It’s regrettable that one often fails to see the impact another person has on their life until it’s too late to express gratitude. A slight connection or brief encounter can have the potential to propel you towards opportunities you never thought would be available to you. You never know who will plant the seed in you for great things. It can and often does come from unexpected places. I realize now that it is our duty to see the time and attention others bestow upon us as gifts and to do all we can to avoid squandering them.
This is the way I feel about Chris Hondros, the first photographer to reach out to Neil and I about beekeeping in NYC. He had found a few Polaroids on Flickr that Neil had put up of some hivings in 2009. Chris emailed Neil about coming to photograph us for Getty Images. I didn’t know what any of it meant, but I obliged as I thought it would be fun to have my picture taken for “the papers”.
A few days later, Chris came to our Greenpoint apartment. I warned him that we’d have to climb a steep ladder onto the roof, a thing that most people find a little daunting. He was unmoved by it. I later found out why. Mr. Hondros had spent significant amounts of time shooting in war torn, poverty stricken countries….Kosovo, the West Bank, Iraq, Liberia, Afghanistan… this was no photojournalism student I was dealing with, he was the real deal. He had seen some intensely emotional things and documented it so that we could experience it too and perhaps feel some empathy for those suffering in those circumstances. I understood why he seemed utterly unafraid of the bees, even though he wore all black, which typically attracts unwanted attention from them. They seemed to take no notice of him, and he took no notice of them beyond the task at hand. He was completely at ease. They must have seemed as harmless as the wind to him. I was still relatively uncomfortable with my bees so I found his confidence admirable. I consider myself very fortunate that such a fearless and skilled eye would want to focus on something so tame and comparatively boring as me and some boxes of bees.
The shoot lasted perhaps a half hour. He was focused, fairly quiet, but polite in manner and in action…he didn’t waste any of my time or his own. After he got the shots he needed, we went down the ladder to our apartment, had something to drink and chatted for a bit and then he was gone.
(All photos by Chris Hondros for Getty Images)
Over the course of the following few weeks, the images popped up all over publications online. I received emails from journalists and videographers wanting to give their own interpretations of my beekeeping story. More stories began to pop up with my face and name attached and from that came more opportunities for me to share my experiences and teach others to do the same. This all began because of Chris Hondros’s small gift to me and I hope that where ever he is now, he can sense my gratitude to him. My encounter with him was brief, but I question whether I’d be where I am now if it weren’t for him.
( Chris Hondros was a Pulitzer-prize nominated photographer who was killed last week while on assignment in Libya. Our deepest condolences goes out to all of his family and friends.
I also encourage all who read this to view his work. His photographs are intensely moving and offer an intimate glance into the lives of those struggling worldwide with hunger, war and injustice. He deserves extreme gratitude for these images, which he ultimately gave his life for. )