I am often asked, “Rick, what is your favorite, most important photograph?" It’s a good question, one every photographer should ask himself or herself - so I am glad Mark asked me that question and to be a guest blogger.
The answer is an image of my dad, Robert M. Sammon. Here’s the story.
Several years ago, late one December afternoon, my dad and I were sitting in his study. We were having a nice talk – and a nice time. I looked at him and thought: He looks so happy. The light is just right. I should take a picture - because it might be the last good picture I ever take of him. He was fading - physically, but still sharp as a tack.
I thought about taking the picture for about 10 minutes, holding back some tears – thinking about what it would be like not to have him around, after having him around for 88 years - as my dad, and later on in life as the first-pass editor for most of my books. (He was a great editor.)
I finally asked him if I could take a shot. He said sure, with a smile and a nod. He knew what I was thinking. I asked him to look out the window, and I took a single shot.
My dad, 91, died suddenly and peacefully and quickly on April 3, 2010. A few hours before, while I was on the other side of the country, I had a dream about him: He had pushed his walker aside and was standing up straight. I had not dreamed about him for at least 20 years. Hummm....
Sure, I am very sad. I get waves of tears. I will miss him more than he probably ever realized. He was my dad, a very big part of my life – in fact, half the reason for my life. :-)
Those of you who know me know I enjoy quotes. Here is my favorite: "We are a part of everyone we meet." Want proof? My dad, Robert M. Sammon, Sr., was a photographer, getting me started, along with my mother, in photography with his cameras and basement darkroom. But more important, he was a good dad - which I try to be. Everyday. I am very glad we met.
You might want to keep that quote in mind when you meet people. I sure do. You may have more of an impact on someone than you realize.
I often show this image in my motivational slide shows. Here are some comments about the image.
- it's full of symbolic, emotional content
- looking into the distance, contemplating the edge (the end) is near, time (watch), space
- life is behind him, yet he is still connected to this world (watch again)
- going through the daily cycle (circular movement in his arms, leading to his aged face)
- growing older by the day
- drawing ever nearer to the edge of darkness
- still grounded to the earth by the cold metal of the walker
- walker keeps him in the photo and connects him to the photographer, his son, his future
- carry on, carry on my son
- but I am not long for this world
- long have I watched and guided you, but now I am content
- my gaze is directed elsewhere.
Sure, I have been to almost 100 countries and locations around the world, most recently Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. I think I have some pretty good photographs, but none are as important as the portrait I took of my dad.
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For more on Rick Sammon, see www.ricksammon.com.