Mr. Banjo Man

Discovering photography has brought many gifts to me, but not any as treasured as the connection it gave my grandfather and I.

My grandfather was a special kind of guy.  The kind people met and remembered.  He didn’t have a big boisterous personality or a voice that carried.  He was sort of quiet.  But he smiled often, and he loved to make people laugh.  He told the worst jokes, ones that if I repeated would fall flat, but his dry, corny delivery never failed to illicit a chuckle…or an amused groan.  And he always had a camera with him.  He took candids and posed us for portaits or took home video.  I don’t know if there was a day I’d seen him without his camera.

Until I was in my late twenties and had discovered photography for myself, I don’t remember having many long conversations with my grandfather.  I loved him and was always happy to see him, but the 52 years and several hundred miles between us didn’t give us many shared interests or experiences to talk about.  Once I picked up a camera, that all changed.

I have a very clear memory of a day when I had been visiting him in New York.  It was a moment when the two of us had a true connection over our love of photography.  I remember him being excited to show me the first camera he ever purchased, some 50 years before, which he still had in its original box.  He shared with me the story how he’d scrimped and saved and walked right down to the store to get the camera the  day it came out, handing over a whole week’s paycheck.  How proud he had been to purchase that camera shown in his voice.  I recognized the same delight that I felt when I realized how wonderful photography was.  It was something we shared and maybe something I’d inherited from him.

Its a brilliant moment in my memory, this connection with my grandfather.  A brilliant moment captured with a camera without a picture being taken.

I love you, Gramps.


Jack Howes, March 20th 1927 – March 6th 2011


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