Notes on a Frame - Parting Shot

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Welcome to the notes on a frame series, where I share the stories behind how and why images were made – both commissioned and non-commissioned work. Enjoy! Feel free to post questions below in the comments. If there are any specific images of mine that you would like me to talk about, let me know and I’ll add it to the queue. See all Notes On a Frame.


This image was the last frame of a fall wedding that I shot out at a vineyard in Vermont. It was a lovely crisp October day – exactly what you think of when you close your eyes and picture fall in New England. The ceremony had ended toasts were given, dinner was devoured and it was time for the unbridled dance party to commence. Everyone lets down their guard and it’s all out party. About halfway through the night I noticed some unusual commotion on the dance floor and I turned to see the groom’s father having a stroke. Medical was called and vitals were monitored as he was loaded on to the stretcher and wheeled out in to the ambulance accompanied by the bride and the groom, his son.


When this image was first seen by someone – a colleague of mine – she immediately said ‘Oh my god, I hope you didn’t show this to the bride and groom?!’ I was beyond irate. The assumption that because something isn’t traditionally pretty or pleasing to the eye or heart means that it is not important or that it isn’t a good ‘wedding photograph’ is exactly what is wrong with 99% of wedding photography today. I would actually mark this image as one of the most important frames that I have ever made. Ever. Hands down. What if this was the last moment that this family shared together? An actual visual reminder of the last moments that I spent with either of my parents would be one of the most treasured possessions I could ever imagine. I have never characterized what I do as wedding photography. I consider myself a family historian and I have chosen the birth of a family to be my specialty. Weddings bring with them an intense scrutiny of the nature of family, relationships, and an examining of the strength of the bonds that tie us together. There are ups, downs, commonalities, and peccadilloes. As the fates would have it, he was fine and recovered to full function. That does not diminish the power of this image. It’s a reminder of the delicacy of life, our fleeting moments, and to constantly cherish those we love. You really can’t say I love you too many times.


During the dancing, I was in the mix of it all, shooting away, creating imagery that accurately reflected the party. Bright, bold, in your face and full of motion. I noticed some commotion on the edge of my periphery and assuming someone had fallen on the dance floor I brought the camera to my eye and began to frame, compose and pull focus [I often manual focus on the dance floor - it's easier for me - I have no idea why]. I started to find my frame when I became aware that the person who fell was not laughing it off and hopping up again. At this point I had a decision to make: am I a journalist or am I an EMT – I’m trained in both. My thought process went like this… my primary role at this event is to document the day as it unfolds. Then I reasoned whether or not the image I was about to make would serve the story and be important. I came to the conclusion that the act of injury doesn’t serve the throughline of the day, it’s the reaction to the circumstance that defines the character of those involved. It is how people deal with the events that are presented to them the truly sheds light on their personality. So what did I do? I took vitals and monitored his pulse until a guest took over and eventually the paramedics arrived. While I was doing this I adjusted my camera settings – I was in dance floor mode with a flash on camera and a flash off camera ready to saturate and add and depth to the barn we were in. I switched everything off, changed to black and white, and exposed for the ambient light by the door.

As soon as the professionals came in, I stepped away and lined up my shot keeping my hand on my camera at my side but never bringing it up to my face. I had my 50mm on so I knew, for the most part, where my frame was. I just stood there knowing that due to the sensitivity of the situation I only wanted to make a single image. I milled about for a half hour until he was loaded up on the stretcher and escorted out to the ambulance and I made two frames, this one being the decisive of the two.


Say I love you. Say it loud and say it often.


  1. I love everything about this. I commend your delicacy balancing the reality of this situation and your ability to document the fragility of life.

  2. Michele StapletonApril 16, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    What has your client said about this shot?

  3. They simply adore it. It reminds them of a very unique ending to a magical day.

  4. i had always wondered about this picture- the story behind it and the outcome that followed it. leave it to you to not only capture such a real and pure moment, but to also have the absolute perfect words to complement it. what you do and the way you do it continues to inspire me. don't stop. ever.