Tuesday, March 18, 2008

This Time of Life; Three Stories in One

In August 2007, the North West Houston Photo Club hung a group show at the Harris County Barbara Bush Library in Houston. I do not usually participate in such club shows but because of events immediately preceding I decided to hang the maximum allowed of six images.

A couple of months earlier I had learned that a life long friend was coming to M D Anderson Cancer Hospital for an examination. I was aware that David had cancer of the throat but I was not aware of the severity of the condition. The result of his first meeting at Anderson was positive. There was a new procedure that they thought would offer hope.

That night, David, his wife Mary, Janet and myself went to dinner at the Aquarium on the Kemah Boardwalk. We had a great time, stayed until the place closed and then drove around and just talked for most of the remaining night. The tone of conversation was a mixture of light and serious, mostly reminiscing, however, with David mentioning a few times about getting life in order. But David had always been around, he would always be around. The night ended with a bear hug as all our meetings had for some years.

A month later, he was back again and this time it was obvious that his condition had worsened considerably in a very short time. Again dinner, a trip to the museum at the Monument, another night of talking into the wee hours. Still David as always was upbeat and did not share the true seriousness of his condition. That was our last night together. He was never physically able to return to Houston for additional treatments. In November, I traveled to North Texas to attend his funeral.

There is something innately unfair that a man like David is no longer here. We first met in the Marine Reserve. Our friendship continued more through his efforts than mine. To the end, David was a military history buff and the consummate Marine. He and Mary decked out each Christmas as Mr and Mrs Clause and entertained disadvantaged children. I loved David for his good heart, for his giving self; I was not alone. Anyone who knew David became his friend. He was one truly extraordinary individual.

In my early twenties I subscribed to an art history and appreciation course, Art Seminars from the Metropolitan. It was a series of twenty-four portfolios and each included twelve plates of the works discussed in the seminar. One painting locked indelibly into my psyche, Ivan Albright’s Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida. I had never been so emotionally struck by a work of art before. It was that same compassion for another human being that the time with David on his last two trips to Houston had again evoked.

I decided that for the show at the library I wanted to do something that hopefully would in some small way tie to that compassion that Albright so skillfully ripped from the viewer. I began with a photograph of David that I shot on the deck at the Aquarium that first night. Working with a program called Microsoft Photo Draw 2000, I chose an effect that changed the image to a series of almost chaotic lines to simulate the lines of ageing. Continuing with photographs of myself and my wife I put together six images that I thought came close to what I was trying to do. I do not know that anyone else understood what I was doing or why but I decided it was okay. My highly manipulated images stood out like sore thumbs in a sea of beautifully rendered photographic images. I am sure many wandered why, but that was and is okay. It was a personal thing.

Since the library show I have reworked a few of the images and added a few more to the six. I think my first effort was much too colorful so I have toned down all but the image of David. It just seems appropriate to keep the strong reds and blues to celebrate the patriotic Marine, the person that I knew him to be in life.

That is how a show by a camera club, a friend and a painting came together to become This Time of Life.


  1. when I lost close friends or family it took writing to help me come to turns with the loss. I don't miss them any less, but the tears are less frequent. Thanks for sharing the moment.

    The artistic effect of the photos may be enhanced a bit more in the printing process by printing on canvas and then and then mount them on a canvas stretcher. This makes them resemble an oil painting. If you want to do that and want to print them on 8.5 x 11 let me know and I will send you some canvas stock for printing.

    Enjoy the day and there are no shadows in the middle of the night.