On Mother’s Day

Two Before Me.
Two Before Me.

It’s Mother’s Day.

Go see her. Today. Spend some time with her. Today. Buy her flowers. Today. Take her to her to a great meal. Today. Do anything else you can think of with her. Today.

Because you just never know.

My mom passed 20 years ago. In July. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. In those days, I was commuting between Dallas, Texas and Hong Kong. I was spending most of my time in Hong Kong. Working. She passed while I there. Or, on my way home after about four months. In those days, there was no easy way to reach out. Calling Asia was an adventure in staying connected. Email was in its early days. And, so on. Apparently, I was in transit. For something like 28 hours. Pretty much incommunicado. I got home to a blinking telephone message machine. My aunt. You can pretty much figure out the rest.

As I get older, all of that haunts me.

So. Don’t miss the chance. Any chance. Ever.

For all of you who are in my position. Have a good thought for your mom.

This picture has been called “Two Before Me” since its earliest existence. The younger woman is my mom. She was a year older than I am today. The older woman is my grandma. There is discrepancy about her age. I’m pretty sure she was born in 1886. This picture was made in 1979.

You know that most of my work is in color. Bright. Energetic. Very powerful color and light. But, remember this picture was made in 1979. I worked for a small chain of newspapers in Virginia. There were three publications at the time. In Radford, Blacksburg and Pulaski. Unlike many small newspapers, we were after excellence. I worked hard. I learned a lot. We won a lot of state awards for journalism and photojournalism. I met a couple of people who are friends with me to this day.

But, for all but about .001% of my work I shot on black and white film. Tri-x. I developed it in a wet darkroom. I made prints using an enlarger. Even when I was working for myself that’s what I did. I cannot even begin to tell you how many rolls of film I processed and printed this way. Our record keeping wasn’t so precise in those days. But, I still have all of it in my archives. Normally, that would belong to the newspaper. But, we were sold just as I was getting ready to move on. The new owners don’t care about archival film.

One more thing about this picture. I cannot even begin to tell you how many pictures I’ve made since then. Just know that it’s a lot. This, in my mind, is the best picture I ever made.

And. And, and, and… To all of you who follow Storyteller and are moms, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY. To all of you who find me on various social media and are moms, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY.

Enjoy the day.


  1. Happy Mother’s Day. I remember once reading a quote ascribed to Karl Rahner: “in this life, all of our symphonies go unfinished.” As I age, it becomes more (and more) obviously true. I’m sad that you didn’t get the closure you wished; do you have ways of circumventing the historical moment, to get what history was too cheap to deliver?


    1. Thank you so much for your very thoughtful reply. I’m not sure what you mean by your last line, but it’s not quite as bad as it seems. I have people in my life (wife, daughter) who I wish my mom could have met. It’s mostly stuff like that…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m working on the text of a blog collaboration I want to propose to you … I write the text … photos of your choice … and (of course) credits.


  2. Hi Ray, meant for a while to come back and ask you about this image. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this wonderful image somewhere in my past. Have you previously published or licensed this image?


    1. First, thank you. This image has been published and licensed just about everywhere. It was part of an insurance company campaign, part of a healthcare campaign. Not only is it probably my best picture, but for a long, long time it was one of my best sellers.


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