Saying a Thousand Words

The last conversation I had with Helen Hill was a friendly hello at Abeona — we both wanted to say more but were overwhelmed with our kids at the time. I had hoped to send the images from Oak Street Cafe to her over the break and we had talked about getting together for New Years, neither of which happened. So, it may sound silly, but it was very important to me to get the images to her family directly. We dropped them off in a sturdy folder with the flowers and cards at their front door. Soon after, Emmy and Renee (friends and Abeona instructors) visited the memorial. They saw the folder and recognized it; wanting to keep it safe, they gave it directly to a family member and showed the photos I took. They were very well received, and were brought directly inside the house to Helen’s family. Media swarmed. Emmy felt they all were piranha-ish… with the exception of one British man who she felt was very respectful and caring. She gave him my phone number.

… And this is how I met Charlie Varley. When we first spoke, I had no idea who he was and acted very suspicious. Photography is a funny medium. It can easily be exploitative and I am very sensitive to this. I consider it a privilege to photograph people and feel that, particularly where children are involved, a photographer needs to be very careful with their work. So at first, I was very unsure how to handle Charlie Varley, who wanted to send some of my work to several news sources that were preparing memorial articles for Helen. By the end of our conversation, I was assured and agreed to send him some images. Then I googled him and realized who he was… when I sent him the photos, I wrote that I felt like I was sending a crayon sketch I made at age 10 to Picasso.

I was surprised to receive a wonderful email response from him. For one, he encouraged me to protect my work by adding a photo credit to the images and made some suggestions in that regard. Before sending them on, he embedded my credit into the image file for me. Second, he said wonderful and encouraging things about what I had done: “very professional and not at all amateur if you ask me.” He went on to say some personal things about being a parent and covering this story. It was, in every regard, a kind and thoughtful message.

Quickly following on the heels of Charlie’s message, came a phone call and email from Schroeder. Another uplifting and friendly bit of light coming unexpectedly.

Yesterday was my birthday. These little pieces of kindness and thoughtfulness were wonderful presents!