the better angels of our nature

One of my favorite projects each year as the ordering and shipping frenzy comes to an end is putting together my annual end of the year slideshow; going back through all of my photos from the year, revisiting clients, remembering each shoot and all of the fun I get to have doing my job. Seeing all of these faces in one place, in one presentation, always makes me feel so blessed that I have the opportunity to bring joy to the people I work with.

As I sat down to work on this task yesterday, though, I found that the things I normally grapple with (which image is the best? which song should I use?) were grossly overshadowed by the heart wrenching struggle I am having making sense of the tragedy which occurred in Connecticut last week. I’ve seen the faces of each of the victims on television in a very different kind of slideshow, and like many of the friends I’ve spoken with in the past few days, I can’t begin to wrap my mind around what the parents of those children are going through. Just as those chance glances of someone we love walking up the street, running down the field, or waving from the window of the bus seem so precious, so too are the moments frozen by a camera. Do those images help with healing, or are they painful reminders of a loss? I couldn’t see through my tears to finish, so I closed the files and left my office.

A few hours later, I got an email from a friend here in town. She asked if I would be willing to help her with a quick photo project. One of her high school friends is the mother of one of the first-graders who died at Sandy Hook. Friday morning, before he went to school, this woman’s 6-year-old son wrote “I love you” in the frost that had formed over the windshield of their car. The mother snapped a quick photo of it with her iPhone. It was the last photo she ever took of her child. My friend sent me the digital image and asked if there was anything I could do to improve the quality of the resolution, fix the exposure, etc. It was the most painful edit I have ever done, and yet it was also the most wonderful. Seeing that little boy’s happy grin, knowing that he was, in that moment, everything that his parents ever dreamed he could be — well, it practically brought me to my knees. There is a quote, unattributed, that photographers like to use: “You don’t take a photograph. You ask, quietly, to borrow it.” Today I know what that means.

Thank you, for allowing me to borrow all of you for a little while. My world is larger and richer and more beautiful for your kindness.

(now, turn up your speakers and enjoy!)