One of the best things about being a shooter, and, sorry young photogs, you have to wait for this particular delight–is getting older. Reason being is that you accumulate. Throughout all the travails and disappointments, the blown jobs, the missed calls, the times you zigged when you shoulda zagged, the broken pixels, the random attaboys, the monthly stare down with bills that aren’t getting paid, you receive, occasionally, the sheer unadulterated joy of having a camera in your hands at just the right split second when it all works. Not to get too frikkin’ Catholic about it, but those shards of time when gesture, light, and lens all work in concert with your head and your heart and that click becomes a frame that stirs emotion, creates memory, and provokes reaction–well, that’s like confession and communion all at once.
You accumulate pictures, to be sure, by the pound. Also stuff–trust me, you don’t want to go into my garage. (I needed that fiber optic unit precisely why?) But, just like an intricately woven fabric, the threads of a photographic life interweave, repeat, and get denser and richer over time. Those accumulated photos make connections, sometimes powerful ones. Sometimes ones you go back to, time and again.
In my freshman year of college, in gym class no less, I was alphabetically arrayed behind a guy named McDonald. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was already a fine photographer, and had firmly and completely cast his lot in school already. He was a photo major–done deal, no looking back. A photo major then and now, after spending an amazing career 35 year career as a newspaper shooter in Jersey. I of course was still deciding whether I was gonna major in journalism, peyote, hitchhiking around the Northeast, or pissing off my parents. (If they awarded a GPA for that last one, I’da graduated with honors.) Fast forward a bit, and Dennis married a wonderful lady named Maureen, and they had a daughter and a son–Maggie and Brian.
Maggie became over time, one of my all time favorite models. She was always a sprite, so she looked younger than she was, and was way smart, so she could take direction and pull off a shot. Like the one below, where she became a “latchkey kid” for a story about caring for your kids. I needed some pathos, some sense of “It’s getting dark out there!” for the photo to work, and Maggie pulled it off.
I’ve shot her for Nikon, for LIFE, and occasionally, just for fun. Maggie loved the camera, and it loved her back. She would resolutely take the modest modeling fees I would offer and do her own form of accumulation, called “The Europe Fund.” I always knew she’d be a traveler.
She has covered lots of ground in her young life, to be sure. She went to Williams College, which incidentally was rated as the #1 liberal arts college in the country, and amassed a lollapalooza of a GPA. She now holds two separate Masters degrees from University of Pennsylvania, and has worked already in India and Cambodia. Her field is foster care, families at risk, caring for kids. Helping people, in other words.
Her version of runaway bride.
My daughters, Caitlin and Claire, basically grew up with Maggie and Brian, every summer for 13 summers, down at the shore.
All of us, waiting for the bathroom at the Chalfonte, Cape May.
She was a beautiful kid, playing dress up all those years ago. Then, just this past spring, I shot her engagement portrait. The real deal, this time. In a few days, she’ll be a beautiful bride. Everybody accumulates memory, but as a shooter, you get to illustrate that memory book.
On Saturday she gets married, down at the shore. I think I’ll probably shoot some pictures.
Dave Dugdale says
That is one of your coolest post Joe. Thanks for sharing that long history. I am watching all your videos on Kelby and really enjoying them.
stephen diroll says
great post! I’m at that stage where all my friends have had their first round of kids. Can’t wait to look back years from now at the pictures i’m stockpiling.
You’re words are beautiful….looking forward to seeing her wedding photos. Thanks for sharing!
Dennis de Jesus says
Great story Joe. I really like how you incorporate your photos with stories that only you can narrate. Excellent as always.
Jim Wells says
Now this is what life is really about !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Have a great time Joe, I’m sure this means a lot to you 🙂
My gosh Joe. You can tie a picture to emotion better than any photog I’ve seen. Your written stories serve the images and make me a part of your world. After reading this blog I feel as though I’ve watched Maggie grow up myself.
Thanks Joe for a wonderful post; and congrats Maggie!!!!!
Thanks for sharing those memories.
Tears welling up. Well done.
What a sweet post. Yes, definitely what this thing called being a photographer is all about.
As usual, terrific post.
Michael Fisher says
I teared up thinking about my own girls and them growing up. Well done, Joe. Thanks for making me cry, ya bum! 🙂
Matt Welsh says
Joe, this is one of the coolest posts you’ve made. I love the human side of photography and this story really emphasizes it.
Thanks for sharing it…
Richard Davis says
You light your prose as brilliantly as you craft your images. Fantastic post! And best wishes to Maggie and her beau for Saturday and beyond.
