You Do Important Work (Niki Makes a Purchase)

Chapter 32

The photo shoot progressed in ‘hurry up and wait’ format.

We patiently stood in front of the camera while lights were adjusted, and the angles of our faces repositioned, dressed in brightly colored scrubs, with improved, professionally applied make up. Even the male nurse’s eyebrows were shaped with pencil, and he had concealer applied to blemishes.

We held “nurse props” like stethoscopes and clipboards in the photos. While a light above my head was adjusted, it dawned on me that we could easily be a group of dental hygienists or veterinary technicians instead of nurses. Although nursing science has burgeoned, the visual cues of traditional white caps and uniforms remain iconic. Instead of standing out visually in clinical settings, as in the past, modern nurses blend into the melee of scrub attired workers. Is there a similar icon for physicians? All I can think of is the old-timey black medical bag of the past century. I’ve never actually seen a doctor carry one, and they don’t recur in popular imagery like the nurse’s cap.

I’m snapped back into the present by Todd. “Niki, look into the camera and smile for me, okay?”

At 1230, we’re given a lunch break. The table in the back of the room holds stacks of white boxes.  They contain sandwiches, salads, and a cookie from a catering company. I choose one. Todd taps my shoulder.

“Hey Niki, mind if I eat lunch with you so we can catch up?”

Todd and I carried our boxed lunches outside, and sat on the cement edge of a large fountain in front of the convention center.

“I’m impressed you’re a professional photographer Todd. I remember you as a nice guy taking photographs for the high school yearbook, and newspaper. How did you end up doing it for a living?”

“You mean you remember me being a camera geek using photography as a way to meet pretty girls on campus, but I appreciate your rendition. Actually, after high school I travelled around Europe, and stumbled into a job with a modeling agency. They were looking for American models for a company selling jeans. It was fun, but I like being behind the camera more than in front of it. So I got a job as the assistant for one of the photographers. After I returned to the States I started out like most freelance photographers, shooting weddings, taking graduation pictures, that stuff. Then one of the models I met in Europe, Maggie, asked me to do her wedding. Her father’s a big time publisher, and I met a lot of editors at the wedding. I started getting calls, and here I am. I got lucky. What about you?”

“My story’s not as exciting as yours. I went to college, became a nurse, got married. I have a fabulous daughter. I’m divorced.”

“What kind of nurse are you?”

“A good one, I think. I work in pediatric intensive care.”

“Oh wow, with all of those little preemies?”

“No, that’s neonatal intensive care. Sometimes my patients are premature, but mostly they’re newborn up to age eighteen. They have serious infections, surgeries, or are trauma victims. Most are on ventilators for at least part of their hospitalization.

“Wow, I couldn’t work with sick kids. It would break my heart. You do important work.”

“It breaks mine once in awhile, for sure. I always wanted to take up photography though. It must be great to make money doing something you love.”

“It’s like anything, really. I’m hired to produce specific work. It depends on the look the publication wants. The creativity is discovering my unique way of seeing it. I do fine arts photography on my own time. I have work in a couple of galleries.

“I would love to do something creative. The only photographs I take are with my phone.”

“If you’re serious about photography, I just upgraded to a new camera. I have a used kit I was dropping off at the photography shop to sell on consignment. If you’re interested, I’ll give you a good deal. The kit’s complete, lens, bag; the owner’s manual is there too. I can get you started using it today. You can text me with questions as you go along.”

Lunch was over. Todd and I returned to the shoot, which lasted the rest of the afternoon. Standing under the lights, I felt expansive, imagining all of the photographs I will take.

After the shoot, Todd explained the camera, and its accessories. He gave me a really great price, I think. To be honest, I don’t know a lot about cameras.

But I bought it anyway.