Meeting Santa Claus.
I am a contemporary, fashion-focused, luxury-driven art photographer with a mission to conquer the world. Never in my life would I have, of my own free will, executed the task of taking pictures of Santa for the general public, for any purpose, in any way, shape or form. But then it happened.
Back in the days when I was assisting, I once worked with an architectural photographer who told me his favorite assignment was the Santa photo gig he did every year for many, many years. He explained further that it was a surprise to him also. He said, “This is an opportunity for so many people to have a positive experience and feel joy, and I get to be a part of it.” Then we talked about being open to different kinds of work, even if it wasn't our specialty. I realized it was important to keep an open mind, even with Santa photos; hence my own feelings of joy do at times come from unknown and inconceivable experiences.
In Rainier Beach my friend Maia Segura is very active in supporting community events and has asked me to help out in the past. This year a new event was procured by her efforts with the Rainier Beach Merchants Association, called “Light up the Beach.” The purpose was to get local business to decorate and have some sort of open house for people to stop by and say hello. “A great networking event for everyone!” I thought.
Rainier Beach is no stranger to hard times. Two things I know that make a community stronger and safer are a cleaner, decent-looking business storefront and knowing your neighbors. This event had the ability to achieve both, at least for one night.
Maia asked me about doing a photo booth for people at the local Safeway. I had some extra time on my hands so I agreed. At first we were going to have it be just family portraits for the holiday. Somehow Santa heard about our efforts and he showed up to help out for the duration of the shoot. I put my best foot forward on this and remembered my conversation many years back with the other photographer.
The night was kind of a blur—there were so many people and lots of activity with new and old friends. I had to keep the production running and it was a lot of multitasking trying to print out the images on site and get them out to participants before they left.
Then it hit me… later that weekend I realized most of the people I photographed had never met Santa before. There were many different ethnicities represented, with families and kids that don’t even celebrate Christmas, and now they were seeing that Santa does not discriminate and can bring joy to a child by just being present for a photo. I don’t recall anyone asking him for anything; I only remember smiles. What a lovely experience for me and the international community I live in. Happy holidays, Rainier Beach. You may even see me again next year, doing the unthinkable: a Santa Claus photo shoot.