John Free Photography | Social Documentary & Street Photography
John Free is a social documentary/street photographer who lives in Los Angeles. His photographic essays range from railroad tramps in California to automobile abstracts to London and Paris street life.
Many years ago my son Scott and I conducted a class at Pasadena City College entitled photographing the moment. The class became very popular and continued for 16 years.
During the years we would meet many interesting people. One person stands out for me and Scott. He was a man who suffered from chronic depression at the age of seventy five. Our class seemed to make him happy. He would reach out to others in the class and was very excited about the field trips we took the class to on the Santa Monica Pier for a day of working together on Saturdays.
A few weeks after the class ended, I received a letter from the man who had been depressed for most of his life. He wrote that he was a millionaire who had done quite well in his business. He wrote that he had wealth and had a fine collection of automobiles and lived in a big house, but was a broken man, because when he was a seven year old boy in England, his father had told him he was a worthless human being. He said he had suffered all those many years until he attended our class and I told the students my special secret to happiness in one’s photography and in one’s life.
My secret is to go next door and get down on your knees and make wonderful photographs of your neighbor’s children and then present 8×10 prints of the children to their parents.
The man’s letter went on to say that I had saved his life. By sharing my secret about love and what a photograph could mean to a person or family. He wrote that before our class, he was thinking of taking his life because of what his father had said to him those many years ago. He was now very happy and filled his days by taking my advice. He would drop by my favorite camera store every day and tell everyone how I had turned his life around to one of great personal pleasure and contentment with himself.
His letter is lost, but not his story and I think of him quite often. How a simple bit of advice led him out of a nightmare and into a world of love, dedication and personal fulfillment.
Find great pleasure by going next door and photograph your neighbor’s children and feel the inner warmth when you see the eyes of the parents looking at your photographs of their children.
The greatest things in life that we all have is what we have given to others, which will be ours forever.