It’s spring 2012 and I’m standing outside the Thomas Clarke house in Princeton, New Jersey. The docent, a very patient man named John, is talking to a group of students from a local junior high school. He’s trying to explain to the very distracted group what it was like to live in a farmhouse in the 1700s. Did they seem to listen or care what he was saying or how important this structure was to the future of our United States of America? A few did but most didn’t.
As I looked at the exterior of the building, I noticed that the shutters that had once been part of the original building were missing, their aged shadows still evident on the peeling paint of the siding. The doors, frames, and eaves were in shameful condition. The state of New Jersey, entrusted with the upkeep of this amazing artifact, was obviously unable to carry out its responsibilities. Money was probably at the root of the problem.
Later inside the building, John and I got involved in a wonderful conversation about the Revolutionary War, the battlefield, and the house itself. When I asked if I could take a photo of the kitchen, he graciously said yes. Using a Nikon P7800 advanced point-and-shoot camera, and standing on the other side of “the velvet rope,” I took my first photo. The digital display on that camera seemed to indicate that I got a good shot, but it wasn’t until I got back to the computer to look at it on the big screen that I realized just how lucky I was. Maybe it wasn’t just luck, since I’d been shooting professionally for most of my adult life, but with equipment way more sophisticated than what I had on me that day. Perhaps it was the power of the subject matter, which would have had the same impact if shot on a Kodak Brownie camera circa 1960s.
Fast forward to December 2015. My wife, an expert in marketing (especially the category of eldercare), told me that for a successful retirement, you need to spend time on something you had a passion for; something you didn’t have time for when you were working full time. Picture the light bulb over my head flash on.