Serendipity, Volume 347

I guess I would be ignoring the 600 pound elephant (Is it supposed to be an elephant or a gorilla? I have no idea if either one is 600 pounds) in the room if I failed to mention that I had a piece in the Washington Post today. I've received some of the nicest emails--most from total strangers, many from former brides and grooms--in the last twenty-four hours. I always like to think that I've had lots of cool experiences in my life as a photographer, but this is a new twist. Writing is something I've always loved to do, from the time I was a little kid and I would write silly parodies of Jim McKay telecasting from the Olympic Games, though I never really imagined I'd ever really get the chance to do it for a large audience.

(Don't get me wrong: The vast--and I mean vast--numbers of visitors to The Dark Slide each day are equally important but The Washington Post is, well, The Washington Post. Have any of you seen the hysterical new show on HBO called Flight of the Conchords? In it, the struggling duo from New Zealand have exactly one groupie, a loony woman named Mel.)

Anyway, many of you know that I am fascinated by moments of serendipity and chance, ever since someone approached me in the Saudi Arabian desert during the first Gulf War and said, "Did you go to SUNY-Binghamton?" Well, there have been several this week, some related to the Post story and some not, that I wanted to share this morning.

Serendipitous moment #1: This past week, I was trying to begin the process of forming a 501(c)3 organization in memory of my cousin Bronia, murdered more than sixty years ago. My brother Daniel's book The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million is fairly exhaustive in detailing our search for information into the deaths of the Jagers of Bolechow. But one single piece of information has come to us after the book's publication, thanks to a massive archive released by Russia, and that is that Bronia, a girl of twelve, was all alone when she was sent to a death camp. This haunting detail has convinced me of the need to set up some kind of organization to help children in need, in Bronia's name. No, I am not quitting my day job. But in 2008, when Photo Marathon rolls around, we will have our very own charitable trust, Bronia's Fund.

Of course, I know next to nothing about setting up a 501(c)3. You should have seen me the other day, making cold calls to lawyers and financial advisers, pretending to understand the differences between a foundation and a charity, as far as the IRS is concerned. I was getting really frustrated and really confused. Literally at the height of this confusion an email popped into my inbox. It was from Shannon Blevins, one of my favorite (read: happiest) brides of two years ago. She was saying hello, out of the blue. And as I got to the bottom of her email I read the following words: Shannon Blevins, C.P.A.

I called Shannon one minute later and said, "Shannon? What kind of work does your firm do?" She said, "Well, we work with a lot of non-profit and charitable trusts."

Serendipitous Moment #2: I've been getting a lot of emails regarding my Post piece. One particular note came from a fellow photographer in Arizona, Cameron Clark. She told me how much the story meant to her, in that it summed up her feelings about weddings and life and all.

I wanted to write her a thank you note and so I took a peek at her blog. Her first entry was an "8 Things You Don't Know About Me" post, exactly like my last post, and I laughed when I saw that she had been "tagged" by someone at LaCour Photography, the same folks who had tagged me. As I read her first two items about cycling, I immediately wrote her to tell her about my "8 Things" entry, which mentions how crazy I become during Tour de France month. We both share a love of cycling (though I haven't been riding in a long time) and I figured she'd appreciate the similarity. Then, after sending that email, I read the rest of the list and realized that not only do we both love cycling, but we were both in Alaska together in 2000 as part of the Alaska AIDS Vaccine Ride. There weren't all that many folks on that snowy and frigid ride (it was August) and I can't believe how many times these things continue to happen to me.


Serendipitous Moment #3: Yesterday I shot the beautiful wedding of Miguel Estrada and Patricia McCabe at Dumbarton House, of which I'll post some images next week. Any of you living in D.C. know what the weather was like here yesterday--perhaps the most pleasant day of the summer. I always bump into lots of old friends at weddings these days and this was no exception. I saw Jocelyn Dyer and her husband Mike, whose children I photographed last fall. And I saw Matt McGill, whose wedding I photographed last October, and whose two-week-old baby, Calla, I just photographed last week.

The funny part comes from bumping into my friends Chris and Caroline Landau, though the serendipity lies not into seeing them yesterday at the wedding, but rather how we met in the first place.

Ten years ago, I was shooting a story for USA Today about, of all things, a resurgence in knitting clubs. So I went to one of these clubs, everyone hard at work knitting and perling, and started chatting with a woman who was talking about her upcoming wedding. I'm a born eavesdropper, what can I say? Well, I was getting married that year as well, and we started comparing notes.

Who's your caterer?

What's your venue?

Who's doing your flowers?

After going down the list I joked to Caroline that she should talk to my fiancee, Maya, and they should compare notes. Sometimes you say these things, but you don't really think they'll ever come to pass. Well, it not only came to pass and we've been great friends with Chris and Caroline ever since. Through dinner parties and Christmas cards and babies--even Chris's first oral argument in front of the Supreme Court of the United States--we've been friends. So the next time you're at your favorite knitting club, say hi to the person to your right. You might even get a sweater out of it.



Matt

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