Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Saying goodbye, and other unpleasant events
For multiple reasons that I won't go into here, I had to make the decision to put her down today. Suffice to say that selfishness is a dangerous trait. It was likely the hardest decision I've ever made. My two older kids (11 and 9) accompanied me to the clinic to say goodbye, and this was the worst day of their young lives to date. They will no doubt grow up a lot this week.
Our tendency as parents / photographers is to record the pleasant memories in life. Everybody likes to look back fondly on the past. That's hardly an honest representation of our experience, though. My wife is a big scrap booker, and we prefer to capture every aspect of our lives -- many of them happy, some of them mundane, and some of them even unpleasant. It's the memories of these emotional times that stir your soul, remind you that you're alive, and inspire you to act a certain way going forward. One need only look through the Pulitzer Prize winning photographs to witness this first hand.
To that end, I've tried to use my camera to capture not only the birthday parties and evenings at the park, but also skinned knees, hospital stays, and funerals. Sometimes it feels awkward at the time, but looking back years later, even the crying subjects are always thankful to have those memories. Just make sure your first priority is to those in need, not to making photographs.
National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore promotes this same mentality in his book, Photographing your Family: And All the Kids and Friends and Animals Who Wander Through Too. It's a great book for any family photographer, BTW. Sartore also happens to live just a couple miles from me.
Today, my camera turned toward a grieving family as they said goodbye to a faithful pet. Last week, it found a toddler in the hospital. Soon it will record a funeral celebration for the end of a life well lived. Try it sometime. Your family will probably thank you.
"Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."
As always, I'd love to hear any comments you'd like to share below.