As I Was Saying

June 22, 2011

Posted by Jay

A few months ago, I promised that I would write on an irregular basis. Ain’t that the truth?

My daughter Amanda wrote (at age 17) something about her photography a while ago while she was applying to colleges. I lost it somewhere in my editing room. Now my editing room, at best, is crowded. At worst, when I can’t find anything I need in there, I devote an enormous amount of time to cleaning it up. Hercules and the Augean Stables come to mind. In the process, this little gem came to light.

A little background first. If you are a parent, you will understand this. If you’re not, listen carefully. It may explain the mood swings of your friends who are parents.

When your child reaches 15 or so, certain transformations take place. Some say it’s hormonal, others know it’s the work of the devil. Your child suddenly perceives you as an imbecile. If you’re lucky, a lovable imbecile. You are also relegated to a position of irrelevance and a source of unbelievably stupid announcements and pronouncements.

Amanda & Ellie do not pose happily.

But never fear, as they grow older, you will get smarter; they don’t understand how or why, and it just amazes and irritates them.

This thing Amanda wrote came as a complete surprise to me, as I’ve always made it a point to avoid “teaching” her anything about art or photography. I guess, in a perverse way, it’s helped her to make her own choices (which was my intent). Here’s the quote:

These photos are not cropped, retouched, or altered. None are artificially lit or set up. At this point, I am more concerned with observation than with creation. This series is an attempt to show how the act of looking can totally redefine objects and moments in everyday life.

It took me 80 years to get to this point and she nails it at 17, says it better than I ever did, and isn’t even interested in photography.

I said to her, “I’m amazed at this. I never told you this, and you never listen to anything I say anyway.”
She smiled that little smile that usually precedes her “one-line killers” and said, “I listen, Dad. I just discard most of it.”

She just turned 18 and an old friend of mine, Tanya Chuang, texted me and said “You’re about to have your daughter graduate from high school soon. Are you going to cry?” Now I don’t do email, and texting to me is a one-finger, long-term project, so understand that this was a commitment: I texted back “L.A. (my wife) asked me the same thing, and I honestly told her I didn’t think I would. She then gave me the graduation invitation and program to look at. I choked up and almost lost it right then and there. So fuck you all, I will probably be sobbing the whole week. You guys make it so hard to keep up any semblance of a tough fa├žade.”

Amanda wearing a hat.

Part of the reason I’m writing about this is that 18 and graduation are pivotal points in Amanda’s life and mine. Our relationship has, over time, changed as all relationships do.

My wife has been the best mother Amanda could have wished for. Me, not so much. I’ve gotten better though. L.A. has reminded me that in the beginning I was too busy being an “artist” to spend enough time with Amanda. But the point of mentioning this is the old Harry Belafonte song, “Turn around and she’s four, turn around and she’s a young girl, walking out of the door.” It’s so damn true. She was just a child yesterday, and today she’s a beautiful young woman; smart and hard-working, sarcastic, funny and leaving.

I’d like to share some favorite images of Amanda over the years. I promise to write more often.

— Jay

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32 Responses to As I Was Saying

  • Jay, she is beautiful and her personality comes across in these wonderful snippets of her life. Sounds like she has her dad’s pluck and insight. Thanks for sharing these. As a mom of a 19 year old son, I know how fast that clock ticks. All the best, Denise Beverly Bristol, Tennessee

    Denise Beverly, June 22, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  • You are there. That’s more then many can say. (I’d take it…)

    And yes, please write more. I enjoy your down to earth style. Loved you in the two video’s from Kelby. Even stood in front of your door once. Too chicken to knock though :-)

    Greetings from Amsterdam.

    Mark Maas, June 22, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Reply
  • Thank you for sharing the private moments and images of your dear daughter. As a father of a greatly photographed daughter, our only child (now 24) I totally relate to your sentiments and well up at your realizations. In my opinion, she was my best creation of all…

    Tom Kelly, June 22, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Reply
  • Thank you for writing this post. It really hit home (my son is 17!) The few words she wrote about photography deserve to be framed! Thank you for sharing this touching story and those amazing images of your beautiful daughter. It’s hard to see them spread their wings and leave us. I’ll be crying too…

    Valerie Jardin, June 22, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Reply
  • What a story …………… you said it all in words and images. Good luck to Amanda Linda and YOU!

    Shelly, June 22, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Reply
  • Congratulations Jay!

    Mark Kalan, June 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Reply
  • You hit the nail on the head – in a way only you could. True words; real emotion – I am loving the little crumble of the facade. Congrats on your daughter’s graduation. It’ll be my daughter’s turn next year…*deep sigh*. She WAS just four when I last turned around. Thank you for your wonderful, if irregular, post!

