What We Leave Behind

Joan RiversThere are many lives we all live. They are precious. They are always too short. What burns so bright inside must always be nurtured. 

Ella Fitzgerald understood life’s stages, showing us masterfully how to transition from big bands to the most intimate duets ever recorded. Robert Plant rejected a Zeppelin reunion saying, “All I want to do is get that blue note out. There is a blue note inside my soul.” 

When the circus comes to town they set up in a field that is empty and create a whole world of their own which they then share. Elephants, straw, music, whips, bodies flying through the air, clowns making a joke of it all. They are bigger than life. They make a mess. They take our money. Then they pack up and disappear. When they are gone there is no evidence that they ever existed, except for our memories.

I wonder if each one of us is a circus. And...if that is so, do we leave the field empty, or, do we leave little scraps of evidence that we were here. What do we leave behind? Do we leave it a little greener? A little more fertile? A little funnier? A little richer? Do we leave all that love we shared on the gridiron or do we take it with us?

I took this shot of Joan Rivers awhile ago. There was a shot from that session that I associated with it so much that when People chose this shot last week, I was not sure if it was mine. It was.

Joan Rivers made me laugh until I cried. She was totally outrageous and had no governor on her engine. She insisted on being Joan Rivers and willed herself to never be anything short of fearless. Yet she had a big heart. Joan's Calendar


I once ran into a RISD classmate of mine in the lobby of the Conde Nast building. This was in the days I was starting out and would begin on the top floor and work my way down the interior steps and never hit the lobby without an assignment. He said he struck out getting work in the building, but was really only into shooting celebrities. He lived for sharing that air. I never did.

I photograph celebrities the way I photograph everyone else – searching for that place we are all connected. I was never into bathing in the bright light. I always appreciated what makes talented people really special, beautiful, charismatic. I just found it everywhere. 

Still…people want to see the famous people. I have shot my share. From many of Jim Carrey’s movies to Channing Tatum defying gravity. From Ewan Mcgregor in a lion’s head on the set of “Big Fish”, to the cast of Seinfeld and Honey Boo Boo. I never once asked for an autograph – with the single exception of Sophia Loren.  After our shooting, she put on lipstick and pressed her lips on the linen napkin. I had her sign that.

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