Two Before Me

Two Before Me.

Happy Mothers Day.


This picture.

My grandmother was born in 1886. In Czechoslovakia. Only, back then it wasn’t called that. It was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire .

My mom was born in Lower East Side of New York City in 1916. She was one of thirteen children. Some passed early in life. Some I got to know as aunts and uncles. They are gone now.

The sad thing about such a large family is that they were violently divided.

About half were good Catholic kids. The others were Communist artists. They always argued. And bickered. Holiday gatherings were always a treat.

They passed that split down to their children.


It’s not that we don’t like each other. It’s that we don’t know each other. When we try to get together it gets sort of awkward. I’ll never forget going through a group of pictures with one of my cousins. She was looking at one and asked, “who is that man?” My dad.

I’m not complaining. It is what it is. You pick your friends. Your friends become your family.

I made this picture in about 1980. I was working for a newspaper group in Virginia. My then-wife and I had some vacation time so we went to Long Beach where my parents lived. My mom wanted to visit my grandma at the home where she lived. The photojournalist in me just had to make pictures. I’m glad that I did. The entire take was pretty good. But, this one. Oh, this one.


When we returned to Virginia, I published it in one the newspapers that I worked for at the time. I think The Radford News Journal. It won an award in the Virginia News Photographer’s Association. It never lost in any contest. When I joined The Image Bank, now Getty Images, as a staff member who also had a photography contract, this was in my portfolio. My editor scooped it up. It was my best selling image at the time. It still is.

Over the course of my career, I think I’ve made some memorable pictures. But, this one. Nothing comes close. Robert Capa once said, “If your picture isn’t good enough, you weren’t close enough.” That’s not about physical distance. It’s about emotional closeness.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom, Grandma.

Happy Mothers Day to y’all.