You know what? When I come to think of it, in most places in my life, I am very fortunate.
Not just because I am on the balcony of a bar in the south of France having had the most relaxing week of my life with nearly another week still to go [I am ignoring the horrible Karaoke going on inside the bar, yes you guessed it, Let It Go is being screamed by 4 or 5 seven year old girls].
If you scrolled through my phonebook you would find some of the best people this world has to offer. Some take a bit of getting used to before you can truly appreciate them. Others are so warm on the outside, it has you question whether its an act. I have to be honest with you, growing up in school there was a guy in the year below me that was like that. His generosity of spirit was so vast that I thought something was up. Something didn't seem right. He has to be covering up something. But I knew his sister and she was just brilliant too. So for the first wee while I held this character at arms length. Over fifteen years later, this same person has me sitting in the warmth of an evening in France, just briefly wishing I could be back in cold rainy Belfast.
Pete Waugh was this young man in school I just couldn't understand. Surely nobody could be this kind and positive. Over these last fifteen years, Pete wore down my cynical heart. When that happened a few months into our friendship, I knew I had someone that was important I held onto. I had a friend that was special.
When Pete started to pursue writing I thought it was cool. Lots of people I knew were trying their hand at new skills, I wasn't long into being a photographer myself. He took a chance on me. He asked me to do his wedding photos. It was without a doubt the hardest wedding I have ever done. Not because Pete & Kerry are hard to take photos of, I think the camera loves them as much as they love the camera, but it SNOWED! Not just a pretty dusting of snow, but the sort of snow storm that means you have to cancel the evening party of your wedding. As I drove up the the beautiful Lisanoire Castle that day, I dont remember passing anyone else on the road up from Belfast. No one else seemed daft enough to be out on the road. When we got there, the beautiful couple couldn't wait to get outside to taken some photos in the blizzard. Kerry had prepared by finding gold Ugg wellyboots online and popped them on and was good to go. It was so much fun.
Since their wedding I had a few photo shoots with Pete, but the latest was without a doubt my favourite. Not because it was my best work, or anything like that. But it was the finish line to a project I had been involved in for a while which included making a video. Seeing one of my best mates standing there with a book that represented a distant dream a number of years previous was amazing.
There has been a push within the photography world to remind everyone of the origins of photography in this digital age. #filmisnotdead appears on my instagram feed quite a lot. Photographer friends of mine who where photographers before digital became the industry standard or new photographers wanting to push their skills and learn the valuable lessons film photography can teach the trigger happy digital photographer. People ask me did I start with film, and of course I 'started' with film. I was born in 1984, I didn't have a digital camera til I was 20. But I had never got into the processing in a dark room or anything. I applied in school to be part of the photography [film] club but was turned down because it was oversubscribed. However, I can say with a great degree of confidence that I only became interested in being a photographer when digital cameras came into play. I could even go as far as saying, even though it may be offensive to my craft and profession, I have zero interest in film photography. This doesn't mean I dont have the utmost respect for people who do, or think I can appreciate the different skills involved and can even conceded that people who use film, are better technical photographers than me, not a problem. It just isn't for me [famous last words]. It took me 19 years to realise that I have a different way of learning. It has then taken me near ten more years to be confident enough in my learning style to rely on it. I am an experiential learner. I learn by doing. The immediacy of digital photography gave me the understanding to learn at a pace that kept me interested. I got into photography just as social media was kicking off too. So instantaneous learning and then pseudo instant feedback from people online gave me the confidence to push myself further. This has held true in my whole career as a photographer.
Now take writing a novel. Getting up each day, carving up words to paint a world that up to this point in time only existed in your mind. Now repeat that for days/months/maybe even years on end. Only taking a couple of pit stops to show people to whats going on to see if you are on point. Then you show your work to some people who tell you what changes need to be made. 85,000 words or so later, you print the book up, tell your friends and family about it, set up a Facebook page, and open a shop for pre sale. You then watch as orders come in for it. You then throw a party to thank everyone for buying the book and what to expect [which was tonight].
I have not read Half Irish although a copy will sit proudly on my bookshelf. I am also not much of a reader, I have told Pete that I will help him release the audio book. I am sure there are some people who will try and poke holes in the book, some will not get it, but others will allow themselves to 'quantum leap' into the story and live the lives of those printed on the page.
I am told by my wife I don't suit hats, I tend to agree with her, but if I did, and from time to time wore one, I would use this time to take my hat off in appreciation not just for the talent of my good friend Peter but for the inner drive and confidence to get to today.
Today I am more aware than I was yesterday that dreams can come true. Not by sitting back and wishing upon a star but by taking steps forward and allowing them to fly.
Mr P J S Waugh, congratulations sir. You have one very proud friend here. You inspire me everyday, looking forward to seeing where this path leads you to. Half Irish? Nah, Full legend!