    Genevieve Neal, June 22, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Reply
  • My father made a similar observation about teens believing their parents suddenly got dumb only to see their intellect return magically when they hit about 20. In reading what you wrote however it occurs to me that the teenage years are the time when two simultaneous discoveries are made. The first is that our children discover they have overestimated our intellect and we don’t really know everything and the second is that we have underestimating our children and they are not babies any more. By the time they get to their 20s we both make the adjustments and learn to appreciate each other for who we are.

    Mark Fox, June 22, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Reply
  • Jay: I’ve watched you on Kelby Training and think of you as a talented hard ass. I love what you do. I want to be just like you when I grow up (I’m almost 60). Everything you said about your child is true; I know this because I have two boys of my own. I’m a hard ass too. I didn’t cry at the graduation. I broke when I saw my son waving at me as I drove away leaving him at collage and one at the Army induction center. We live, learn, achieve or not and our lives are what they are and what we’ve made of them. I know you’re proud of your children. You are one of a kind and very special. I love guys like you: hard ass, wonderful, honest, call it like it is. My best to you.

    Rick Seibert, June 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Reply
  • Thanks Jay. As always, you strike the heart. I can’t imagine you’re being anything less than an amazing father. Congratulations Amanda, LA and Jay.

    John McDermott, June 23, 2011 at 12:16 am | Reply
  • Great story Jay! I have 2 daughters, the oldest just turned 17 and I can attest to the truth of what you say. Of course, you’re right, even though it seems they’re not listening somehow they pick up little bits from you here and there. It does get through amazingly enough.

    Dennis Dunbar, June 23, 2011 at 4:07 am | Reply
  • It’s always a toss-up, isn’t it? Art may last long but regret at not spending time with your kids (in order to do art!) somehow seems to last even longer.
    I loved the sequence of pictures you put up! The facial gesture in the softball picture is priceless!

    Jim, June 23, 2011 at 9:30 am | Reply
  • Just finished reviewing the gallery of images at the end of the post. Wow! Thank you for sharing so many intimate family moments with us all. Wonderful to get a glimpse of so many different facets of life in your household. As an artist/celebrity, I’m sure you had to make a lot of difficult sacrifices along the way to get where you are today. Looking forward to reading more of your insightful blog posts in the future… ~Shannon Adelson (Philadelphia, PA)

    Shannon Adelson, June 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Reply
  • As long as we keep our eyes open, we will continue to grow. Children have children, and these little creatures provide more joy and sadness than ever imaginable. We have to stay focused on the journey and not the destination. Continue to enjoy your daughter. My wife and I are so looking forward to your workshop in September, your insight into the craft, and even your Jay’ism’s.

    Dan Biggerstaff, June 25, 2011 at 5:41 am | Reply
  • I’m only six years in to my own adventure with my daughter, but I’m already sensing the impending doom of her teen years. May she develop the wisdom that your daughter has – to have had that confidence in myself at 17 (shoot, at 30) would have been a blessing.

    Thank you for sharing her images over the years. This is a gift to us all.

    Eric W, June 26, 2011 at 1:09 am | Reply
  • That one of her walking down the hallway in the yellow raincoat?…… That’s you Jay, exactly! Only a cigar could have completed the likeness!

    Michael Matsil, June 29, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Reply
  • Mr. Maisel,

    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful words and sentimental recollections of your daughter. Your images of her through the beginning to date are poignant, moving and beautiful! Your writing is wonderful too. In fact, so wonderful you had me chuckle with the “it’s the work of the devil” line then feel a twinge of reflection and sadness with your last paragraph. All I can say, again, thank you for sharing these moving and personal words and photos. Will we have the treat of graduation pictures or will you be leaving those duties to another? Finally, I couldn’t easily pick a single favorite, bat the ball game with Amanda background, ball in the air foreground is fantastic!

    On an aside, your two Kelby Training videos changed how I approach so much of my shooting, I’m seeing so much more (I have telephoto vision too) and learned so much. Thank You! I hope to one day attend your workshop in NYC (a dream of mine and I’m only up in CT).

    Best of luck to Amanda as she embarks on another chapter.


    Doug (the guy who “asked” you if you wanted a room mate during the live broadcast… Please don’t hold that against me. -smile-)

    Doug Evans, June 30, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Reply
  • Jay -
    Thank you for writing irregularly. A touching story. I am only a decade behind you and must have these experiences you write about Amanda vicariously as I have no children. My choice. We all are where we are as a result of past choices.

    Gary Schimelfenig, July 3, 2011 at 5:46 am | Reply
  • Dear Jay,

    I just watched the series of images that you have made of your daughter Amanda.

    This series is a masterpiece by itself. It collects in 34 images a destiny in the making. It should be worth of a publication by itself alone.

