Where do I start when a light has ended?
I am familiar with immortality; my health darkens my thoughts everyday. But I am just a man who would not cause any ripples upon my passing, but yesterday a Tsunami was felt across Buckinghamshire.
I cannot say I knew Rob well, but to know him was to know a true gentleman and gentle in every sense of the word. He had a comfortable way about him. In the few times I have spoken to Rob he was always dignified, and always had a kind word to say.
But I wish to contribute to this moment by sharing that time I photographed him and his family. It was early December 2017, the year had been a roller coaster year for me (and for many it would seem) so i was happy to do any photography project. Rob's wife Sarah contacted me saying she would life a family photo done before Rob went in for some serious surgery; she was unsure of the outcome. Instinctively I had to agree.
Timing was a factor, at that time Sarah and Rob was unsure of their future. There was real urgency in getting a date booked; we had to cancel one booking because of a required medical appointment. But eventually we got a date booked.
27th December 2017. The shoot day.
I asked the family (plus three girls) to meet me at my special secluded place just outside Princes Risborough. I've done many shoots there, but no were more important than this one.
I remember feeling very sick, I was coughing (alot) and was just run down. But I hid that as best I could to give the family a pleasant experience. When they parked up, they were quite jovial considering how cold it was. The wasn't a bitter wind, but you had to wrap up warm. When I saw Rob wasn't wearing a hat (like I was) I queried about his temperature. He said he was fine, but I felt he was putting a brave face on things. I could see he was a little more lethargic than I remember, but all in all he seemed well and was joking around.
I told the group my intentions; we were going to walk approximately 1.5 miles; I was concerned Rob wasn't able to make that. But again, when I read his face he was determined to get this photo session done for the sake of his family even though he was physically slower.
When we made our way up towards the path, I noticed Rob was taking very measured steps; he was being very careful not to to stumble. In my mind, I was wondering if he simply didn't want to cause a fuss and was putting a brave face on everything.
As we walked, it is my nature to chat to my clients about life and what they're getting up to. I have instigated many BIG conversations on that path; from weddings, divorces, so life beyond suicide. I was expecting a BIG conversation from Sarah and Rob. But I recall they were very 'matter of fact' about things. Rob needed this and that, so Sarah simply had to do this and that. I give her a lot of respect for that alone.
Given the urgent nature of this shoot, there was no sense of urgency. In fact it was THE best location shoot I had done all year; the young ones were singing, dancing, reminiscing about the good old days. Sometimes they would just burst into song. I should point out that (i think) they are all musical performers!
When it came to organizing this troop, it was very easy. Being musicians they are used to taking direction and to interpret my directions to suit their own personalities, and that is exactly want I needed.
Photography is primarily about light, but secondly it is about the pure moment. When I directed this group, its always very loose, very self deprecating and very silly. Humour plays a big part in my photography skills to get clients relaxed. Also I get them chatty, I ask about who they are, what they do, where they're from and where they're going.
During the first sub location, I stood them against a beaten up old gate. While testing my lighting a random dog photobombed my shot. Naturally it was a fun and welcome surprise. The group just couldn't resist patting the dog who was more than happy to receive the fuss! Rob and Sarah just loved it.
The group was in good spirits, as the younger demographic set the pace, us oldies dropped back a bit. This was gave me an opportunity to talk to Rob and Sarah about music which I knew was a deep passion of Rob's. His love for playing the keyboard was well known to his friends and wider circles. I was fascinated at the introspective nature of what Rob was saying. I won't presume to know what he was thinking about, or why he said certain things but one imagines that today's photography session had to be done.
Since Sarah spearheaded my involvement, I asked her what she wanted in particular; she was very clear about getting the 'family' shots done. So as much as I could I put that family unit together in very staged configurations. By this time, 45 minutes had already passed by. My poor health was already hitting my stamina levels, I cannot even imagine how Rob did it. He didn't seemed troubled at all!
Once through a gate, the small haven opens up to a Buckinghamshire vista. In more favorable weather it is genuinely stunning, but that day was bitterly cold and windy. I knew I didn't have much time, not because the family had imposed a timeline upon me, but because the cold was nailing through my clothing so I had to be sure the family felt the cold as little as possible.
I asked them to play silly games which is my way of getting them to 'do something' rather than just straight posing. I like the kinetic feeling of photos when there is movement during the shots. Ring a ring of Roses was particularly daunting because the youngsters were flinging themselves about with too much enthusiasm in my opinion :-)
Special mention must go to the groups repeated attempts to do a jumping shot; you would think being musicians they would be amazing at timing... but hilariously they were jumping at different times!! I was shocked at how difficult commanding "One, two, three, jump!" was!!
Towards the end of the session, we were already making our way back, but I had an impulsive idea to get them all lined up like a chorus line... so I did! Once again, the troop excited got into formation and spontaneously high kicked themselves towards me.
My last group shot was having them pose, Terry Lee style, in formation. It was standard routine for me, so I thought I could get this shot over and done with, then call it a wrap. However, the younglings burst into song... it was so lovely for a few moments I forgot to take photos!! It was something I will always treasure.
We made our way back to the car park, we said our goodbyes. Even though I was very ill (I was bed bound all through Christmas up until New Years Eve), it was worth it. My photos captured a lifetime in a moment, and I like to think Rob knew that at the time.
My heart and my prayers are with Sarah and the children.