I have been quiet lately. Some of the regular visitors to my social media pages and blog may have noticed this. Late in 2018, as my friend’s and I collected together for one of our annual girlie gatherings, we received a telephone call that would rock our worlds. A close friend of mine; a friend who was also friend to some of the other girls; a best friend to a couple of my friend’s partners; and a husband and father, had died very suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep the previous night. Tristan was, by all accounts, a healthy young man, who’d just welcomed into the world his first daughter, Mia, and who had just returned from their first family trip to his beautiful wife, Jacky’s native Mexico to visit her family. The news was devastating, utterly shocking and unbelievably difficult to comprehend. We closed the doors, drew the curtains and took a numb comfort in the safety of each other’s company. The night’s were long and sleepless, talking about what had happened, talking about memories, talking about our disbelief. Any drift into sleep was halted with a shocking jolt awake when the reality was remembered. How had this happened?
As the weekend passed, we split to head back to our respective homes, still numb with the shock of the weekend’s news. It didn’t seem real, stopping at Tristan and Jacky’s home was both dark and surreal, opening the door, Jacky crumpled into my arms as we cried together. Everywhere I looked, the poignantly beautiful photographs of their perfect union adorned the walls, their new home an ode to their remarkable love story. The pain in the room was so raw, it was palpable even through the remarkable quiet strength of his family. The words uttered by all was “how has this happened?”. Those first couple of days in the ‘outside world’ I felt like a zombie, a person who didn’t inhabit the same planet as all of those going about their day’s entirely unawares; did they not understand what had happened? Could they not see the four nights of no sleep etched on my still shocked face? As I walked into the local shop, I stopped with a start as Tristan’s face stared out of me from the newsstand and the words bored into my eyes “Shock as Plymouth Journalist and New Dad Dies Suddenly Aged 40”. This was all so surreal. So unkind. So unfair. I felt angry with the world. This was my friend.
As days passed, we tried in every practical way possible to help ease the administrative burden a sudden death befalls to those loved ones left behind, the days turned into weeks, and no answer came forth to explain this inexplicable tragedy. Tristan’s funeral was held, with the cause of his death still remaining a mystery. After delaying a trip I had booked to the states so I could attend the funeral, I drove to Heathrow that night and boarded the plane bewildered, tired and sunk into a quiet reverie as I travelled time and space. Traveling around California, Utah and Arizona gave me some space to try and get my head around events, points in the trip seemed to offer me connections that felt like signs: sat on the top of a mountain opposite a place called Angel’s Landing, the sun on an icy day, suddenly burst warm rays that heated the black of the trousers on my left leg so much that it felt like a comforting hand telling me all would be okay. Tristan had lived in California for a while as well when he’d first met Jacky, our conversations often talked about travel and photography, and so there was an element of feeling a peace whilst I was out there.
Something that has very much been driven home to me in all of this: the value of photography that I talk about so frequently, it is so real. I’ve always been one to shy away from being in photographs myself, I prefer to be behind the lens. As a result there aren’t masses of photographs of me with my friends (something that will change going forward), but what did surface were a few candid, documentary captures of Tristan and I larking about that i’ll hold dear forever. Instant memories of a time otherwise consigned to the mists of time; as we remembered him, those scant few images conjured up so many memories: times, smells, conversations, in-jokes, it was amazing quite how much information came tumbling out of our minds from seeing one image. I always talk to my clients about the historical value of wedding photographs, and how over time they become more and more important as a visual legacy. For me, it has really cemented why I shoot weddings in a documentary style. Capturing real life, real people, it is so, so important. It has reinforced what a privilege it is to be able to photograph such momentous moments in people’s histories.