Johan Sopiee says
you’re great with images, Joe. and you’re amazing with words. put the two together, like how you’ve done with this post, and i’m just blown away with how close i get to feeling that i’m there, in your shoes, right now. feeling what you’re feeling and everything.
i admire you. you inspire me. and for those of us who get to know you not just as a legendary photographer, but also as a wonderful person with a beautiful heart, a giver and mover of mountains, i’d say i’m blessed and my life will never be the same again.
and every single time you teased me about whacking someone’s head with a softbox i was holding for you, i feel like whacking someone else’s head and get to hear you, Drew and Louis laugh at and with me. hehe
After seeing the last image I was like…awesome post! Wish you a lot fun at her special wedding!
Tim Skipper says
As always your blog is an excellent read and wonderfully real.
Kevin Glackmeyer says
nice…whoever you have writing this stuff nailed it this time.
Joe S says
Joe, I have been a long time reader and fan. Great post as usual.
I came across this recently in reading a book. I thought it was an ironic parallel to what folks say today about digital cameras.
“Toward the end of the 1870’s, a revolution in photography occurred. This was the introduction of the dry plate. No longer did photographers have to struggle with wet collodion poured painstakingly over the enormous glass plates in all climes and places; now, smaller, faster dry plates in cameras with faster lenses could be carried anywhere with a minimum of difficulty. It was the beginning of the ultimate democratization of photography, for now any amateur could pursue images. And as the camera speeded up, there was the possibility for amateurs to capture action scenes and even horses heading straight for the camera.”
Taken from Fredric Remington, the Camera & the Old West by Estelle Jussim, pg. 14 ©1983
That’s awesome Joe, I hope to one day have the same experience. I’ve documented my kids from day one and I’m sure by the time they get married, I will have accumulated many terabytes of images. Congrats.
Chad goldman says
Love the stories behind the photos. She makes a beautiful bride.
Kurt Wall says
Awesome post, Joe. And how cool is it for Maggie that Joe Freakin’ McNally takes her engagement portraits?
Lovely girl, great photo & [email protected] good story!
Jordan Bush says
Joe, I’ve followed you for years, seen you speak and teach probably a dozen times or more. I’ve never commented, though, until now. This post brought back a lot of memories for me of my friends/family at LBI, probably on that same bench, and also at Sea Isle City. It’s not about the image, but the story behind it. You certainly don’t need my blessing, but well done.
Lea Ciceraro says
That is incredibly sweet and beautiful. I love the photos and I love the story behind them. You can even see the kind of relationship you two have just by looking at her expression in her “official” bridal portrait. Beautiful work. Thanks for the inspiration!
Milosh Kosanovich says
Poor Girl. Imagine trying to hold a wedding during a photoshoot with 50 speedlights hanging from the rafters.
I love your stories and how photography connects to life experiences. Fantastic. I hope you can share more of your Maggie photos with us.
William Chinn says
Just this once the pictures are just as good as the story. You show the child growing up into a beautiful bride. And for once I don’t care about the lighting. The next book date is getting further away emotionally. Please add a chapter of family stories.
the hook at the end really moved me…nicely done Joe.
‘On Saturday she gets married, down at the shore. I think I’ll probably shoot some pictures.’ 😀
Great story and awesome pictures again – as usual 🙂
Congratulations for Maggie, and have a great time!
great read as ever.. also enjoying your dvd although not sure u gonna make it as an actor.. strobist, sorry u neither!!
Like you, I have a love, no, a need to take photographs Unlike you, I couldn’t see how to make a go of it in the photography business. Instead of becoming a pro when I was a kid, I decided to shoot for charity and take photographs of my life’s journey (and of those around me).
I call my pictures “Postcards from a Life Well Traveled” and I can think of no higher calling as a photographer than recording these life moments for yourself and for others.
Have fun at the wedding.
Kris Mitchell says
You have a way with words Joe. I was completely wrapped up in the story and if I’m honest, a tiny tear of joy for this person I’ve never met welled up in the corner of my eye upon seeing the final frame.
Stu Elwing says
Joe, What a wonderful blog entry! Thank you for posting it. I hope Maggie, her guy, you, her family and yours all enjoy the wonderful day! And I hope you get a few shots where nobody blinks as you click … shots where all the flashes all actually fire together.
The story is better than the pictures. The pictures confirm the documentary and history. As Henri Cartier-Bresson says “It is through living that we discover ourselves, at the same time as we discover the world around us.” You have, without a doubt, captured Bresson.
Thank you for sharing.
thank you for sharing your memories, your photos and your Maggie with us Joe. Congratulations to the McDonald family.
JerseyStyle Photography says
You brought a little tear…just a litte one, mind you…to the eye here. Special stuff. Making memories… ~ Mark
Dave D. says
Great quote, “Everybody accumulates memory, but as a shooter, you get to illustrate that memory book.”
