Picturing Dad

This Father’s Day will be very different for me. It will be the first year without my father who died at age 94 just two months ago after a long, happy and fruitful life.  I read what I had written for this blog last year at this time.  I’m now very glad I wrote what I did, when I did so that he could read it too.  We sometimes forget, or just don’t take time, to tell those who matter most to us in our lives exactly how we feel about them.  You can read or re-read what I wrote about my Dad last year by clicking on this link:https://cherylcrooksphotography.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/celebrating-dad/ . It will take you there.

This Father’s Day I have a room full of boxes of albums, loose and framed photos, home movies and slides that one of my brother’s hauled out from Kansas to me just this past week.  My father, in written instructions, appointed me in charge of sorting through and dividing up the family’s photo archives. And when you’re a photographer’s daughter, that’s a huge responsibility. Fortunately, my mother, also now deceased, had gone through many of their personal photographs years ago. She thoughtfully separated many of them into boxes, each carefully labeled with my and my brothers’ names.  She placed many into photo albums according to date. When,due to her dementia, she became too disabled to do more, I took over the job.

Sometimes your fondest memories of your Dad are of the everyday jobs.  This photo of my father, taken just this past March, was one of the last I made of him at his home.  He loved to ride his lawn mower and spent nearly an hour on it that day. I'm so very glad now that I stopped to catch him in this photo.
Sometimes your fondest memories of your Dad are of the everyday jobs. This photo of my father, taken just this past March, was one of the last I made of him at his home. He loved to ride his lawn mower and spent nearly an hour on it that day. I’m so very glad now that I stopped to catch him in this photo.

During my trips to visit my parents in recent years, I spent many late nights, after they had both gone to bed, sitting in front of the television, organizing and sliding photos into albums. Instead of putting them into chronological order, I categorized the albums into subject matter. This is something I had done with my own family’s photos.  I often can’t remember exactly what year I took the trip or when a particular event, other than a life milestone, may have happened.  I have divided and placed my photos into an album of the same subject. I can more easily find or reference it without having to go through several albums or yes, even those shoebox-size storage cartons.

I did the same for my parents.  There’s an album devoted to my mother’s family reunions, another of my Dad’s Army reunions and some with just photos from their more recent vacations.  I made a couple containing photos of just my own family taken during visits with each other and of other photos I had sent to them to keep them updated on my family’s activities and growth.  Still another album is of my Dad’s photography career and includes clippings from the newspaper as well as other mementos from his portrait studio.  We took that album, as well as the one I had assembled about his military service, to the funeral home so that those who came could look through it.  Many did.

From my parents' vacation album comes this photo of myself with them and two of my sons taken during our cruise together to Alaska.
From my parents’ vacation album comes this photo of myself with them and two of my sons taken during our cruise together to Alaska.

It’s now a popular choice to make printed books of one’s digital photos. I’ve done it myself.  In fact, I offer “Memory Books” and “Signature Albums” to both my high school senior and family clients.  It’s been a very well received product among my studio clients.  But I still make individual prints of my personal family ‘snapshots’ and I encourage others to do the same. I don’t sell digital images to my professional clients, except for business purposes.  I know many professional photographers do, but I personally regard it as a disservice to my clients.  Computer manufacturers are turning out both desk and laptop machines today that have no CD drives.

I have stored away three and five-inch floppy drives of articles, written during my career as a journalist, on a word processing program that no longer exists, on a computer operating system that no longer exists, on a computer that no longer exists.  If I hadn’t had the foresight to print out ‘hard’ copies of all those articles, I’d have no record, (other than the on-line versions) of my many contributions to the world of journalism.

Another photo from one of my parents' albums recalls a visit with his three grandsons to the place where he had grown up. There wasn't anything left of his childhood farmhouse except part of the home's rock wall. But we have it now preserved in this precious photograph.
Another photo from one of my parents’ albums recalls a visit with his three grandsons to the place where he had grown up. There wasn’t anything left of his childhood farmhouse except part of the home’s rock wall. But we have it now preserved in this precious photograph.

It’s the same with my own photographs, for both my professional and personal work.   I advise making prints of any photo that has any significant personal value to you, another reason my studio sells prints instead of digital images. I know, there’s always the ‘Cloud’.  But it wasn’t always there, nor is there any guarantee that it will always be there or in its present day form. Or that the access you have now will be same. Think of  how many times people have told you that  their computers ‘crashed’ and that they lost all their photos stored on it. (You must back-up your digital photos onto an external drive, on-line storage or even CD.)

This simple photo of my Dad, made in 2010, is one of my favorites. I took it at his home while visiting there one day when he went out to check his mailbox.
This simple photo of my Dad, made in 2010, is one of my favorites. I took it at his home while visiting there one day when he went out to check his mailbox.

