As published in "Through The Looking Glass", which was "an irregular series of irreverent looks at photography today and as we'll know it one day." Published August 1998. Copyright 1998 Randy Taylor.

Timing Is Everything In Life

When Paul Morris and his assistant, William Davis The Third (Billy to his friends), arrived to photograph their subject, it seemed like they were expected. A car had been moved onto the grass to make space in the driveway for their station wagon. And, a young woman came out to greet them. But, there was a misunderstanding. The vehicle that was expected was the Coroner's Wagon, not Paul's.

Total shock would best describe Paul and Billy's reaction when, after identifying themselves as the photographers, the young woman mournfully explained that her father - the subject to be photographed - had died the night before. For a brief moment, they thought she might be joking. But her tearful sorrow underscored the reality.

The Photographer's Instruction Manual didn't have a chapter on what to do if your subject dies. So, Paul and Billy relied on the age-old formula of sympathetically conveying their support ... and heading for the nearest exit.

When the shock wore off, Paul began to wonder about the financial obligations of his client. It was, after all, a medical company which had assigned him to photograph a patient who had miraculously survived with the help of their product. It was to be a testimonial picture for the cover of their annual report.

Paul raced to check his standard ASMP paperwork. No, there was no "Termination" clause. The ASMP had not anticipated this one. As he considered his options, Paul became gravely concerned.

The client wanted a picture "full of life", and had given Paul a deadline to finish off the shoot. Risk acceptance was implied. The body of evidence was clearly in his favor.

Never-the-less, Paul felt boxed in. He didn't want to ruin the esprit de corp he has with his client. He was mortified at the thought of loosing his good paying customer and maybe finding himself doing lifeless jobs for deadbeats. Billy too had realized this job would have been better served if given to an intern.

But in the end, Paul decided the best approach was simply to bury the subject and try to find another live one to pay the bills.

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