A Portrait of my father.

 C.W. Tuck

I spend Sundays visiting my dad. I also visit him when I come down to San Antonio to meet with our attorneys or dad's tax guy. It's interesting to me that I've developed a closer relationship with him in the last three months than I had in the past, when my mother was alive. I think it's because, for the first time in my life, he needs my help. But at the same time he's teaching me patience and empathy.

I took this photograph after a family dinner last year at Cappy's Restaurant in San Antonio. We were celebrating my parent's anniversary and lingering in the parking lot afterwards saying goodbye. I looked over and liked the light falling on my dad so I asked him to stop for a moment. I shot a few frames. 

I like the expression. I like the background. I like the contrast of the color of his shirt and his skin tone. I wish I had taken more photographs of my parents over the years but my relationship with them was different from all the other people of whom I make portraits. 

I remember just before their 50th anniversary, well over a decade ago, I felt that we needed a definitive portrait of my mom and dad together. I didn't feel I was able to do the best job with them. I hired the firm of Parish Photography and asked that Mr. Parish himself do a session with my parents. Parish Photography had been an old guard studio in San Antonio for decades and had a wonderful reputation. Mr. Parish was also closer in age to my parents. I thought they would listen better to him; follow his directions, give expressions not nuanced by their need to be "my parents." 

Mr. Parish took them to a local park and made a series of beautiful portraits. I went through the proofs and selected my favorite shot and had 8x10 inch color prints, beautifully mounted, made for my mom and dad, my older brother and my younger sister. I also had a print made for myself. 

It's the last professional portrait I remember being taken of my parents and I'm happy to have it. 

It was an interesting exercise to actually select a photographer outside my circle of friends and acquaintances. I didn't ask about pricing, I just wanted the best fit, and to select a photographer who had a long track record of making the kind of portrait I was looking for. I have no idea what kind of camera he used. No idea about what lighting he used. All I cared about was the final result. I was looking for a mix of kind memory and aesthetic balance. It's always a learning experience to hire someone to do the thing that you do. I learned that portrait photographers can provide a very long term value to families for any number of reasons. The cost of the portrait is forgotten almost immediately, the photographs grow in value daily. Something to remember.


Alex said...

Kirk, enjoy these days and be happy about them.
After his cancer operation, my father lived for one more year and slowly detoriated. I drove him into the woods nearly every saturday and we went for a meal in an inn afterwards. When he finally collapsed, he lived for six more days in a palliative care unit. I visited him every day and we were as close as never before. These were some of the most straining days I ever experienced, but I wont miss them. I am at peace with him and hope he had a time as good as possible in this last year.

Phil Stiles said...

May we see the Parish portrait?

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Hi Phil, Not sure my parents and siblings would approve of the portrait being broadcast on the web. Send me an e-mail address and I'd send you a file. Thanks, Kirk

Fred said...

It may be partially because I feel like I know your father a little bit and I know a little of his story but I really like this portrait and I think it stands on its own.

David said...

My mom spent four years in a nursing home, and during that time I visited three times a week. We would hang out in the halls, in the courtyard, in the various gathering places. We’d visit and talk to people walking or rolling by. And I generally had a camera in my jacket pocket. I love the pictures I have of my mom and those times.

Huw said...

That's a lovely photo, Kirk. A portrait full of love and soul.


jiannazzone said...

Shortly after I married my wife her aunt, who had no children, asked me to handle her finances. I saw it as a burden but could not say "no". I had lunch with her once a week and got to know one of the nicest people I've had the pleasure of meeting. As I approach my older years, I hope that I can be a gift rather than a burden to those who will have to reverse roles and take care of me. It sounds like you and your father are doing well with that transition.