As I Was Saying

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.

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 façade.”

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.