*Disclaimer: if you’re here to look at wedding pictures, and are not interested in the personal side of my business, I’d recommend skipping this post!
Ok the truth is, as glad as I am to be a photographer, I have no idea what the hell I’m doing.
With my public photography blog here, it’s incredibly difficult to write anything because I’m so careful with my words and it takes me forever to write something that’s easy to talk about. I find myself filtering myself here, in social media, and even conversations with close friends who would probably appreciate it if I was actually more vulnerable and honest. Here’s to turning towards that direction.
I’ve fallen into the temptation of being like every other photographer- posting as if my world was just bright and peachy. Maybe other photographers do live in a world where everything really is overexposed and pastel-colored, looking like it was all shot for Style Me Pretty or Pinterest. But that’s not where I live, and that’s not what I see.
Last year, I left my classroom full of students that I loved when the school year ended to pursue this passion of mine full-time. Was that the right move? When I told my dad that I was going down this path, he was supportive as is his character, but I can’t say he was very happy. That’s supposed to mean something, right? That means he’s just waiting for me to realize that I’ve made a mistake, and for me to pursue a “real” job, right?
While my Teach for America peers continue changing the world one classroom / hospital patient / law at a time, I’m chasing chickens around and making images of shoes, bouquets and dresses.
I thought to myself, I’ll just get really good at photography, and show my dad how good of a photographer I am then. Then he’ll really be proud of me, tell all of his friends and maybe even show them my website. I wondered how long that would take, and if his beard would be all white by the time that happened, and if I’d be married and have children by then. I wondered what he’d look like if his beard and hair really did become white, and what it’d be like to have him be a grandpa.
The truth is, I’ll never know. I’ll never know because on June 19th, 2013, he suddenly passed away from a heart attack at the young age of 54, and it hurts far more than any other pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I swore to myself after my grandma passed away in 2005 that I was going to share the Gospel with my dad, because it was the most important thing I knew, and I’d want to see him in Heaven again if he did leave early.
I was close once, when I asked if it was ok if I shared with him about my faith in Jesus. It took all of my energy just to ask that simple question, and he asked to wait until another time. I said okay. That was in high school, and I never brought it up again.
One of the days leading up to the funeral, I took some time to look through old albums and put together a slideshow to be played during the service. It took me all day because of how draining it was. I often found myself with my head on the album pages, tears making my face prune because I didn’t have the energy to open my eyes, much less pick myself up to continue. I found photographs that I’d never seen before, images that were made before my time. And it was like discovering a whole new side to my dad that I’d never known. One of them was a picture of my dad and his two brothers who had just immigrated from Taiwan, and were lined up with their shirts up and their bellies exposed, each showing off how big their bellies were. My dad won that one, fair and square. You could tell just how proud he was with that smile.
I also noticed just how little my dad was photographed throughout the years. There was enough for a slideshow, but not nearly enough for me. What I learned at that moment was, even if I had thousands of pictures of my dad, it wouldn’t have been nearly enough. I missed my dad, and there would’ve been no amount of pictures that would have been enough for me. I wanted my dad back, but those few dozen images were all I had left. Those images went from being on the bottom of a cardboard box to being my most valuable possessions.
My dad and I have had our ups and downs, but he couldn’t have been a better dad. He was loud and honest, kind yet short-tempered, loved people and good food. Above all, he loved his children. He loved me. It sucks that I have to talk about my dad in the past tense, and it sucks that the cost of me learning the preciousness of life was the death of my best friend. I hope no one else has to pay that price to learn just how special each and every minute is with the people that we love.
Being a photographer means making images not of shoes, bouquets and dresses, but of people, relationships, and precious moments that may never happen again. All of a sudden, each and every image of my dad meant the world to me, and maybe some of mine will mean the world to someone else in the future. I sure hope that I can be a photographer for good, but who knows. It’s hard to book when brides only see what’s in the photography blogs and wedding magazines- finding themselves planning a wedding that’s more about the day than about the moments.
I’m grateful for my friends, and my family, and for those who’ve trusted me to photograph your weddings. Thanks for inviting me to be part of such a special celebration, and never making me take a picture of your dress hanging from the hotel ceiling.