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