My wife asks a lot of questions. At times I catch her reaching for another question as I’m still digging for the answer to her last one. The consistency of such is in competition with talking to me from the other room and forgetting to turn the volume back on the TV after she mutes it in order for me to answer the last, current or next question.
And thought it might sound clique or even corny to some. I find that the little things are what make me happiest. I have a room of records, CD’s, DVD’s and collectibles that seem to grow on a daily basis. Computers, a 32′ inch flat screen, nice furniture and a new car. Yet, none of these things make me as happy as spending time with my wife, the way she holds my hand and thanks me for the most mundane things.
When I look back at our trip to the zoo and the child like excitement that seeing goats,monkeys, wallabies and assorted wildlife brought me, i’m reminded of just that. Sure, I probably would have enjoyed going there on my own, but having her there by my side to share my childlike goofiness and excitement made it so much better. So when she turns to me and asks “What makes you happy?” I’ll just have to aggravate her by responding with “you.”
Last week I attended my first event at B&H photo. I had stopped their a few days prior to purchase the Gary Fong Light Sphere II Cloud and a monopod. My bad of goodies included a calender of events ….. “Portraits with Conceptual and Emotional Significance” was right up my alley. As I sat there listening to Tom (the guest speaker) I felt both inspired and connected on a personal level. What I fully expected to be a short talk followed by a massive sales pitch turned out to be reenforcement of everything I believe in. Here was this guy who was an award winning photographer. Had traveled the world and shot for the Associated Press who I had shared so many of the same experiences with. All these accolades and awards yet he wasn’t there to speak about shutter speeds, apertures, or the latest product that will make you the greatest portrait photographer in the world. Here was a guy talking about relationships and building trust. Something I strive on. I’ve worked hard on learning lighting, proper exposure and getting the most out of the tools I work with. But I’ve worked a lot harder on building relationships and trust with the people I work with. How can I possibly get a telling image of someone if they don’t trust me? It’s not possible and I’ve experienced it first hand.
A few days later I worked with someone I met a little over a year ago. In a short time we built a trust and a friendship that has allowed me to take my photography to another level. I guess it goes both ways because I notice how at ease I am when I’m photographing her. She also has this uncanny ability to sometimes know what I’m going to ask her to do before I do it. I mentioned it to her and she just answered “It’s because I trust you.” To sum it all up. I learned a lot from that event. I learned that you can’t succeed without trust and a good working relationship with your clients. I learned that making mistakes is all part of the learning experience and making them does not doom you to failure. I also learned that you can never give up. I was also reminded why I love what i do.
I’m no psychologist or relationship counselor but if I’ve learned one thing from my parents, step parents, girlfriends, etc. over the years it’s this. If you want to stay sane in a relationship ….. leave the car at home. When I was a teenager my Father and Step Mother would take trips to places like Lake George and Action Park. These trips were a good three to five hours from us. It was always fun having a back seat view of the chaos that would unfold during these trips. Me and my Step Brother Mike in the back tuned into completely different music on our walkmans . My Dad Jim at the wheel and my Step Mom Barbara at his side. As our trip would progress (or regress depending on how you looked at it.) into total insanity. Now my Step Mom was wound a bit tight or to put it lightly “fucking nuts”. “Do you know where your going?”, “Jim, you;re going to fast.”. “Jim, this is the wrong way.”, “Jim, your lost.” All the while my Father was going exactly where he was supposed to. Dads voice would remain soft and steady throughout. Assuring her that all was well. Incredible considering how insanely paranoid and unsettling she was. However my Fathers short fuse was always put the test and without fail there would come a point where he would pull the car over or even come to a screeching halt and in his stern, intimidating voice say “Barbara, do you want to driver?” to which she would wimper “no” which would be followed by a thundering ovation of “Then shut the fuck up!!!!” It was a classic line we heard over and over. Mike and I would be huddled in the back seat holding our bellies to keep us from exploding in laughter. It was like a cross between the classic TV show “The Honeymooners” and the movie “Goodfellas”.
Years later this tradition has been passed on to me. This weekend was just another example. Whenever we take the car out , whether it be to the grocery store, down the shore or a long drive down the East Coast it’s the same thing. “You’re making me nervous.”, “You’re driving too fast.”, “Oh my God, look out for that STOP sign.” Even obvious things like driving to the same places we’ve been to countless times. “Go right”, “Right there”, “You’re going to miss it.” It’s one of the most unnerving things about our relationship. Most of the time I tune it out but lately it’s just been ridiculous. On this particular trip to Asbury Park she awakened the demon. I was hungry, surly and a little peeved about our late start. We were waiting in traffic to get to the toll when she started freaking out about getting the change ready. All the while there are twenty cars in front of us. All of which are at a complete stop. I just lost it and I said those magical words. The silence was deafening but the rest of the trip was pure bliss. She definitely got the message and all was forgiven by the time we stopped for biscuits and gravy. We enjoyed a beautiful day at the beach and made it home safe despite my driving. So take my advice. Leave the car at home. If you do however decide to put the keys in the engine just shut up and let them drive. Close your eyes and take a nap if you have to.