A letter from my father

My dad and I have regular lunch dates and an ongoing conversation about photography, gender dynamics, career, media, and our family. I love our relationship. I’ve paraphrased his words in a few places and taken out names of people who are currently alive, but the integrity of the letter remains as posted here:


I’ve been thinking more about what jerks males are.

I couldn’t think of any good men, apart from your sister’s husband, when we had lunch.

But today I know another one, an English guy I work with who lives at Roberts Creek and stays in town and goes home on the weekend.

He has a lovely interesting wife who I’ve never met and delightful young kids, a girl and a boy.

And putting him and your brother-in-law together, I’m getting an idea of what you should look for in a man.

A man should be devoted to his family. Your brother-in-law is in love with his mother and feels happy being around his family and relatives.

I can see that in my colleague too. He calls home every night and asks his kids what they did that day and says good night and says he loves them. And he talks warmly with his wife and goes out of his way to take care of relatives that visit and stuff like that.

I think men like those two go beyond just showing up. They sniff out how others are doing and make their lives better.

Another thing a man must have is a level of sophistication that informs him about what’s needed in a social situation.

A man can be loving and social but if he’s also negative and stupid, his influence and company can result in more harm than good.

A man must have good manners and understand that the purpose of manners is to put others at ease.

Granny Pat would tell the story about the Queen (who, of course, had perfect manners) who would break the rules when necessary to make some less fortunate soul feel accepted and valued. She would eat with the wrong fork or something if her ignorant guest had done that, to show that their behaviour was fine with the Queen.

At Uncle Bus’s funeral, I thought my sister said it beautifully when she said that even if you showed up late, Uncle Bus would make you feel as though the party hadn’t started until you got there. She would always love him for that.

I always thought my old schoolmate was that kind of a guy. Somehow his kindness and strong heart would be bigger than any crappy, dysfunctional situation he ever found himself in.

He was a sophisticated guy. His friends made fun of him at his wedding about always wanting to read the New York Times, even when they were on vacation at some lake out in the middle of nowhere.

A man of character doesn’t make excuses and blame others about things he doesn’t like. Successful people take responsibility for what’s going on around them.

And maybe most importantly, a man must cherish the difference between the sexes and enjoy and appreciate the fact that he is never going to understand the way his partner experiences the world.

He has to understand that humans do not know it all and have to approach things like God, death and love with respect.

Anyway, I’ll probably babble on about this more at our get-togethers.

Enjoy the camera. Don’t take it too seriously. I saw Richard Avedon on Charlie Rose and he said he was full of fear sometimes going in to a photo shoot, afraid he might not be able to pull off the high-class pictures he was famous for.

We’re not professional photographers. We don’t have to give a shit about what anyone thinks about our pictures.