    A publication that should raise any parent that, perhaps never, even as parent, we don’t give enough attention to the future of our children. A series, at least, imbued with tenderness and love, which deeply moved me.

    Thank you Jay for this new lesson that goes far beyong the photography – the essence of photography : an attempt to retain the ephemeral and evanescent.

    Marc, father of Romain (17), Mallaurie (14) and Malena (11).

    Marc WAUMAN, July 3, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Reply
  • Congrats! Love the children growing up. Don’t be surprised after all is said and done, empty nesting is fabulous. And, wonderful, loving photography! Yes, the note needs to be where it can be enjoyed often!
    Linda, LR, AR

    Linda Harding, July 4, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Reply
  • Thanks for sharing so much of yourself with us. As always, you are insightful. The images are great. You have had a wealth of family experiences that have shaped you, Amanda and L. A.. Clearly, Amanda has taken a lot of what you and L. A. have given as parents.

    I’m sure that the next few years will be a rich experience and ongoing transition for all three of you. I have no doubt that you will have more images, reactions and tales of Amanda’s journeys. I hope that you will share those with us in some way.

    Paul Murray, July 6, 2011 at 10:27 am | Reply
  • This is a really nice story and this is worth reading, thank you for sharing this great images of your daughter.Goodluck to your family.

    Wilfredo, July 7, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  • amanda’s graduation is a ‘someday’ moment, an instant flash forward, with just enough time to look back. luckily you have the photo’s to savor. but time stands still for no one. there are a lot more ‘someday’s to come in the next years, and the come faster and harder … . .. thats a flashback.

    chris schleich, July 9, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Reply
  • A hundred years ago the artist sat in my kitchen over pie and coffee late one summer night and proclaimed, “I am a good photographer but I don’t know anything about being a Dad”, Amanda was 3. As a Dad of 20 years this statement took me back. Sometime ago I had made this near same statement. The friend I uttered this to did not respond, as I did. This answer can only be learned by living. The truth is kids are born sensitive and grow smart. They see to the heart of most things with a simplicity indicative of a clean slate. Amanda said so aptly, “I listen Dad. I just discard most of it”. They only retain the heart, they keep the truth, honor, benevolence, compassion, forgiveness and the integrity of our inner selves. These most hidden and most valuable traits surface from our kids as they mature with experience and age. Jay, congratulations. You’ve become the Dad first and the artist ?Well, because of the man you are, your priorities have been subtly reversed. In retrospect, you’ve watched Amanda put her spin on the core values you and LA have provided. It’s the kind of thing that happens once you’ve held that most special gift. gordon

    Gordon Trice, July 11, 2011 at 10:55 am | Reply
  • Beautifully photographed, edited, and written. I must say I choked a little at the final sentence. Then I recalled our pitched battles over the “ant crossing a wheat field” and had to smile. We all get better at things over time. Nice speaking to you today. I hope to meet Amanda as a full-grown woman at some point. I still have a Polaroid of me holding her at age 2 days. Love to you and LA from Tom and me.

    Emily Vickers, July 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Reply
  • Men who have fathered a daughter know the same things – no matter how much they have grown and taken their place in the world, they remain to us the little girl Tevye sang about.There is the Subaru commercial where a dad is seen talking to a little child with curls in her hair who is sitting at the wheel of the car; he is giving her the keys, with instructions and advice only such a father could give; the young woman/girl appears at the wheel. And so it will be the rest of our lives…

    Sid Georgiou, July 12, 2011 at 12:51 am | Reply
  • My son’s 17…one day the greatest kid in the world, the next day you…well, I won’t say it. Jay, with some some luck, we’ll survive their teen years!

    Jon DeVaul, July 14, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Reply
  • Hi Jay and Linda. remember Luggage & Novelty and Mr. Temkin.

    Your daughter is adoreable


    Cyndy, July 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Reply
  • Yes, your promise is accepted and will be remembered. Please! Write more! You have something to say. I’m eager to read you. I’d love to come to your classes, but 5G is a bit steep for a hobbyist. I’m sure it’s worth it for the pros. I’ll follow you closely here, however.

    Charles Leck, August 16, 2011 at 6:38 am | Reply
  • Your words are as honest as your daughter’s………. hmm, one would think she just may have been listening. Lovely.

    Barbara, August 24, 2011 at 12:44 am | Reply
  • Posted earlier….. not sure if you received it.
    Just wanted you to know that your words are beautiful.
    Your daughter does seem to be apart of you and you her…
    Her gift is the gift of sight, when most people are lacking.
    Lucky Guy to be able to share such a lovely light. with all of us.

    Barbara, August 24, 2011 at 12:59 am | Reply
  • Love you, man.

    greg, August 25, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Reply

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