Making People Feel Good

Going through old images last night, and found a couple of slides of my father holding a little baby. Not sure who’s baby. It was not ours. When Jesse Paul mentioned casually yesterday that he knew my Dad, Jackson stopped instantly and asked all about him. “You KNEW Jack Lange?” Jesse told him about feeding the birds and eating pancakes with my Dad. “Jackson….you would have loved your grandfather.” It is one of the most heartbreaking parts of being a Dad - not being able to share this joy with my own father.

On Saturday, Jackson was upset knowing this was his last basketball game of the season. Just before the game, Jackson said, “I need a minute alone”. He then walked off, and started whispering to himself in the front room. When he came back I asked what he had said. “I said a prayer so my team would have a great game, and that I would score at least one basket.” I asked if he said, “Amen” at the end. He said he did.

Jackson asked me to shoot video of the whole game - when he was playing and when he was not. I am not really into being that Dad with the video camera, but Jackson is into documentation, so I captured it all.

Jackson had a big game. Most baskets ever, and his team won. But the best part was seeing him passing, see him congratulating other kids both when they hit their shots, and especially giving them encouragement when they missed.

In the middle of the night Jackson came up to our room holding his 7 year old blanket and said he couldn’t sleep. I went back down in his bed and we talked for awhile. I told him how proud I was of how he helped his teammates. How he encouraged them to all play great. Mostly I explained that making other people feel good is what teamwork is all about. I told him that is really what my job is - to make other people feel good, feel the best they can feel - then to photograph that feeling. I looked over and he had fallen back to sleep. I was up for awhile longer.

Tonight I am writing this from my mother’s house in Pittsburgh. The house I grew up in. The house my mother has lived in since she was 4. My pictures are all over the walls. Kind of like a museum of my work. The first shots I developed in high school. All kinds of shots from my career. Lots of family pictures. Then, the walls start getting taken over with pictures of the boys. Just after they were born. So small and precious. Then bigger and even more precious. Asher enters the scene like he was always there. All so beautiful. I still feel like I am not at that stage of my life to start looking back too much. Each day is so full - just trying to to appreciate it all in the moment and capture some evidence for later.

In the basement are boxes full of tape recordings and more pictures. On the north side of town, there is a storage facility with over 100 drawers of folders. Each folder contains a shooting from my film days. More evidence. Sometimes I feel the pictures don’t nearly capture how joyous the experience was. Sometimes, like today, I am astonished at how many pictures I have taken and what an incredible journey it has been. Every couple of years I like to open the drawers, peek in, and touch the film. I don’t take my time. Just a glimpse.

My mother and I ate alone in the dining room tonight for the first night of Chanukah. She made brisket and potato latkes and green beans. She said it was the first brisket she had made in 30 years, and it was delicious. My mother told me about her yoga class, and how much she loved the Duane Michals show at the museum. We planned for the family visit after Christmas. In the middle my brother called from Hawaii. Near the end, the boys and Stephie checked in from Boulder.

There is no gift shop in the museum of my work in Pittsburgh, just a lot of evidence of people making people feel good.