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The Hardest Decision I’ve Ever Had to Make as a Photographer

It’s 7:15 am on Sunday morning. I’m driving through the middle of Newcastle on my way to shoot wedding prep at a venue just over an hour away from my home. I pull over to the hard shoulder. Head in hands, crying and asking myself: “Chris, What the f**k are you doing?”

Let me rewind 70 hours.

It’s 9:15 am on Friday morning. I’m sitting in the waiting room of the children’s ER at the Royal Victoria Infirmary Hospital in Newcastle. My youngest son is very ill. He was in the hospital on the Wednesday with something called HSP — some reaction to an infection he had. Overnight on Thursday and into the Friday, his health had gotten significantly worse.

Vomiting blood, screaming in pain, covered in a horrible rash. Pretty much the worst things you could see happen to your 4-year-old.

“We need to admit your son..”

The doctors quickly realize there needs to be some intervention with my son to stop him from getting worse. He’s the most distressed I’d ever seen. He even asked if he was going to die. Heart-wrenching stuff.

First and foremost, I am a dad. That is the most important job in my life. But what happens when you’ve got to make that decision between being by your son’s side while he’s going through this awful illness or keeping your commitment to photograph a wedding that has been booked for over a year?

This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make as a photographer.

On one hand, how could I possibly leave my son? What if he got worse? What if he needed me? What if my wife needed me there to support her?

On the other hand, how could I possibly let this lovely couple down? How would that impact their day? How would it impact my reputation as a photographer? What if I couldn’t find someone to cover it?

All day Friday, all of this was racing through my head. I reached out to some amazing photographers I know to see who might be available if I couldn’t get to the wedding. Luckily, four came back to say it wasn’t a problem and they would shoot it. Amazing photographers indeed.

This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make.

It’s Saturday lunchtime. He’s not really getting any better. His heart rate is up, his kidney function is down, and he’s having to have morphine for the pain in his tummy.

How do you make this decision? It’s not like when I was employed by a big business — I couldn’t have cared less if I was off work then. It wouldn’t even have crossed my mind not to be at the hospital with the boy. But this is different. This is all on me.

Even though I had great photographers willing to cover the day, how could I do that to my couple? We’ve built a relationship, a rapport and an understanding of how the day will be. Taking that away from them with less than 24 hours notice could have ruined the happiest day of their lives.

It’s Saturday night. I’m still not certain on what to do. I look to the wife for the answer, knowing fine well that she would tell me to go. I look to my dad. He tells me the same.

I get home. The guilt is real. How could I leave him? I cry myself to sleep.

It’s 7.15am on Sunday morning. I’m driving through the middle of Newcastle on my way to shoot wedding prep at a venue just over an hour away from my home. I pass the turnoff to the hospital. I pull over to the hard shoulder. Head in hands, crying and asking myself: “Chris, What the F*ck are you doing?”

I give myself a shake. Take a big gulp of my coffee and get back on the road. As soon as I get there I check in with the wife to see how he is. He didn’t have a good night and was really unsettled. He was in pain. I took a minute outside before going to see my lovely bride. I tried to rationalize in my head what I was doing.

Could I actually make him feel any better by being there? Like actually physically better? No, I couldn’t. He was with my wife, who’s very strong, very smart, and very much in control of the situation. He was surrounded by doctors who were doing everything they can to make him feel better.

He is in the best place possible.

It’s 10.30pm on Sunday evening. I arrive back at the hospital to see my son flat out asleep in the bed. I sit down next to him and cry my eyes out again. The guilt is real.

The saving grace is that my couple was amazing. The wedding was amazing. The venue was amazing, and we got some amazing images of their stunning wedding day.

Still. This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make.

Eight days in and we are still in the hospital with the little fella. He’s looking loads better, but it’s going to be a long road to a full recovery.


About the author: Chris Ord is a wedding and portrait photographer based in South Tyneside, UK. You can find more of his work on his website, blog, and Twitter. This article was also published here.


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