The most important photos won’t win any prizes. Two years ago my brother had a “cardiac event”. His heart stopped, he quit breathing, and he was in a coma for over a week. I looked for and found the top photo to have with me on the 10 hour drive to the hospital.
The doctors prepared us for the worst, telling us the odds for him surviving were slim. Each day I would sit by his bed and describe a different “favorite place” (or trip) from our years growing up in Colorado. Despite being totally unresponsive, I talked to him just like he could hear.
One of those trips was the road to Gothic and Emerald Lake. It was an early summer day in the early to mid-1950s and our family was vacationing in western Colorado. We left Gunnison in the morning, drove north through Crested Butte and on toward Gothic. South of Gothic we stopped and one of our parents (probably our dad) took the top photo. I am the older brother on the left (in both photos). We drove on to Gothic (which has become a virtual ghost town) and headed north toward Emerald Lake. We had to leave our car where a 20 foot deep snow bank covered the road. We hiked over the snow bank and on up to Emerald Lake. It was beautiful. (I haven’t been able to find a photo in my dad’s slides.) We hiked back over the snow bank to our car and drove south to Gothic and Gunnison. It was a great day.
So I sat by my brother’s bed and described the “road to Gothic” trip. Then, as I did every day, I told him when he came out of the coma and recovered, we would go on a trip to Colorado and visit our favorite places.
To the doctors surprise, my brother came out of the coma, followed by rehab and recovery. In late October, 2012 we headed to Colorado. My brother bought matching shirts for us to wear on the trip. One of the first “favorite places” we went to was the road to Gothic. With the 1950s photo in hand we looked for the exact same place on the road. We lined up the “V” shape point in the aspen grove with the rock slide on Mt. Avery, just like the photo taken more than 50 years earlier. With my camera on a tripod and the self timer set, we took the bottom photo. We have grown a bit in 50 plus years, as have the trees. The tallest tree on the left side of the 2012 photo is just barely peaking up behind the roadside bushes in the 1950s photo (and hard to make out in this web sized photo).
Neither of these photos will win any prizes or be exhibited at an art gallery, and to most people who don’t know the story these are just ordinary snapshots. But for my brother and I, these photos are priceless. And it is the same for most people. The most important photos are about memories and special places and matters of the heart.