Meeting someone that makes you love your job more
As a full time photographer I get to meet people on a daily basis. Truly, it's the best thing about my job. It's not about coming up with some cool shot in my head and executing it with the camera. It's about having the opportunity to meet new people, be able to spend a little time with them and having the privilege to photograph them. See, for me it's not about who's behind the camera or what camera or gear you use...it's about who or what is in front of the lens. Case in point: Mr. Charlie Wheeler.
I was called by a new client to go photograph Mr Wheeler. Charlie is a Kansas City original! He's a doctor, a lawyer, was a Missouri State Senator, a WWII and Korean War Veteran and former Kansas City Mayor. Wow, what a life! Charlie was to be part of story of lawyers and their retirement. Apparently, Mr. Wheeler had taken a reverse mortgage on his home and did the unthinkable, he outlived the reverse mortgage, had some back tax issues, and now he was losing his home. I ended up getting in contact with Charlie and was told that I needed to call his lawyer and get all this "scheduling stuff done". Understandable, considering his circumstances I was happy he picked up the phone to talk to me. I called his lawyer, a very nice man and told him the ideas for shoot that the magazine client had relayed to me. THE shot was hopefully going to be Charlie standing in front of the soon to be foreclosed house with a distant stare away from the camera....you know that shot that kinda pulls at your heart strings. His lawyer thought it was a great idea but time was short for Charlie, for he was still in the house but not sure how much longer.
As I called Charlie multiple times it seems his voicemail box was full and he was harder to reach this time. For a few days I tried to no avail and then I turned on the weekend 10:00 pm news to find a story about former Mayor Wheeler and an auction that was just held on his behalf. The auction sold off many of his personal items over the years to help with his "situation." As I watched the quick news story, and pulling my hair out, I was thinking there was the shot. Damn it, I missed the shot. The next day I got Charlie on the phone. Seems he had been a bit busy the last few days but he would be happy to meet me on Monday, do a portrait at his new house then I could follow him to his local coffee shop where he had a standing daily 10:00 am coffee with retired friends/business friends. I made the appointment but kept thinking, DAMN IT...I missed the shot!
I met Charlie at his house early at 9:00 am. It was a very small and modest house and decided after looking at it and looking where the sun was located I would simply put Charlie in front of his new digs. After the quick shoot I would then meet him at the coffee shop, grab some photos with him and his friends. The small house he had just moved into and Charlie standing outside was ALL I needed. Forget the sad "foreclosure" sign business. This is a man that has seen it all, done it all and is still standing at almost 90 years young! I grabbed the shot outside, met him downtown, with two of his friends at the coffee shop, got what I needed and left to get my next assignment. As I spent time at the coffee shop talking with the guys all I wanted to do was put down my camera, drink my coffee and spend the morning with them. Man, I didn't want to leave! Maybe someday I'll pull up a chair, without my camera in hand, and just listen to their stories.
Meeting someone like Charlie makes me love being a photographer even more than I already do!!