" It's good of you to do this," I told D. " I really appreciate it."
" This is not a problem," she replied. "I'm glad to give back."
We were meeting a client at the women's shelter along with her daughter at a local park. The kid's a Senior in high school. The mom couldn't afford to purchase graduation pictures. The shelter called me and asked me if I would take the kid's picture. I told them that I would be happy to do it. But I'm the living embodiment of the line from a mob movie.
I'm a guy who knows guys.
And so I told GG at the shelter that I bet D would do it. So I sent D an e-mail. I was right. She agreed.
And that's how I came to be present at a fashion shoot on a Saturday afternoon with one of the best photographers in Arkansas.
The kid is a beautiful black girl. Diana Ross thin. White dress, clunky bracelet, 8" inch heels. D gets her to climb up on a stone walk. Which the kid somehow does without breaking an ankle. D is setting exposures.
"Do I look OK?" the kid says.
"Oh you're great," says the voice behind the camera. "You have such a nice figure. Doesn't she Paul?"
" She is a lovely girl," I say.
"I guess you probably need to leave it at that don't you? Sorry."
She sets the flash.
"Did you dance at lot in the prom last night?"
"I sure did."
"In those shoes?" I ask.
"No," all 3 women say.
I had to ask. Right? Besides, she is young and limber. She probably could have done it if she wanted to.
D quits fiddling with her Nikon and soon we are off. Hands on hip. Smiling. Not smiling. Turn this way. Turn that way.Let's see a smile.
"She's good," I whisper to D.
"All these little girls love the camera," she said. " I used to have to kind of show them what to do. Now they all look like pros. It's funny."
She turns to the mom.
"I saw a lot of clothes in the trunk. You got something else for her to change into?"
"Yes ma'am," the mom says. "If that wouldn't be a problem?"
"Nope. Not a problem to me. We will be over there by that tree."
We walk across a grassy space to an old sweet gum tree. D changes out a lens.
"Lot of clothes in that trunk," she says.
"Not unusual," I reply. "Lots of times they just throw what they can in a bag or a trunk and get the hell out of dodge."
" As you know, I started out as a medical photographer. I used to take pictures of battered women in the ER. I remember one in particular. This asshole had beat her senseless. She said she was going back to him. She went back to him. The next time I took her picture was in the morgue. He finished the job."
She looks through the viewfinder.
"Some things you just don't forget."
By this time Mom and Tyra Banks have returned. The kid is wearing slacks and a jacket.
D leans her up against the tree. They go through the drill again. She then has the kid take her shoes off. She has her lie on her side. Ceder Hill Road rolls up behind.
"Look," I tell the mom. "See how her length with the winding road in the background makes such a good image?"
"Oh," she says. " That is so pretty."
"Ok," D says. " You get 5 more. We've done serious and we've done fashiony shots. Let's do something fun. You said you're a dancer. Can you jump and kick your heels to your booty?"
Well of course she can.
D is seated on the ground beside me firing away. The kid is jumping around and being happy.
"I know this is dumb," she said. "But I just love jumpy shots."
We are done after the jumpy shots. D and I head for the parking lot. Mom says they are going to hang around in the park for awhile. After all, it is such a beautiful day.
I put my arm around D's shoulder.
"You're going to Heaven, Buddy." I said.
" Well, like I said I like to give back. I've had a great career. I made a living taking pictures. I sure had a lot of help along the way. I'm fortunate. I only do what interests me now. So I'm honored to help these folks."
As was I.
I've had a great career. I had a lot of help along the way. And like D, I like to give back.
It's not like D and I cured MS or anything Saturday afternoon.
But if I can help a kid in the battered women's shelter find a fleck of normal, of course I am going to do it.
Not that I did much of anything.
I'm just a guy who knows guys.
Good guys like D.