May 15, 1972
Event Photography is all about capturing our personal history. This week’s been a quiet one; I’ve taken a little personal time to spend in my new palace with my mom, who is visiting.
I learned during this visit that my personal history was a bit more interesting than I thought.
It’s time to enter the Wayback Machine and head to the year 1972. (Yes, I’m aware that terms already stolen as an SEO tool. Tough, buttercup.)
I was four, living in Silver Spring, Maryland. My parents had just discovered a strange lump on my tongue, and the doctor thought the tumor should be removed; I was admitted to Holy Cross Hospital. It was one of only two times I’ve ever been hospitalized, the second came shortly before when I broke my leg.
Again, the year was 1972.
The date? May 14. I was released the next day, May 15.
Please key the Jeopardy Music.
This mildly historic event happened at the Laurel Shopping Center and ended the Presidential candidacy of the last person openly advocating segregation in a Presidential Election…
DO DO DO DO DO DO DO. DO DUNNNO DO DOOO DO. (That’s the Jeopardy theme. Hum it with me.)
Who is George Wallace for $1,000, Alex.
I’d been released from Holy Cross Hospital that morning, and that afternoon Wallace was shot (no, I didn’t do it, I was five) His bullet riddled segregationist body was rushed to Holy Cross Hospital just as my mother was returning to the medical facility to rescue….
LITTLE RED DOG.
I’d left the stuffed animal in my hospital room, and wouldn’t stop crying until someone retrieved the home made pet. I always knew how to manipulate.
Mom was barred from entering the hospital by the Secret Service, who had locked down the hospital due to the failed assassination attempt.
She, however, was not to be deterred.
“I am just getting the Little Red Dog,” she said, hands on hips (this part I imagine) and a smile plastered on her face, “he is red with black ears and Michael can NOT sleep with out him. Please, just let me in.”
With that, the pre-nine eleven Secret Service Agent waived my mother into the hospital to retrieve the Little Red Dog.
Now, you may think this is totally boring. Who cares, you think, about this bit of history with a rather shady historical figure?
I care. My family — my dad, who is a writer, and my mom, who (of course) is a photographer, are always just on the fringe of history.
My dad was with Martin Luther King (as in, attending a rally to report on the event, not having coffee with) two weeks before the Civil Rights icon was gunned down. He was in Chicago during the riots at the Democratic Convention the year I was born. And, of course, my photography career launched on September 12, 2001, when I left for Ground Zero to cover the terrorist attacks. Not to mention the more recent experience in the exact center of the largest earthquake in 25 years to hit Sonoma, CA for the last Indycar race. See previous blog post on “The Year of the Apocalypse.”
My point is this. We all share a moment in history. Some are big, dramatic moments where buildings fall in the worst attack on American soil since the Civil War. Others are smaller bits of history that don’t seem important or grand at the time, but become something else.
My sister wrote her dissertation for her PhD on the African American community at one church in Alabama, and how they are direct descendants of slaves. These first hand accounts were published in her book, and were gathered by my sister over the course of several years.
She became part of their history, and her book will become part of the historical record. Historians call it “source history”, dealing with first hand accounts from those who actually experienced the events.
I love history. The other day a front desk clerk made the mistake of telling me his name was “Caesar”, and that he was a Roman history buff.
I launched into an account of ancient Rome, and after a breathless re-hashing of the Four Founders of Rome and Sulla’s coming out parade, I finally paused for breath, I looked up at a rather bored desk agent who simply replied, “Caesar was cool. You’re in room 913.”
For me, great photography captures these little bits of history, they become part of both our personal, micro-history, and the story about our civilization as it stands right now. Great photos — even green screen photos — tell a story about who we are and what we are doing at that moment in time. Or, what we dream about doing. It’s one reason I love photography, and work so hard to create green screen photos that are so immersive and full of fantasy. (Remove mind from gutter, please.)
It’s strange, but about four times a year we’ll get a request in for a photo we took at a past event. The reason? To run with someone’s obituary.
Today may be a day like any other, a day you won’t remember tomorrow, let alone thirty years from now. Or, today may be that day which marks the turning point in your life.
A day you point to and say, “That was the day when my history changed.”
With any luck, you’ll have a great photo to point to and say, “…and this picture was captured on that day.”
Geeze, what an awesome job I have.
By the way? The term “coming out of the closet”? That was Sulla. (Shhhh! We’re going back to Ancient Rome now.) Uh, huh. Seems Rome’s First Dictator (and some say most ruthless) decided to put on a little drag show as he left Rome for the final time with his lover, Metrubius. Apparently, it was a show to remember, though not taught in any history class I’ve taken. No one had any idea the famous general and dictator Sulla was gay. He really dressed poorly.
|Dolomites Mountains in Italy
|Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders
|Rome’s first dictator, Sulla
The “coming out” parade is attributed to Rome’s first dictator, Sulla, who declared his homosexuality as he left Rome for the final time with his lover and an entourage of …actors…(prostitutes) in grand style. Since photography wouldn’t be invented for another 3000 years, we only have a few chipped statues to record the history. And, surprisingly, no depiction of the parade.