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  • Writer's pictureLaurence Bartone

The challenged photographer

OK, I'm not going to name the year, but suffice it to say that I was younger. Much younger. I'd opened my San Francisco Studio maybe five years previous and enjoyed a successful run as an advertising shooter. Then I crashed. No, I literally crashed. Skiing one day I totaled out my right knee, had surgery and hadn't worked for weeks. On the day that I came out of my butt-to-ankle cast, I was handed a cane, which being made of maple - was almost white. Later that same day, my old friend Mark (a graphic designer) happened to call to ask if I was up to shooting an annual report. Absolutely, I said, without thinking too much about the reality of it. 'Oh, the leg thing? No worries, I'll be fine by then. When was that?' Anyway, no reason to over-think a gift assignment. Ointment / fly: Mark (my designer buddy) told me we had to meet the CEO of this mega-farm company the very following morning. In Emeryville. I could barely walk.

I put it together quickly: My car was a stick, but I could drive the studio van (an automatic) to Emeryville, using my left foot. I'd take some pain killers. We made a date to meet promptly at ten in the parking lot of a ten-story building - they were expecting us.

The next morning, I donned my very loosest pants, grabbed my cane and my extra-dark John Lennon round sunglasses. At ten, when I pulled in and carefully extricated myself from the old studio Econoline, Mark was right there laughing at me. He often did that for no reason, I gave it little thought. Not today though - he stopped laughing just enough to say 'Jesus, you look like a damn BLIND MAN!' I attempted to hit him with my cane a few times while I limped to the lobby, but he just kept shaking his head and snickering ' a damn BLIND PHOTOGRAPHER'.

Picking up on the mornings' hilarity, I kept my sunglasses on and flailed around in the elevator, showing that I could read Braille, and acting it out well, I thought. The elevator doors opened onto the lobby and there stood what could only be Mr. CEO himself. Spotting Mark and remembering his excellent Southern Manners, he said: 'Mark, good to see y'all, and hey, why THIS must be the photographer you told me all about!' and he stuck his hand out for me to shake. Of course I switched the cane to my left hand and stuck my right one out to shake. But of course, I stuck it first to the right, then the left and right, desperately trying to keep a straight face. I could see a moment of hesitation on his face, then Mark leaned in and sotto-voce whispered to him 'Hey don't say anything - we got a great price on the guy'.

It took a moment, but thankfully he had a great sense of humor.

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