The end of 2013 was a bit sobering for me. My world now includes a child in the community with cancer, a newborn baby with unexplained seizures, a friend with preeclampsia, loved ones with ongoing pain and suffering, and elderly animals facing illness and death. For a typically optimistic person like me, this much bad news can leave you wondering if things are really the way you thought.
While I don’t have any answers for why things like this happen in the world, I do know that all of these people are acutely aware of how much they cherish their photographs.
Making portraits is sort of like saving for retirement. You know it’s a good idea, but in the present moment it doesn’t seem all that crucial so it ends up low on the priority list. Retirement? Well, you have food to buy, gifts to give, and bills to pay; you’ll start putting money in your retirement account soon. Portraits? Your life is busy with errands, parties, and maintaining your home; you’ll schedule your portraits later – when your calendar is a little clearer and you’ve carved out money in your budget. It’s not until you have a short-term deadline that you realize the true importance of things like this.
Unfortunately, it often takes an illness or a frightening reminder of your own mortality to kick you into action for portraits. If you’re lucky, it’s a short-term scare, and things soon go back to normal. If you’re not so lucky, a pet or a person you love has taken a turn for the worse, and you are far too aware that their days are numbered.
Suddenly you realize that if you had just invested a few minutes – or hours, or dollars – a while back, you’d be in a much better position than you can ever hope for now. Portraits taken on a normal day would have been reminders of happy times. But now that your situation has changed, your only option is to have them taken during a time of stress and sadness. The shadow of crisis will always loom over your images. This regret is poignant.
I hope the people in my life who are experiencing tough times will follow through with their portraits before it really is too late. I also hope things turn around so that they’ll have another opportunity to create the kind of images that will bring them warmth and smiles down the road.
Not surprisingly, getting a portrait of my family has been on my mind lately. We are all healthy here, and life is generally boring and normal. After the December I just experienced, to me this means that getting a portrait of my family printed and on display is a high-priority task. This weekend will work just fine. Do you have your next portrait planned?