My mother died last Monday. Two days later I went back to work. She wouldn't have been surprised.
As a child I was surrounded by eccentric and creative people. My grandparents were all artists- a photographer, a painter, a pianist and an actor. My uncle is a guitarist, my father a filmmaker, and my mother was a flutist. That's everyone. A small but highly artistic family.
I grew up the only child of divorced and impulsive parents. We moved a lot. Extreme behavior seemed normal to me, and I hated the instability of their Bohemian and irresponsible lifestyles. I envied the stable, suburban upbringing of my friends. I wished my name was John and that my parents were accountants. I went off to college and declared my major- Economics.
That lasted one semester. I never stood a chance. The fear of instability of an artistic life was trumped by the fear of boredom.
With death comes reflection. My mind has been frantically racing against time, storing up memories before they begin to fade. As I think back on my childhood with her, one image dominates my mind- my mother playing scales on her flute.
Every day. For hours. And it would drive her crazy.
Fah, fa, fa, fa, fa, fa...
Fah, fa, fa, fa, fa, fa...
As a child I found her perfectionism infuriating- every "Aggghhh!!" meant I would have to listen to another scale. Now I find it inspiring. Music was her lifeblood. Whenever she was having a difficult time, which was often, she reached for her flute. As she played, her sanity was briefly restored. Now I find myself in crisis, and I have reached for my camera. Photography has helped restore my sanity as well.
I do not intend for this to be a eulogy, and I am wary of revealing such a personal and painful journey. But my mother's death has helped me realize how lucky I am, and I feel compelled to share it. While many people mourn privately and stay away from work as long as possible, I felt an urgency to return. I am living my passion, and I know how rare that is. Photography doesn't just make me happy, it makes me whole.
Today I am running around NYC, photographing Dancers Among Us. I am being filmed by ZDF German Television- they are doing a segment on me to air throughout Europe. On Friday I will be meeting with publishers about a book and calendar collaboration. These events are a culmination of two years of work, and I wish my mother was here to share it with me. I did not mention these new opportunities to her, nor did I acknowledged her role in shaping my passion. The best I can do is acknowledge her now, and continue forging a path that would have made her proud.
Thank you, Mom.