Just before Christmas, my dear friend Sandra had me out for her annual holiday card family photo. Now, I’m never a fan of Christmas after Christmas, but I waited to share this story as a poignant example of photographer as memory maker, not just picture taker.
I arrived at Sandra’s with a small window of time to make this photo work- partly due to my schedule during the holidays but also because of the awful weather. When I arrived, Sandra was clearly stressed, as is common for moms trying to put together a family photo. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, right? So I’m giving marching orders to get the entire family out to the spot, in a more ‘aggressive” manner than usual.
The horses were the first to come out of their paddocks, leaping and carrying on, obviously feeling very fresh & egged on by a barking Dunlop who’s decided he wants to play them. Mom’s worried someone is going to get hurt and I’m just praying that the rain holds off while we wait for the boys to come out and join us.
We wait, I call them, I remind them of impending rain. Aggressively.
At this point, no one has smiles and given the behavior of the two horses, we decide that throwing Devyn’s chicken into the mix is probably not going to be a good idea. Now I’ve got a disappointed boy who sad his chicken isn’t going to be part of the family picture, two fresh horses and a worried mom.
But the Smiths are a family who get ‘er done. Everyone showed up, I lined them up, the rain didn’t start, Charlie and Dunlop (the dogs) stayed still, the horses framed the shot perfectly and Sandra, Troy, Maddy and Devyn all smiled ear to ear at my request. Despite all the adversity, the shot was nailed.
A couple of days later, Charlie, the family mastiff cross became very ill and The Smith’s had to make a very difficult decision, right before Christmas, to put him to rest. All the stress before the photo has become completely irrelevant for all of us.
This Christmas card photo is now enlarged and hung on the wall with the other family photos, a lasting family memory with Charlie.