I often joke that my 8-year old daughter (who is already the subject of thousands of stills and hundreds of hours of video) will have the most documented life in history — thanks to the nature of my business (videography/photography). Recently, however, when we were packing for a trip to Mt. Washington, she saw me pulling together my usual gear and she asked me timidly, “Daddy, do you think you could just be dad this weekend and not a photographer?” Wow. I felt like such a dope.
Needless to say, the professional sets ups are now few and far between as nifty little point-and-shoot is at the ready for those more candid moments.
Mike Neale says
C O N G R A T S,…M A G G I E ! ! !
Wow I can’t believe it! My youngest son Jonathan is getting married this weekend at the Jersey Shore. A beach wedding in Bemar. This was a great post Joe. Thanks. By the way I’m shooting the wedding too.
Wow, what a great story. That’s what being a photographer is about, all those precious moments. Hope Maggie enjoys her special day.
Carl Hensley says
This is so moving and motivating Joe. I was provoked to thinking of my two daughters, and now will have to start scanning the old photos (film days). I appreciate that you are so transparent as a human being. It empowers others. Thanks Joe. 🙂
Nicolae Cioloca says
Oh, the stare down at bills… will it ever end?
Love the second last picture…
Nico – Backstage photography: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R18ukiNNZcs
Steve L says
Demonstrates your fundamental “photo spirit” and motivation.
And your feelings toward Maggie are obvious.
Congrats to Maggie!!
Looking forward to “Maggie and pictures future!”
Surfing photo blogs while drinking my (late) AM coffee. This post brought tears to my eyes. Wel, l that was not expected. Awesome post!!
Thanks for sharing your world with us. I always enjoy both your photos and the stories that accompany them.
Glyn Dewis says
Such a great read and as always accompanied by wonderful imagery!
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts & memories Joe!
All the best to you and yours,
Kids…they grow up way too fast, LOL
Don’t hide your tear behind the camera ^^
Because a wedding photographers job isn’t stressful enough, Maggie’s now has to deal with the fact that Joe McNally is in attendance!
I am speechless….
Throughout all the travails and disappointments, the blown jobs, the missed calls, the times you zigged when you shoulda zagged, the broken pixels, the random attaboys, the monthly stare down with bills that aren’t getting paid, you receive, occasionally, the sheer unadulterated joy of having a camera in your hands at just the right split second when it all works.
Was all worth it.
Congratulations Joe for giving Maggie the best.
Wish all a great life
Ã“timas palavras. nada como o tempo para nos ensinar a enxergar melhor para um grande click.Fotografia sem experiÃªncia de vida, sem bagagem cultural, torna-se somente uma foto. Seu trabalho Ã© muito bom, tem vida, tem histÃ³ria. Um grande fotÃ³grafo. ParabÃ©ns e vale muito compartilhar essas e outras experiÃªncia! Vale mais que uma aula!
Yeah, it’s kool. I like to listen to stories. And I also like to tell stories. I mean, someone shares a part of his/her life with you and you capture it with your camera – just to tell AND show this story someone else.
It’s a great way to draw interest for everybody’s life. Who says that the big stories are always on the news?
Steve Lavelle says
Yet again… your blog moves me to tears
Jay Mann says
Nice post. Tugged at the heart strings…
Dear mr. Mcnally this is one beautiful post, really touching. thanks for sharing it with us 🙂
Always such amazing stories and amazing images Joe, always such an inspiration.
What a wonderful blog on my step-sis. I never knew she was such a model! Beautiful pics Joe, and what a great storyteller too!
I had almost the same thought as Darren, her poor wedding photographer.. this time the family friend toting an SLR is Joe f’n McNally.
She’s a beautiful bride – best wishes to the happy couple.
very sweet story..
Apratim Saha says
This is really a great work !
Denise Duhamel says
What a wonderful story! Tugs at the heartstrings in a nice way. Photos aren’t bad either (wink). Joe, you are truly inspirational. Thanks for sharing.
Richard Garrow says
I too am speechless you touch my heart and also gave me the push to go back through my girls lives, I have taken so many photo’s of them and I am sure I too can create a beautiful photo book.. My middle daughter name is Caitlin beautiful name.. Thanks again Joe for sharing..
I agree that Maggie is a beautiful bride best wishes to her and her new husband..
sarah musumeci says
What a great tribute to Maggie! Sounds like a charming young lady. GREAT story!
Branqueamento DentÃ¡rio says
Love is dangerous, but love is the biggest thing on this world!!!
Amy Parish says
i would like to hit “like” on this post about a thousand times…..for all the right reasons. 🙂
Fernando Salcedo says
I’ve read this nice article three or four times, use to send the link to my friends as a gift. What a wonderful job being a photographer is!
Charles Lloyd says
In addition to being a work class photographer, you are a wonderful story teller.