A couple of weeks ago I was deeply honored to have been asked to speak at the memorial service of a very special man in my life. So many lessons about life and photography came out of the experience, I can think of no better way to kick off the launch of my new blog than by sharing this story and hope you find benefit in it as well.
Paul Turnbull was the president of The Hallmark Institute of Photography when I attended there. His time at Hallmark spanned nearly 20 years so he influenced thousands of photographers. His passing on March 11th was felt by many.
When I was asked by his wife, Janice, to speak as a representative of the Hallmark alumni it was a weighty responsibility. One I was honored to hold and grateful to accept.
It brought up a big question that I think we all can benefit from considering. Who am I there to serve?
Am I there to serve Janice and comfort her during her time of loss? Am I there to serve the Hallmark community as requested? Or is it that I am there to serve everyone that will be gathered. I even wondered about serving myself. I am grieving as well and perhaps I should express my personal reflection. If one has ever given a eulogy or anything of the sort, in a way you could say the intention is to serve all of the above.
After all the consideration, the thing that stood out to me the most was that I was there to serve the moment.
I believe this is very different than being in the moment, although relatable. In serving the moment it meant going beyond the awareness of the moment and being willing to be of service to the moment. Think about this. For all you photographers, isn’t that really what we do, in the moment, at a fraction of a second? Awareness of what’s happening in the moment and then an action to be of service. The service of documenting that moment.
I realized when preparing for what I was going to say at the service I had no choice but to be willing to be brave enough to serve the moment. Without knowing who or what was going to be present. Would there be sorrow or joy in that moment? Would there be a lot of alumni who could recall some funny stories or not? The fact is I didn’t know. How often do we really know who’s going to show up in life? We may know who by name, but are they having a bad day? A good day? Something else on their mind? Perhaps they’re showing up with their own judgments. We don’t really ever know what is showing up at any given moment. Coming home from work, or school, standing beside us in the checkout line or passing us on the street.
I like to be prepared. For everything. All the time. For me, and perhaps for many others, this experience can provide a lesson in a deeper level of service than I’ve known before. Not service to the person(s). While that’s good and perhaps our default, serving the moment has a more acute sense of feeling what is present and then responding to it in a way that will be of most service. That may mean going in a direction we hadn’t intended. Or patience we didn’t know we had. Perhaps compassion for what is unknown.
In that moment. With our choice of words. The actions we choose. The thoughts we hold. Or the release of a shutter.
Paul Turnbull. The man who taught me and countless others about photography and so much more. Still teaching about life and photography.