Norman Rockwell made a self-portrait early in his career of the young illustrator scratching his head and staring at a blank canvas. Titled “Deadline,” the 1938 painting tells a story most artists face at some time or another when unsure what to say or how to say it.
Though I have far more ideas than time to explore them, there are those occasions when I find myself pondering what to share. When this happens, I ask myself, “What photographs have I made lately that align with those life values I ache to imitate and celebrate?”
The photograph becomes a writing prompt, stirring us and challenging us to find words that express what we feel. After all, the photograph—the captured image—is but a glimpse, a portion of the experience. I often tell my students when sending them on assignments, “Have a great experience. And if you make a good photograph, that’s a bonus.”
When I examined my photographs made the past month, one image stood out above the rest. The photograph is from an Amish funeral, held on a frigid morning (10 degrees below zero the morning this was shot in Northeast Iowa), a couple days after a young father, his 2-year-old son and two young girls were killed when the van they were riding in slid off an icy highway and rolled over.
I attended the wake the day before, without a camera, to share with a family and a community I did not know. They led me to the lifeless bodies in the small wooden caskets, a father with his arm around his son in one and two small girls, side by side in the other.
We published several images from the funeral and burial—attended by Amish families near and far—but I initially chose to hold back this photograph of a local family hurrying to the service because it felt too much like a beautiful Hallmark picture postcard. I feared it would distract from the soberness of the event and the day.
But as I view the photograph again, I study the beauty and power of the horse pulling the carriage on this icy morning and think of the supportive spirits of those riding inside.
Take a look back through the photographs you have made the past few months and see if one stands out, calling you to look more closely. See if you can use the image as a writing prompt to search for words that offer a deeper or more complete experience.
Email your best image (just one, please) with caption information, including an explanation of how it affects you, to GPH@pur.coop. We may share submissions on our website and social media channels.