NOTE: my 2013 additions to this post may be considered biased. In fact, they are biased, never mind “may be considered”. Fair warning.
October 14, 2009
When my son Sam was about five – oh, so many years ago – he and his best friend Alex had a conversation in the sandbox about the different kinds of work people do to make a living.
As I strained to hear, they listed all the jobs they could think of and the specific work each job required: teachers, doormen, pediatricians, bus drivers (can you tell they were city kids?) the green grocer, our neighborhood barber… their descriptions were straightforward and accurate.
As they ventured into unfamiliar territory such as street-sweepers, the mayor (Ed Koch reached everyone) deep sea divers and astronauts, the job descriptions became expansive. The little guys were imagining what they might be when they grew up, and the possibilities were limitless.
When Alex’s mom came to pick him up I re-capped my favorite quote of the afternoon for her, regarding our sons’ versions of our work:
Alex: My Mom’s a writer. She writes.
Sam: My Mom’s an actress. She auditions.
Later that night, Sam and I reflected back on the sandbox conversation.
“Mom, when you go to work, you do a play, right?”
Yes, I told him.
There was extended silence as he thought this through.
And finally: “That’s what I want to do, Mom. When I grow up, I want my work to be play.”
There it was. At 5 years old he had established a vision for his future.
In the picture above, Sam is 7, shooting one of many moments on a family trip to Italy.
AND NOW WE PICK UP AGAIN 25 YEARS LATER…
As Sam grew, he continued to explore work as play: he was never without a camera, loved playing the drums, developed a hunger for travel as well as collaboration, and founded a rock band with some buddies.
Above Left: on the island of North Haven, Maine, preparing an onsite shoot of a Community Center project; Above Right: at the National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall in Washington D.C.; Below Right: experimenting with his new 4×5 camera in 2002, taking shots of his family in New Hampshire.
It’s now 25 years since Sam declared that his work would be play, and he’s a successful photographer, not to mention a back-up drummer for a bunch of bands.
As I think back on those years of watching him exercise what I now refer to as his theatrical intelligence – before I’d even come up with the term – it’s no secret that I was embarrassingly proud. And rightfully so.
Not only is his career thriving, he’s just launched a spin-off photography company that’s experiencing explosive growth: The Photo Booth Party.
If you observe my son hard-at-play these days, and making a living to boot, his joy is impossible to resist. It is positively contagious.
No wonder. He has made his vision a reality.