The Most Important Photo

Sometimes we put things off so many times that the act of delaying that thing becomes automatic. “I’ll get to that thing tomorrow”, and tomorrow comes, tomorrow goes, and that thing never gets taken care of. I fell into that trap, and the thing that kept being put off was taking portraits of my parents.

“I really need to make some portraits of my parents,” I would say, “because at some point I won’t be able to do it.”

I’d say it over and over and put it off again and again. My wife would say, “You really should do this. You should,” and I’d say, “Yeah, I know. I totally know. If I don’t do it soon, then I might not have the chance again.”

I read about photographer Angelo Merendino’s “Goodbye at the Door” series. Again, I told myself “do it. Do it now.” I see this article was from 2014. Again I put it off.

My father is now 85. He recently had congestive heart failure and a week in the hospital helped yank that procrastination out of my stubborn brain and stuck it directly in front of my face.

“If I don’t do it soon, then I might not have the chance again.”

I would make up dumb excuses: “My dad is hard to get along with — he won’t want to do it.” Or: “My mother hates having her picture taken. She definitely won’t do it.” Or “This week isn’t good, I’m really busy with work” and so on. And so forth.

So, a few weekends ago, I finally did it. I had my parents come to the studio and made some portraits of them.

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They came, they brought the dogs (because Heaven forbid I don’t take pictures of the dogs), and, surprisingly, they were good about it. It was pretty easy. They did it because I asked. They did it because they want to be around after they are gone. This is one small way to keep them with me.

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I took some individual shots, and I nabbed a few of them together (with the dogs of course), and even when I was just looking at the unprocessed proofs I was getting emotional. Because family.

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I’m making this a public service announcement to not only other photographers but to just anyone to please, please take the time and photograph your parents. If it gets put off for too long, the chance won’t be there any longer. You owe it to yourself, and while what I took won’t win any awards, they are some of the most important photographs I’ve ever taken. Because when they are gone, this is what will be left to take solace in.

To everyone: Please don’t put it off. If you haven’t done it, do it. Now. I’m calling all of you to task. Do it because they deserve it. Do it because you deserve it.