Thursday, September 1, 2011

Goodbye to a Friend- The Blog I Wish I Had Written Earlier

Two weeks ago, Geoff Legg, my friend and assistant, died tragically young. His behind-the-scenes photography has been featured in many of my blogs, most notably in a Valentine's Day Chinatown blog. I had always intended to write about him and his path to NYC. He loved the idea of being the subject of my blog and had anticipated it with great enthusiasm, but other priorities distracted me from writing it. So I now write this blog not for Geoff, but for his family and friends. They know they've lost a gentle and caring man, but they may not know that we've all lost a passionate and talented artist.

Geoff gave me the title for a blog about him-

From the High Country to the High Line

In Colorado, Geoff was kind of famous. He was known as a progressive thinker, and he dedicated his life to making the world a better place. He started the first "green" painting company in the world after studying for a year at the oldest renewable energy school in the country. He could build a wind turbine out of junk-yard parts. He dedicated himself to volunteering for non-profits, and he ran some of the biggest arts/crafts/music festivals in Western Colorado. He bought an old schoolhouse so he could start his own arts/music/organic farming school. On top of all of that, Geoff was an avid landscape photographer.

Geoff believed in positive change. When he moved to NYC and found it difficult to find like-minded people, he called me out of the blue and expressed an interest in my work. I invited him to join me on a Dancers Among Us shoot, and he photographed the process beautifully. The first blog featuring his photos, "Getting Kicked Out of the Plaza", went viral, which I don't believe is a coincidence. We hit it off immediately.

He joined me on many shoots after that, and he found great enjoyment documenting the process. I called him a "behind-the-scenes documentarian." The next time I saw him, he handed me a business card with that title under his name.

Geoff loved the creative artists we were photographing together. He was exposed to people who thrilled and inspired him, and he seemed to be having a blast. He saved a very special place in his heart for dancer AdeChike. Geoff had seen Ade compete on "So You Think You Can Dance?", and he was a bit star-struck at the opportunity to work with him.

Eventually I started putting Geoff in front of the camera as well. He appears in the background of several Dancers Among Us photos. The final time we worked together, I asked him to take a face full of iced coffee thrown by dancer Allison Jones. It was a spontaneous request, and he wholeheartedly agreed without hesitation. Ten minutes after we got this shot, Geoff gave me a coffee-soaked bear hug and walked through the subway doors. I never saw him again.

I always found comfort in his presence. His passion for photography mirrored my own. Though his love was landscape and art photography, he had an uncanny ability to capture candid moments as well. Without any time to prepare, he was able to record my shock as I asked Ade, "So, can you jump?" This is my favorite photograph of me working, and he knew it.

Even a very static process like shooting headshots looked interesting when seen through Geoff's lens.

Having lost my mother earlier this year, and now my friend, I'm struck by the sudden finality of death. Shared experiences I had casually anticipated will never be realized. Relationships are left frozen in time, with no opportunity for a deeper connection. I am more saddened by the loss of future possibilities than I am by memories of the past.

As I look again at his photography, I am reminded of Geoff's great potential. These are a few of his favorite photographs. Each of them could easily be sold in a gallery, and the world could celebrate an artist whose images mirrored the man himself- thoughtful, unpretentious and beautiful.

I'd like to end with a stunning self-portrait taken by Geoff in Colorado.

Goodbye, Geoff. I miss you already.

To see more of Geoff's work, you can visit his website,