One Camera and A Dream
When looking back…..the smile emerges, the ear to ear grin, along with a sense of wonderment at how what seemed like a simple decision had indeed paved the way of my future, provided me the full expression of my creative ability and enhanced every day I’ve lived on this wonderful earth. Some twenty odd years ago when I was just 29, the world at my feet, it was the calling of the camera that summoned and propelled me into the world of professional photography.
The time I spent agonizing over my future back then panicked me at times, for deciding one’s place in the world is fraught with uncertainty. The long way much describes how I had gotten to be where I was, standing on the edge of life’s door waiting for a clear sign, something to let me know what I should do with my life. Until that point, and taking more years than it should, I’d finished college, gotten married, had two daughters and was working several part time jobs to do my part in getting us by. Our little family was glorious and life felt golden, all but the job part. Still pondering day after day how to raise my family, contribute an income, and fulfill my own needs in a work-life. A career is what I longed for, to do something that made me feel worthwhile. From the time I was a young girl I figured I’d be a writer and had gotten my degree in Journalism, however by the time I graduated I was far more involved with the camera than with pen and paper. Surely I still loved words and writing, but the camera, my camera had become an extension of me and one particular fall day it brought the answer I sought.
As my husband Jake and I rolled along the country roads near home, our two little daughters in tow, my mind weighed heavy with that big burning question, what shall I do with my life? Suddenly with all the pondering, the wondering, imagining, the dreaming, something finally “clicked”! “I’ll be a photographer I shouted to Jake as our blue Astro van carried us along past the golden autumn colored trees aside Lake Nockamixon. I’ll start my own business, a photography business! This way I can spend most of my time with the girls working from home, make my own hours, and be involved with something I absolutely love, photography!”
That was the moment it all came clear. Funny thing is I wound up naming my business The Moment Photography. A defining moment in my life, it also signified the camera capturing an instant in life, a moment. Beyond that , the name truly derived from a painting by Gregory Perillo of the same name, The Moment. In the painting a Native American man rests in his teepee, his woman delicately in his lap, both have their eyes closed yet on their faces, their expressions show the most beautiful content-ness. The peace, harmony, and love they feel together shines through in that one gentle moment. There it was if I could make images like that rendering the beauty of life in just one particular moment in time, well that would be a dream come true. Though those days are long gone vividly I recall my thoughts and feelings of that time. I knew then, I still know, that was surely one of the greatest decisions I’d ever made.
For in doing so, in deciding to take up with my camera and document the wonder of life, so many doors opened offering glimpses into the lives of others, the happy times, the celebrations, the milestones of human life and achievement. All this empowered and offered me discovery of so much I never knew, visiting places I’d never seen, and greatest of all I’ve witnessed life stories and tales of accomplishment, of love and sometimes just the ordinary. Each job presents new opportunity to peer into circumstances in the hearts of others, to be present and capture bits of humanity so that on another day someone else can relive the magic. In this way good fortune found me as I have not only made a living, but photography has helped me make a life!
The beginning was quite simple, one camera and a dream. Together with my family and a few thousand dollars I’d saved in wrapped coins and dollar bills we trekked to New York City to purchase a medium format camera. On the counter of the camera shop I emptied the weighty bag of my savings and in return I was given a brand new Hasselblad camera. I couldn’t afford a case or any accessories but that mattered not. Time would help me gather what I needed in the meantime I had the most important tool of the day in my hands and off I would go into the business of making pictures!
Though nothing of true value can ever come to pass with ease, rather many obstacles must be overcome and we do what we can with what we have. Shortly after making the decision to begin The Moment Photography I became pregnant again. The news of the pregnancy thrilled me, but this would prove my new foray into photography more challenging, still determined I’d forge ahead. Slow but sure the business grew and I looked to other longer established photographers for inspiration. As a member of the Delaware Valley Guild of Professional Photographers I met and learned from many. I recall being in the studio of a woman photographer with a great following among her clients and peers. I marveled at the volume of work that lay about her studio and thought to myself I hope I can be as busy as she is one day. Time passed into years and business blossomed more and more, suddenly one day I looked around my own studio at the files and orders, the piles of work and thought to myself how remarkable another wish has come true. Realizations such as this that propel me along offering me hope and belief in the hardest of times knowing that if you want something enough and you are willing to work very hard and give it all you’ve got, you’ll make it.
The people that come in front of my lens though offer me the most personal growth and satisfaction. Partly because my mother was a breast cancer survivor along with the desire to bring attention to a local Relay For Life Event, I began photographing cancer survivors. I figured my involvement could help further the cause and would be a good way to give back to community. As luck would have it, I became one of the greatest beneficiaries of the project. From our town came children and teenagers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, bankers, grocery store clerks, artists and salespersons, all ages, all walks, it was astounding. I never realized that quietly at once all around us are people coping with cancer, fighting brave battles for their lives. Some don’t make it, others do and when you see the value of life in eyes of a survivor, it’s clear. Life is simply the most important thing. The photographs we made together in our town during that year did increase awareness of the importance in working together to find a cure. Simultaneously emerged the importance of embracing the value of life and all those we hold dear, special moments indeed.
Now this one goes back to the very beginning and I was photographing one of my first weddings in South Philadelphia in a jam packed house full of family all happy and loud. I was upstairs in the mom’s bedroom where the bride was to be getting ready. Momentarily the bride stepped out, so I sat on the bed waiting and in walked the mother of the bride. She proceeded to completely undress and was standing in only her undergarments in front of me searching her closet for another ensemble. Meanwhile I’m on the bed feeling very odd and not knowing what to do and in that most weird and funny scenario I began to burst into laughter in this stranger’s bedroom in South Philly with a nearly naked woman I did not know at all. I don’t even think she heard me as the house was electric with the voices of the relatives. There seems to be an acceptance of the photographer not only documenting but witnessing the business of life, undergarments and all!
Rewards are many in this line of work, a two way street, give and receive. Undoubtedly my heart has been touched in times too many to count but one of my greatest joys is affecting others and being able to create imagery for them that allows them to savor life’s sweetest moments. Recently I began noticing that in the homes of so many of my friends are photographs that I was fortunate to capture and that offer them warmth to the heart. Last summer we traveled to Rhode Island to see dear old friends that we have known for 26 years. Many moons back I had taken an image of the couple and their daughter on a backyard swing and was beyond delighted and flattered to see that it was still prominently displayed in their home all these years later. How cool is that!
A camera and what it makes possible is really an incredible thing. A momentary flash of light on faces as they experience happiness and then an image on paper that lasts just about forever. It can call to mind the tenderest feelings and make a swelling in the heart, bring a smile, a laugh, a bit of melancholy. Never will I take for granted this ability I have to work with an instrument that is capable of such power. Grateful I am for the clarity so long ago and my decisiveness to enter into a field with just one camera and a dream and to have had the opportunities to make the dream come true.
A photograph so you will always remember, a photograph so you will never forget.
By Terree Yeagle