One of the single best things you can do as the resident photographer of your house is give back the gift of your skills to your family. Be the domestic documentarian.
This is what we can do, as shooters. It is a small thing to give back, considering the preponderance of annoying stuff that goes along with just having a photog in the family. We’re pains in the neck, right? Not to mention absolute hell on relationships. If you’re a wedding shooter, bye-bye weekends. Sports shooter? Ditto. And, if you’re a serious, serious sports shooter, say of football, so long Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, potentially. If you explore the rock and roll scene, you stumble home at 3 am, sporting bloodshot eyes, with perhaps the whiff of reefer smoke picked up from the party hard crowd, only to slump in front of the computer and move your pictures. And if you ever make it to shooting for the National Geographic, by certain estimations you have made it to the mountaintop of photography. And, what you may find, is that hard to attain peak can also be a graveyard for relationships . If you are a traveling sort of location photog, you miss lots of birthdays, first steps, and soccer games.
Photography is an endeavor that tries the patience of even the most forgiving spouse. We run when others stroll leisurely. We work while others party. We don’t buy advance tickets to grand shows or events for fear we might be on assignment and thus OOT. (Out of town.) When we call a potential subject, our first question is often, “What’s your schedule like?” To hell with our schedule. Our convenience, the mandates of our life, aren’t even on the table for consideration.
Thus, one of the very cool things any photog can do to tip the scales back even slightly in our favor is to be there to document the family’s life and times, such as your mother-in-law’s surprise 80th birthday party.
Mrs. Cahill has been a wonderful, loving, mom to me. Nothing I wouldn’t do for the lady. She accepted me as Annie’s choice all those years ago, and that is an amazing gift, indeed. So it was a hoot planning a surprise party for her, and helping Annie and her sisters, Nancy and Teresa, orchestrate all the energy, subterfuge, and back alley arranging this required. We even had Pietro and his staff, at Terra Sole, our favorite restaurant, ever, in on the deal.
It was fun to do, despite the fact that I had to lie through my teeth to her. After all was said and done, I told Annie we both have to go to confession, big time. At one point, I was arranging things with mom, on the phone, and Annie was scribbling post-its and popping them in front of me. “Say this!” “Don’t say that!” “Say you are making a lunch party for me and she has to come!” I was lucky I didn’t end up that conversation with post-its all over my face. All the shenanigans worked!
Mom was completely floored, and Annie and I did our best to document the shock and then the flood of good wishes. Her friends were there, some from as far back as nursing school. She hadn’t seen some of them in as much as thirty years! Some of the ladies were in their upper 80’s. And, trust me, these gals knew a good party when they saw one. The room was buzzing.
Me? I was afraid mom was gonna be mad at me, so I stuck my face behind the camera and kept flashing, and looking busy. Didn’t really pose hardly any pix. Just shot and moved. Tried party pix with the #D810, and a bit of fill flash, and a 24-70. No light shapers, BTW. Straight up bounce through the diffuser dome. Manual on camera, TTL on flash. Worked out well. It was good to not have to think about it much, as I was so nervous mom was gonna read me the riot act.
(I woulda just blamed Annie and her sisters, for sure. Annie, Teresa and Nancy all worked hard to get this together. Which actually was another good example of how important pictures are to family life. Obviously the pix of mom Cahill’s early life and times were not made on pixels. Annie and Teresa culled the pictures, got scans done, and then Nancy, the resident artist of the family, started collaging like crazy.)
Now, we’ll make a nice album, which will be a simple keepsake for all concerned. And a remembrance, a sort of forgiveness, if you will, the next time I step forward and say, sorry, can’t be home this weekend. Charlotte, the newest addition to the family, below in mom’s arms, will have pictures of her self and her great grandmother. Which is very cool.
Happy birthday, mom!