This story, about Japanese earthquake survivors looking for their photos of friends and family, got me thinking. I try to remember the inherent importance of what I do, of why I’d rather shoot a wedding than spend all day shooting rockstars and celebrities, and it comes down to this — I have a lot of photos. I’m performing a catalog sync right now on 200,000 photos from last year. But there are some photos that are actual treasures to me, some that I would throw all my camera gear away just to save a single one. All of these are of moments with people that I can never get back, but when I I look at the photo, I remember them, and I remember how I felt. They’re treasures, and if I can create at least one photo at a wedding that would make my clients feel the same way, then I’ve done my job.
I’ve seen this sad story before. The only place I’ve lived outside New York state was New Orleans — I’ve traveled back and forth there so many times over the years that it felt like a second home, and so Hurricane Katrina brought a personal sense of shock. I did a number of stories about people who had taken up refuge in New York, and I went down as soon as I could to survey the city and work with the people putting it back together. In particular, I remember every word of what a principal in a Jefferson County parish school said to me:
“People around the country and the world have been wonderful — they’ve sent us so much help. They’ve sent blood, they’ve sent food, they’ve sent clothing. But we don’t need blood or food now. Please, send cameras. All of these people, they’ve lost their homes, but it’s even worse because they’ve all lost their photos. They’ve lost their history, their memories — and it’s devastating them. They can get a new home, but now they have to start piecing their history back together. Send cameras.”