Life is a documentary

paramedics on a baby

[A]s I was heading to the door to go to the ambulance, I suddenly stopped and ran the other way. F#$^&ing photographer! I don't swear but this time I did to myself as I was picking up my camera. It was the worst day to be a parent, but by the end of the day I came out transformed.


When you are alone your weak point is between your legs if you are a guy, your chest if you are a girl. But when you have a family, your weak point is your family, you hurt when they hurt, they are an extension of you. My child had a seizure and seeing him rolling his eyes and foaming in the mouth as if he was passing like this was nothing more than a stab at the heart (He is fine now). The paramedics came to pick him up, and what did I do? Pick up my camera. I cussed myself out in my head because how could I think about pictures while my kid is about to go to the hospital?

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I took the camera promising myself to question why I reacted like that. Why did I have the urge to pick up my camera in a situation like this? I had to ride in the front and as the paramedic was driving I told the guy “I am a photographer”…and without thinking said “And this is my coping mechanism”. You know when you speak but didn't think first but what you said is still true? I was stunned at my answer and I realized it was true. As a Dad I was fighting the pain and was trying not to freak out (when everybody else was), trying not to think about the worse, but as a photographer I was going with the flow, just documenting. I'm a recovering worrier always thinking the worst and that side was tamed as I was talking pictures.

I could express what I was feeling as worry, or I could take pictures. This self portrait reflected what I was feeling: Powerless.
I could express what I was feeling as worry, or I could take pictures. This self portrait reflected what I was feeling: Squooshed and Powerless.

The camera shields you, it removes you from the scene. When the idea of something happening to my child became unbearable, I shot some frames. It's like life is a big documentary, and when you shoot you take enough steps back to realize it is. Sometimes we are actors in life, but lots of time life is a big roll of film, passing in front of your eyes, stealing a frame here and there with your camera. When your child is on a stretcher and you can't do anything beside praying, you could worry yourself to death or you could take your mind away from it. Is it a form of escapism?

Of course it is, Life is terrifying, that's why we cope with the help of entertainment and diversions. Life is livable so long that it intoxicate us said Dostoyevsky. I want to be part of life, embracing it, be human and at the same time stay away from it, away from all the pain…..the interface is photography. It's my balance, I'm there experiencing pain as a parent but release some of it by taking a step back by taking pictures. Without my camera I would have broken down bad. My camera kept me from this many times when I was there when mothers were weeping for their children.

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Photography, or more precisely documentary photography is in my core, I can't tell you why, it's just part of me. I didn't want to leave my camera behind because I felt that if I did  would not feel completely present. Is it weird if  tell you that I feel more alive when I shoot than any other time?

As my baby was recovering I took this picture:

baby recovering

As I took it it's like I reviewed all the documentary images that I have ever seen, and I saw the words flashed to my mind: Life is a documentary. It is full of stories here and there, happy stories, bar mitzvas, weddings, sad stories, groundbreaking stories, stories of everyday life, every one has a story……Life is a documentary and I'm here to capture it. I was always a documentary photographer, I knew my purpose, it's nothing new, but it is as if in this moment it all clicked for good, as in I officially received my purpose right then and there.

A few seconds later this thought came to my mind “God forbid, If I was to lose him, the only thing I would have is photographs”. My mother passed away in the Haitian earthquake, my biggest regret was being too stuck up with flowers and benches in my photography to appreciate the human element. I have photos of her but I didn't take them, they did not capture her as I remember her, photographs are important, yours even more…. At the end of the day I realized how much I am blessed, and that it is an honor and a privilege, my friend, to be a photographer……to steal frames here and there from that big documentary we call life. I tried to transfer some of the epiphany I received to you, I hope I succeeded. Blessings.

An honor and a privilege indeed
An honor and a privilege indeed

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4 thoughts on “Life is a documentary”

  1. Pingback: Children photography: Toughts, Tips and Projects - F8 | Wedding documentary photography | Fort Lauderdale

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