It was a cool June summer evening. I had gone with my friend Mazal, from the Rag & Bone internship to go see the Arc d’ Triomphe, one of the best views of Paris. The streets arranged like sunshine streaming out from one singular circular force. The Arc.
We had been waiting quite a while now. Waiting for the light to slip beyond the horizon. Hoping to get those lovely ‘night-shots’ with a bird eye view you will often see on one-euro postcards.
A man entered the scene. He had a distinctive cap on, and a confused expression on his face. He had his head bent down, looking down at his camera. Playing around with the dial, as if he couldn’t find the right setting. Noticing my interest and the Canon camera strapped to my shoulder. He walked slowly towards me “you wouldn’t know how to change the white-balance settings?” At the time, I didn’t know anything beyond where I could find the dial towards automatic. But selfishly interested in this man and his story, I said “no clue, but I’d love to try.” After a couple of minutes of unsuccessful attempts at adjusting a variety of functions, we found the screen.
That being done, he looked up. His head finally popping up fully “so are you waiting for the dark as well?” I nodded, “It’s taking quite long, I guess that’s one drawback of summer.” He smiled and said he can’t complain. He pointed to a block of buildings close by and said that he was staying there, “not much of a walk for me.” I asked him about his trip. He was clearly American with a thick accent. He said that he had saved all his life – and finally he had had enough. He said this with a sort of restrained emotion.
“I met my wife in the CIA. She worked in another department, but over the years we became close. I finally asked to marry her and she has been by my side ever since.” Has she come on the trip with you I had asked. “No, she recently developed Alzheimer’s, she is in a home back in Florida,” he said.
He told me how before she went into the home, she said to him to make the most out of their life saving they had saved together. Go see the world, and take the kids with you. And so he took his family on a couple trips to parts of Europe. And bought his camera, pointing to the camera that we had all been working on. Something had that drawn my initial interest. His heavy but great 5D Mark II. He loved photography and never had gotten to pursue it. With his wife’s blessing, he decided to do a number of photography trips. Showing her – all the pictures he taken when he got back.
“Do you want to take some photos with it,” noticing my interest in his camera. I nodded gratefully, “you can try mine if you like, and it’s not half as good haha.” Laughing, he took some pictures of the now-setting sun. Taking back my camera, I asked him if I could take his picture and asked him from one photographer to another what advice he would give me.
“Enjoy life with the ones you love. Make every day count, and once in a while capture that moment. And remember it. For you don’t know it yet, but it might be one of best moments of your life you will have.”