I spent this past weekend in Florida visiting my wife’s uncle (Uncle Gene) who just turned ninety(!). I brought my camera and yes I took the sunset shots and the palm tree shots and the pool shots and, yes I took the pelican shots (those things are friggin dinosaurs for sure). I took all those. But did I take photographs of Uncle Gene? Yeah, just a few.
I’m sitting there for this guy’s 90th birthday and thinking I don’t know when I’ll see him again and I should be taking lots of photos of him and yet I really couldn’t come to stick the camera in his face and snap away all weekend. I mean, what purpose would that have had? Sure, I’d be recording this moment in my family’s history and his, but I wasn’t there as a documentarian. I could do that because I am a photographer after all and sometimes that is my purpose. But I’m there looking at this guy who just tucked ninety years under his belt as he looks quietly upon his family and I think, what the hell more can I add to his story? If I pick up the camera and start shooting, what are the photos going to tell of this moment? I really couldn’t come up with an answer.
All I knew is that I wanted to sit there and look at him too. It’s like looking at the Grand Canyon, you know? A camera or photo can’t really capture the immensity of it all or the feeling you have standing there (I haven’t actually been there but I can imagine this experience). I mean, this guy’s ninety years old. What the hell is a photo of him now going to tell? How will taking a shot capture the immensity of someone living nearly a century will all those life experiences? And what will putting a camera up to my face do for me in this moment? I really didn’t have any good answers.
I managed a few nice shots but I really was at a loss for photos.