I am not a photographer. I will never be. I can take A picture, yes. It may not be in focus and it many not be good, but it will generally transmit what I am trying to say. It will not inspire meaning, or document a special moment in time or be considered art. It will not hang in a museum, or decorate a hallway or be a centerpiece over a fireplace. I think I am realizing why.
All you photographers out there, my admiration for you increases daily. I don’t think the general public appreciates the mad dedication for your art and craft that you channel. Just this week I was once again Laura’s assistant – a job for which I am ill-suited but eager to fulfill. We made a mad dash to near Richmond for a family session, in temperatures over 100 degrees, where she photographed a family of twelve with a bunch of small children dashing around. We then stopped for barbecue in Mineral, VA – isn’t it ironic that artists can somehow just stumble on the best of food, in the middle of nowhere? After that it was a hard drive around the beltway of our nation’s capital to a small resort wedding on the eastern shore of Maryland, just in time to meet Laura’s parents for dinner. The following morning found Laura sunning herself after breakfast, in perfect relaxation, on a small beach, looking for all the world as if she were on vacation.
Seven hours later, it was go time. Equipment charged, cameras checked, refractor mirrors (or something like that) cleaned. She dove into her work with the intensity of a fighter pilot. I followed the wedding party with gear and water, feeling more than a bit useless. The heat was stifling, but she ignored it like a Buddhist Monk. I was sweating like a whore in church.
We then moved on, throughout the evening, and I knew I was in trouble when she said, “There is NO time to eat! Grab a plate, if you can, and hide it.” The wedding coordinator shoved some silverware at me and yelled, “Are you guys catching the first dance?” I yelled back, “Yes, we have tripods for that!” Ok…grabbing some chicken, or something, mashed potatoes…I follow Laura with a fork, as discretely as I can, trying to feed her. I stick a water bottle in my pocket and grab the monopod to help light the dance floor. She is giving me instructions through nods.
She then comes running, towards the dock and the darkening sky, bride and groom in tow. We switch lenses, me desperately hoping it’s the right one. It is. She sprints towards the docks, with Jupiter over her shoulder, grabs a flash out of her bag and points towards a narrow stretch of dock extending out of the main area. “Take this and light them from behind.” I hope I don’t fall in.
The next order is to “Point the flash at their butts!” I assure the couple that I can’t see, as my night vision is non-existant so I won’t be examining their asses as Laura takes pictures. They laugh. But it’s true.
Back inside, I’m feeling like I’m in a cage match. The dancing is amazing, but keeping up with Laura is like tracking a Ninja across a dry rock. She vanishes, re-appears, vanishes again, then re-emerges with an extra flash for me. I hand her the water and she smiles…then vanishes again. Inexplicably, my flash stops working. Just as the groom is about to throw the garter. Like anyone is going to try to catch it anyway. It’s like a NASCAR pit stop. I pull the plug on the old flash, she sprints to me with the new one, and we are back on before anyone knows.
I stagger back to our room under a load of gear, collapse into bed, and dream that I am a prisoner of war at a Chinese prison camp. Happy dreams. Laura tells me the next day that I was hiding behind the door looking out the window mubling something about Rambo. Nice.
The next morning, we have a wonderful breakfast of chipped beef and biscuits, then I drive 322 miles in four hours, seventeen minutes. That counts stopping for fuel, bathroom breaks, and water. She decides on a wonderful Greek restaurant, orders a twelve inch sub and devours it like it’s candy. I’m speechless. I can barely eat half of mine. She checks her watch, dives back into the car, deposits me with my truck and leaves for yet another wedding…
I’m starting to see a trend. All of you guys are like that. Intense. I admire all of you that practice your craft at that level. I could never do it. But I can write about it!