We recently had some family photos taken. I can never get over the fact my wife and kids always look good — just the way they do in real life — and I am always replaced by a fat old guy.
As they say in the old country, what’s up with that?
I suspect, for many of us, a photo is a reality check.
It is evidence when I look in the mirror and see James Bond, my kids still only see fat, old guy they call Dad.
In spite of that, I still like photographs.
I like photos of people, nature and sports.
I just don’t like photos of me.
I like old-time black-and-white photos and full-color digital photos. In short, I like most any kind of photo, as long as it tells a story.
Like the photo of the five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima during World War II.
Like the photo, “Moon and Half Dome,” that Ansel Adams took in Yosemite National Park.
Like the photo of 3-year-old John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting as his father’s funeral cortege passes.
Like the photo of Earth taken by astronaut William Anders in 1968 as Apollo 8 orbited the moon. Called “Earthrise,” it is an image that no man had before seen.
I could probably fill an entire edition of Our Town with a list of my favorite photographs.
The other day had a chance to visit briefly with Michael Clancy, the photographer who took another one of my favorite photos. He was covering a surgical procedure at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, Tenn., in 1999. The surgeons were operating on a 21-week-old fetus with spinal bifida — while he was still in his mother’s womb.
During the operation — get this — the baby reached out of the incision and grabbed the surgeon’s finger. Clancy took a photo of it and USA Today and hundreds of other publications around the world printed it.
The baby, who would be born normally at full term, was named Samuel Armas.
Not only did the photo change little Samuel’s life, but Clancy’s as well. That one photo, taken in 1/60th of a second, changed the way many folks think about babies and how some ailments can be repaired even before birth.
These days, Clancy tells the story of the photo — it turns out he scooped Life magazine, which had planned to run a similar shot on its cover — and what it has meant to him. He’s gone from an obscure freelance photographer to something of a celebrity.
All of these photos remind me of the old adage, “You have to be at the right place at the right time.”
Whether you’re orbiting the moon, atop Mount Suribachi or in an operating suite, nothing can be more true.
A great photo is irreplaceable and unrepeatable.