To have an album full of  photos  is a treasure. I realize how much of a treasure it truly is since my father’s passing. I don’t have him this Father’s Day to wish him a happy day, or to tell him how much I love him and how much I appreciate all that he has done for me through the years.  But I can look back, turn through the pages of those albums that I now must sort through and remember the times growing up, doing things together, celebrating holidays, taking vacations, visiting relatives, sharing meals or just living everyday life.  All those priceless memories captured forever in a photo.  Thanks, Dad.

Celebrating Dad

I was standing before a rack of greeting cards the other day, reading through the selection of Father’s Day cards.  Most of the sentiments were pretty sappy and thoroughly generic.  I had already made a personalized card for my own Dad using one of my images but was curious what the messages of the mass manufactured retail cards said.

The thing is, Father’s aren’t generic, nor are they mass manufactured.  Everyone’s Dad is different. Even siblings with a common father often have different images of their Dad. Celebrating those unique qualities is what Father’s Day is all about.

Bow ties became my Dad's trademark. He began wearing them while still a photographer's apprentice to prevent his ties from being ruined by the darkroom chemicals.
Bow ties became my Dad’s trademark. He began wearing them while still a photographer’s apprentice to prevent his ties from being ruined by the darkroom chemicals.

Reading through the greeting cards made me stop and think about my own Dad. He’s an amazing guy and is someone I greatly admire and love. I’m fortunate to be able to spend this Father’s Day with my 93-year-old father.

All the things my Dad is to me and to my two brothers, can’t be summed up in a simple card written by a copywriter who’s never met him. He has been, first and foremost, a loving, caring, generous parent to three children who I’m sure challenged both his patience and love many times over the years.

My father was married for 66 years to my mother until she died in November, 2012.  He fell in love with her shortly after returning from World War II and married her two weeks after they met.
My father was married for 66 years to my mother until she died in November, 2012. He fell in love with her shortly after returning from World War II and married her two weeks after they met.

He was a devoted husband of 66 years to my mother until she died last November.  He is a decorated World War II veteran who came home and raced greyhounds with his brother-in-law and sister until he decided to become a professional photographer.

My Dad met up with his older brother, Dale, for a day's visit during World War II in Italy.
My Dad met up with his older brother, Dale, for a day’s visit during World War II in Italy.

He was a small business owner for many years until retiring at age 70.  He was, and continues to be an active member in his church.  For many years, he was a member of the local Lions Club and Chamber of Commerce.  He now serves on the board of the local historic museum.

Gardening has always been one of my Dad's joys.  He's shown here with his rose bushes.
Gardening has always been one of my Dad’s joys. He’s shown here with his rose bushes.

He’s a gardener who loves spending time tending to he vegetables he plants. He’s a handyman who can mend fences, rewire a lamp, and stop a leaky pipe.  He’s a carpenter who built the first home I ever lived in (still standing and in good shape today) and who constantly has little projects in progress at home now. (I have the little end table he made in his high school woodworking class.)

He’s also a good cook who enjoys baking pies, canning the vegetables from his garden or serving up a dinner of chicken and homemade dumplings.

He’s an educator who taught photography workshops for professional photographers’ associations and now visits elementary and high school classrooms to tell the students about growing up on the farm during the Depression or fighting in World War II.

He’s an artist who created thousands of memorable portraits of families, brides, babies, high school seniors, and business people to bring beauty into their lives through his creative photography.

My Dad was a professional portrait photographer for nearly 50 years and owned his own studio.
My Dad was a professional portrait photographer for nearly 50 years and owned his own studio.

He’s lover of poetry and can to this day recite his favorite poems learned in school or read in the little book he carried with him as a soldier.  He’s an avid reader, particularly of history and always has a stack of books on the table beside his chair.  He’s also a fan of Westerns, particularly the vintage television shows “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza”.  But he also likes a good comedy; his current being re-runs of Ray Romano’s series, ‘Everybody Loves Raymond.”

He worked long days  and often nights weekends as a professional photographer to make certain we had all the things we needed; such as shoes, vaccinations, braces, a college education, piano lessons, swim lessons.  Then there were the things we didn’t really need but wanted that he also gave us–ice cream cones, birthday parties, a camera, that toy rifle for Christmas, my first Beatles album.

As a grandfather to my sons, my Dad was always ready to lend a helping hand or teach them how to do something whenever he was around.
As a grandfather to my sons, my Dad was always ready to lend a helping hand or teach them how to do something whenever he was around.

He imparted to us those things on which you can’t put a price–a strong work ethic, a love of family, a sense of fairness and respect for others, the value of a good education and the encouragement to think for ourselves, even when we differed in opinions.

But most of all, he’s my Dad.  Now how can you put that into a few brief words of a store-bought greeting card?

A Father’s Day Thank You

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.

This casual portrait of my Dad was made during one of my visits with him last year.

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.

This portrait of my father was made by my brother, Brad, also a photographer, before my Dad retired at age 70. He’s standing beside the 8×10 back camera that we used in his studio to make thousands of beautiful portraits.

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.