Two Before Me.

Happy Mothers Day.

This.

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.

Us.

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.

Whew.

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.

 

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7 Replies to “Two Before Me”

  1. I was proceeded to look through your work at the end of your piece “Just Orphan of the storm” and I came across this picture “Tow before me”.

    As I was reading this piece I was struck by these sentences: “I’m not complaining. It is what it is. You pick your friends. Your friends become your family”.

    It brings me back to 22 years ago, (I was also 22 years old 22 years ago) after I gave birth to my first son. The father of my son and I were talking about the fact that we are now parents of a little huma being who we are fully responsible to raise.
    He then told me about a book that he read where the author says that we chose which family we are born in. Back then, in what I will now call my 22yr old naivete, I wondered how CRAZY that author must be to write about such a thing. My son’s father replied, ” you have to be at a certain level to understand these things”. He was right.

    22years later I too might sound CRAZY to some 22yr old first time mom when I say that ” we do in fact chose which family we are born in”.

    Not only did those 3 sentences above take me back to my younger life but they beg me to thinks about this:
    You know how we hear it all the time “friends are more important than family because we chose our friends but we do not chose our family”?
    I’ve always asked myself, it this really so?
    So what then happens when our friends become our family? Do those friends then become less important to us?
    Is it possible that friends and family can be equally important to us because we do indeed chose both?
    Or maybe we need to ask, how do WE define friends and family? Is it BLOOD that is the REAL difference?

    See what this picture “Two before me” can do? Amazing, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

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