Wednesday, December 9, 2009
No cute photos today, folks. Just some heartfelt words that I want to write and you're welcome to read if you like. Today would have been my father's 90th birthday. I've admitted on many occasions that I was a "daddy's girl." We were close and I am very aware that, as we say in the South, I "take after him" and I consider that a compliment. I am writing today not just to celebrate the date of his birth but also his influence on my life as a photographer. Conway Photo would literally not exist without all of the hard work, sweat, anxiety and, most importantly, the love he poured into this business. Nothing in his young life should have created an artist. He was born on the farm and would probably have lived happily as a farmer except for the passion for photography that he discovered at an early age. He had to farm to make a living when he was young but he worked beyond overtime to perfect his craft. There were many components of his life that are a study in contrasts. He came along at a time when he had to leave school at a young age to work, but he became a man who educated himself in the things that were important to him and he continued to grow and learn throughout his life. He went without complaint to serve his country and lived for two years in foreign countries but he was always the happiest in his own corner of Northampton county. He worked in a profession that was practically unknown in this rural corner of the state and became both professionally and financially successful, but I'm pretty sure he did not measure his own happiness in terms of these successes. I can list for you several of the things that made him happy. He enjoyed seeing a really pretty field of peanuts or cotton. He delighted in watching the deer come into the edge of the field behind the house at twilight. He was overjoyed at the sight of the church pews at Zion Methodist filled with people. He was beyond proud when his children or his grandson made the honor roll at school. He loved photographing weddings and enjoyed a fatherly affection for "his brides." When he died we tried to estimate how many weddings he had photographed through the years and the only number we could come up with was 3000+. Just about every wedding I photograph today has at least one man, woman or couple approach me and tell me about my father photographing their wedding 10, 20, 30, 40 or more years ago. I treasure every one of those encounters because I know how important this was to him. He never really stopped working and actually photographed two weddings with me the weekend before the heart attack that would ultimately take his life. Photography was not just his job; it was his passion. I believe that he considered he was lucky for much of his life. He found his career in something he loved and he never had to leave the farm that was a part of his life; he met and married the woman I once heard him describe as "the most beautiful girl he ever met"; he was able to return home from war and was painfully conscious of the many men who did not; he raised two children that he was proud of and who loved him dearly; he created a business that became a part of the lives of generations of families in two states and left behind not just the building that I sit in and write from this morning but a visual history of our past. I can take you back to see the boxes and boxes of negatives that are the lives of my neighbors -- the baby photos, the senior portraits, the weddings, the families. He was able to capture these moments in their lives and was proud and happy to do so. It's not just me that wouldn't be here without him; I think a lot of us would have bare walls and only memories without his life's work. Happy Birthday, Daddy.