A Beautiful portrait of a Wonderful Human Being.
If you have 15 minutes to spare – spend it listening to and looking at this 2005 speech to a graduation class in Stanford University.
You’ll notice that as he talks, he un-selfconsciously touches his hand to his chin quite often – which makes this portrait of him even more compelling to me. It’s so simple and yet, quite clearly so true to the man.
Goodbye, Mr Jobs. I never knew you and yet, in some way, I knew you very well.
We had a small celebration for the Junior cert results this week. People thought we needed our heads examined – 20+ excited 16 year olds = disaster.
Well no, it wasn’t a disaster. What it was was exactly what we hoped it would be – a party of kids having a good time. Noisy? Yes. Messy? A little. Disaster? Definitely not.
I think 16 year olds get a bit of bad press. Maybe all our teens get bad press. They’re actually all quite sweet. From now on it’s definitely the benefit of the doubt in this house.
The easy answer to that question is yes. The actual answer is yes – people do take pictures and this story is a classic example of how ‘taking’ pictures is not enough sometimes.
We have a company called the Old Photo Hospital and we literally provide intensive care for all kinds of photographs. Mostly you’d think our work involves really old photographs or really damaged prints and usually it does. But this week, we have worked on a ‘salvage’ operation that need never have happened from an event that took place very recently.
Imagine a couples’ 50th Anniversary party. It’s a very special event. We won’t all get to celebrate such a day, because, such is life. The lady in the relationship came in to me to help her create something she really, really wanted but no-one organised for her – a photograph with all of their grandchildren at their party. You’d imagine that would be easy to do. Even if a professional portrait couldn’t be arranged surely, with all these cameras everyone has, someone would take that picture for her? But nobody did. She arrived in to me with an assemblage of files, prints and discs from which we have gleaned an image of almost every child and created a montage around a photograph of the couple and even that image was cropped from another shot – not even one picture of the couple together on their own was taken. Most of the photographs were taken on cameras at such low quality settings that the images won’t print well, . Some were taken on phones and these are truly underwhelming. I offered to photograph the couple and the children here – but it really mattered to this lady that the photographs had all been taken on this one day.
It would have been so easy to give this lady the only thing she really wanted for her anniversary, for probably quite a lot less than the price of all the other gifts she got but didn’t really need or want. Now money couldn’t buy the gift because the time has passed.
It’s one of those simple things – that popular belief that there will be loads of photographs of every aspect of every event in our lives. For one lady this week, that has not turned out to be the case.
Last week I observed an interesting situation during a portrait session with an extended family. Grandparents, their children and partners and four busy grandchildren.
Right from the off, some of the children didn’t want to be in the photographs. This can be a bit stressful for the family, especially when so much time has been invested in arranging the session and several family members live overseas. The stakes seemed high.
Amid the rising noise levels and protests by three of the four children – a bag of treats appeared. “If I give you a treat will you be in one picture…who’s going to get the first treat?” I heard the familiar words. The noise and cries got louder. It wasn’t looking good for the portrait!
“Can I be in charge of the treats?” I asked. The unopened bag was passed to me. The fever pitched noise continued in earnest. “Ok, now I know who’s going to get the first treat…” and I gestured to the one child who was doing exactly as they were asked and was being ignored by everybody – everybody except me. “Alex gets the first treat and if anyone else wants a treat – mommies and daddies included – they have to be just as good as Alex…”
To be honest, it was almost embarrassing how quickly the noise abated and suddenly I had everyone’s attention. The children were all copying the beautifully behaved and polite Alex. The adults thought I’d put a spell on the kids! The situation went from bad to brilliant in just a few moments. Portraits were created, a family’s moment in time immortalized.
I passed the bag of treats back to one of the moms, making sure to give Alex one first. Then, the noisy chorus started up again and, in an instant, it was rewarded by treats. I guess old habits die hard….
I spent last week doing something I thought I’d never do again. I was in a college, surrounded by students and working away building a model, with my daughter, my brother and her friends, for an architecture degree finals. In the background, the sound of Bob Marley and Eric Clapton serenaded me like old friends.
I now realise why, as a student, I never really noticed how “bad” things were in the 1980’s. Students don’t listen to the news or watch TV or concern themselves with ‘current affairs’. They work, listen to music, chat to each other and focus on the next thing they have to do. Looking back, that was exactly how I was in college too and I’m guessing all of my contemporaries were pretty much the same.
There was a calmness about the whole experience, even though I had literally dropped my life and all its pressing and urgent tasks. And naturally a small amount of drama arose whenever construction work didn’t always go according to plan, which was quite often. The college is in a small town which still has some quaint features – the most remarkable of which is the lack of credit card facilities in most restaurants and even at the hotel we were staying in. This is 21st century Switzerland with a 1970’s twist.
I’m so glad I did abandon my life to help her through this stage of hers – and as I type, Barry is with her celebrating her final critique earlier today, which went very well. I’ll never know if it was all the 2mm fences or the 350mm trees I glued in last week that made her models stand out – but I’d like to think that all that work with tweezers, rulers and craft knives helped.
All we can do for our children sometimes is stand and watch – other times we can roll up the sleeves and help. And as it turns out, it’s quite possible that I have changed my life more than I changed hers.