Most Father’s Days I place a phone call or card in the mail to my Dad to wish him a Happy Father’s Day but this year, I’m fortunate enough to get to spend it with him in person. He has given me so much over the years and I, in return, have given him countless shirts, bow ties, robes and slippers for Father’s Day. Somehow all the store-bought gifts don’t seem to add up to very much in comparison. This year, however, I’m giving him my time.
I feel it’s the most I can do for a guy who’s done so much for me throughout my life. It’s hard to even begin to tick off all the things that he has done for me–things like helping me learn to tie my shoe, to ride a bike, to throw a ball, to grow a flower and how to take a good picture with my little camera. My Dad has been not only my Dad but my best mentor in photography passing along his love and vast knowledge for the art. I worked alongside him in his portrait studio and camera shop from the time I was 12 through most of my college years until I moved away.
Working in the camera study with him, I learned the principles of good portrait photography–composition, lighting, proper posing techniques and how to bring out a person’s best features. I also learned how to do everything that came after the image was on film–to develop, print, spot and retouch–but it was in the camera room where his love for the art came into sharpest focus.
Each person who stepped before his camera presented a new challenge, an opportunity to try a new idea or a different approach as to how to best capture that individual on film. And I learned that each and every one deserved the best you could give because what you were creating for them wasn’t simply a picture, it was a portrait that would become part of their family–an heirloom if you will–for a very long time . It was a priceless education, one that continues today as I still ask for his opinion and critique of my professional work as I strive to improve and grow as a photographer.
At 92, he remains my most valuable and toughest critic. I am lucky to still have him with me to phone whenever I need to ask a question, to consult when I need help with a problem and to console me when I think I could have done something better. Yes, he’s my Dad and I have so much to thank him for. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.