I had just graduated from a professional photographic trade school in California and had moved back to the East Coast to make my mark shooting for magazines like Life, Look, National Geographic etc. I took my portfolio around, that at that time consisted of various still life photographs that were shot in a studio.
Eventually, I went to see the legendary New York photographer, Jay Maisel who was known for his bluntness. I brought with me some travel snapshots that I had taken while on a year-long backpacking odyssey before I attended school. Jay looked through my portfolio of well executed but boring photographs of toasters and martini glasses and then threw them back at me and said; “This is crap. This isn’t what you want to do, is it?” I said “no” but then I told him what other photographers had been telling me, that this was where the business was going. I showed him my travel snapshots and said, “This is what I want to do.” He looked me straight in the face and asked, “How old are you?” to which I replied, “I’m 25 years old”.
I’ll never forget what he said to me. “You’re 25 years old and you’re already making compromises?” To this day, I remind myself of his words whenever I feel like I’ve strayed off the path I was meant to be on. Everyone has a story. What’s yours?
I have fond memories of my grandmother telling stories as we lingered at the dinner table long after the family meal had been consumed. If she didn’t have a story to tell, my mom would. Maybe that’s why I became a storyteller, first as a still photographer, now as a filmmaker.
More than a decade ago, my mother died suddenly. It was not expected. We had no warning and then one day she was gone from our lives forever. I would give anything to hear her voice again. To hear her tell a story that she had told a hundred times before.
Other than some scattered photos, random letters and a few mementos of her, all I have left are my memories but they have begun to fade.
As a photographer and filmmaker, I have decided to use my craft and skills to create custom biographical family films to preserve one’s legacy for future generations. Based on the popularity of DNA tests, it seems as if I’m not alone in pursuing my interest in my heritage. But I’m more interested in finding out more about the lives of my ancestors and the people they were than I am in finding out where I came from. I want to know who they really were, what they did for a living, what motivated them, discouraged them and what their dreams were.
As I continue to go down this path of video storytelling, I realize that this it is exactly what I am meant to do. And that is to tell the story of those who came before us. But I don’t want to wait to capture the stories of our loved ones after they are gone. Instead, I want to capture the family stories from the people who are in our lives while they are still here to tell them. I have come to realize that preserving a family’s legacy in this way, is priceless.
My hope for this blog is to pass along to others, some tips, and knowledge as to how we can capture our family’s stories and preserve this legacy for future generations.