer, I was focused on shooting. As a human being, I was very cognizant that just in front of me was a woman in pain. I kept reminding myself that I was there to shoot and not comfort her. She wanted to get those emotions out of her. In the end, when she was emotionally spent and we were finished with the shoot, I did give her a hug.
That’s it. That’s how I shot the most gut wrenching shoot of my career. I am glad that I did it. I am honored that she asked me to be her photographer.
Would I do it again? Yes, I would. Becoming better at what you do often means leaving your comfort zone. It means taking risks and learning from the experience. This was one of those opportunities. I would do it again in a heart beat.
Late summer farm lunches make up some of my favorite memories. Baked beans, fresh greens and vegetables, water melon, pork, and sometimes cake, pie or cookies. The farmer and the hands come in from the fields and the barns to wash up. They’re tired and hungry, but intent on getting to the table.
Chairs and benches scrape the floor and bowls are passed clockwise around the table. At first, there isn’t much talking as they begin to shovel in everything they can get their hands on. But, eventually they slow down and begin to talk. Mostly they tell stories that inevitably lead to laughter and then more stories intended to top the last one. I’m sure there is some truth in each story, but I’m never sure how much to believe. That’s ok. I like the laughter and the good hearted ribbing. The tall tales are the means to a light hearted end.
You’d like these people and you’d enjoy being there. You’d be honored to sit with them and eat their food. Not many people receive an invitation.
Just leave me bit of that cobbler. Yeah, the blackberry. Is that cream? I’ll take some of that too. No thank you, I’ll get my own tea from the pitcher. Would you like me to top you off?
My mother likes to refer to some folks as good people. Sometimes they are friends and family, other times they are mere acquaintances. The way she says it, you are left with the thought that if these are good people, then there must be bad people as well.
When I think of good people in my mother’s sense, I think of honest, friendly, and hard working folks. The salt of the earth types. You can count on them to do the right thing and to honor their word.
And so it is with John Dunn. He is good people.
The world is out there for you to discover on your own. There are wolves, yes, but there are also pastures full of spring grass and the chance that you will find a flock of your own.
It is your life and I can’t walk beside you. Think of what you’ve learned. Be careful, but do not forget to live. Be strong and be kind. Don’t be afraid to lose your heart.
I will come when you need me. When you need a place to lick your wounds and rest, you are welcome home. But it is time and you must go.
Please go now, before I lose my courage.