I took this photograph in 1983. At that time I was working as a medical photographer at a Montreal hospital. I was always in the habit of using the staircases to get around instead of the elevators because I needed the exercise and it was quicker.
Naturally, while working, I almost always had a camera with me, and on this occasion, while on my way up to one of the floors to photograph a patient with some obscure feature, which only doctors can find interesting, I encountered Felix. I paused a few moments and took three shots before I continued on my way. But this is not what this story is about.
Why the Photo Matters
This image was made almost exactly 30 years ago. As I mentioned, I was working as a medical photographer and I was not all that happy about it. When I started the job 12 years earlier, it was far more exciting. I was given this wonderful darkroom, which I could use personally. I was my own boss (sort of), I worked alone and almost all of my duties consisted of either making photographs of patients, photographing surgical operations and making or designing teaching programs for the medical staff.
Somewhere along the way, things changed. Additional staff was hired and I became a boss. The job changed, and now almost half my time was administrative. Technology arrived and everybody wanted video and I personally had little interest in it but I had to learn and provide it to the staff. New levels of administration meant that good bosses were replaced by more mediocre ones. As I said, things changed. They always do.
Being miserable in a job is not unique, and I am sure many readers have encountered the same situation. However, doing something about is something else. A short while after I photographed Felix in the staircase, this job suddenly came to an end, and for one of those brief and rare moments in my life, the fog lifted and I made one of those important decisions which would alter my life forever.
I gave up being a professional photographer (at least a professional medical photographer) and moved into an area that was new, different and challenging. I decided to become a self-employed graphic designer specializing in medical publications. I had the skills but I had never put them to practice, but this time I seized the opportunity and became quite successful. There was also a side effect in that my photography, which I loved, would continue. My new career allowed me more time to explore my real photographic interest, which was not as a scientific photographer but as an artist.
Fifteen years later things changed again because with the advent of the computer toward the end of the 90s, most of my clients who were publishers began to purchase computers, Photoshop and Pagemaker and bypass me.
For the second time in my life, I had one of those rare moments of clarity and decided to change my life again and this time become involved in the actual medical publishing side. I became the client.
Things Change. They Always Do.
Do you see where I am going with this?
Things change – they always do – and there is little anyone can do about it except adapt. My professional photographic career lasted only 12 years, but since I loved photography that much, I modified my discipline and have been able to continue it for 30 years (and hopefully a bit longer) Not only do I now photograph the things I want to instead of being directed by the “client,” but I think I am still getting better at it, which is a wonderful side effect.
Because of the development of the computer, my 15 years as a graphic artist allowed me to prosper. However, the change in technology led to the inevitable decline in my business. Adapting to change and becoming involved as a publisher allowed me to continue to prosper and also gave me more time to develop as a photographer.
When I think about, though, nothing really has changed for me. I always enjoyed being a photographer and am still enjoying it today. Also, my background in the medical area has always governed my professional life to this day.
I think where most people run into problems is when they try to hang on to things instead of just changing with them. Instead of adapting to change they fight it and loose their way as a consequence. I suppose one may say the only way to fight change is to adapt to it.
As for the photograph of Felix, it is still one of my favorite portraits, to this day.