When Work Is Play: A Postscript

NOTE: This post was originally published in 2009, when I launched my blog. It has been slightly revised. 

When my son Sam was about five – oh, so many years ago – he and his best friend Alex had a conversation in our neighborhood sandbox about the different kinds of work people do to make a living.

I strained to hear as they listed all the jobs they could think of, and the specific work each job required: teachers, doormen, policemen, 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 (Mayor Ed Koch reached everyone) deep sea divers and astronauts, the job descriptions became expansive. The little guys’ imaginations were limitless as they discussed what they might do as grownups.

A photographer-in-the-making

When Alex’s mom came to pick him up I re-capped my favorite quote of the day 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.

That’s what I want, Mom… a big smile. When I grow up, my work is gonna be play. 

There it was. At 5 years old he had established a vision for his future.

 

Sam with 4x5 MAINE Sam w Digital @ NMAI

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 and architecture (like his dad), always enjoyed collaborating, 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: photographing the theatre at the National Museum of the American Indian, on the Mall in Washington D.C.

Below Right: experimenting with his new 4×5 camera, taking shots of his family in New Hampshire

Sam w 4x5 HANOVER

It has been 25 years since Sam declared that his work would be play. He is an architectural photographer, a back-up drummer for a bunch of bands, and he has launched a photography company that is growing rapidly: The Photo Booth Party.

As I think back on those years watching him exercise his theatrical intelligence (before I had even come up with the term) it’s no secret that I was embarrassingly proud.

These days if you observe my son hard-at-play, his joy is impossible to resist. It is positively contagious.

No wonder.

His vision: “…my work is gonna be play” is now his reality. 

 

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4 Responses to “When Work Is Play: A Postscript”

  1. Roger morgan says:

    Every boy should have a Mom like you, Ann.

  2. Nancy Forsythe says:

    He makes being with him play! What a creative, gentle, curious man…just like he was back then. Love that guy! Great way to think of it, Ann. As always, your insight gives life such ‘intelligent’ perspective!

    Love, N

  3. Mindy says:

    Not many people are lucky enough to actually have fun while they work. It takes a talented and passionate person to have a vision, pursue it and be able to truthfully say they’ve attained it. Sam is defintely that person. I can’t help but believe that his parents had something to do with it.

  4. Gwen Suesse says:

    Such fun to read this . . . I loved “My mom’s an actress. She auditions.” And I love that Sam followed his Truth. Because he has done so, his work is play. That’s the secret to living. Do what you love!

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