photo by susan carr of a lived-in kitchen

Good enough, Day 13: Home for keeps

About a year ago, one of the finest humans I’ve ever met died after a horrific fight with pancreatic cancer.

I’d known Susan Carr a scant two years by then, but she was one of those people who rocket straight to the top of your “besties” list if you’re lucky enough to come across them in the wild. Susan was my client first, my editor later, a friend sooner than I deserved, and an inspiration throughout. I looked forward to every single exchange with her—too few of them happened in person, but she could make a phone call count. She was that rare combination of smart, talented, principled, and compassionate, and dammit if she didn’t have a wicked sense of humor on top of it all.

Aside from her amazing work as the educational director of ASMP and her professional work as a photographer, Susan was also an amazing fine-art photographer. Her final project, a series of interiors of homes across the U.S. that had been continuously inhabited by their occupants for 40 or more years, is rich with quiet insight. Each black-and-white photograph tells a story without saying a word, partly because when we spend enough time in one place, we wear little grooves into it with objects and arrangements that reveal our hopes, dreams, and values, but also because Susan had an unerring eye for capturing those spaces—honestly, respectfully, and humbly.

Susan spent her last days editing the collection of images. It was her dream that someday, they be assembled into a book. Some good friends and colleagues have picked up where Susan left off and prepped this beautiful, 140-pp, hardcover book for production. The $42 price tag isn’t cheap, but it’s good for a high-quality art photography book, and includes shipping (to the lower 48, I’m guessing). And all the money goes toward production; services are donated. We’re hoping to get pre-orders for a minimum run of 1,000 copies by September 24th. If we don’t meet our minimum, no book; if we surpass it, the individual book price will go down.

I like to think that if she’d lived longer, Susan Carr would eventually have taken a photo of my crazy little pink-and-dingbat-tiled kitchen. After all, I’ve lived here for 14 years already; it’s not impossible that a 78-year-old me could still live here, and a 77-year-old Susan trundle up the stairs with whatever cameras would look like by then, to snap a few shots.

Maybe she would have captured the quirks of my personality in the odd objects I keep in my pen cabinets. Maybe she would have found the thread in the collection of notes on my fridge, or some personal-yet-universal truth in the thrift-store lamp with the ruined shade I never did get around to replacing. Maybe she would be able to tell my story in a way I cannot, because I am too close to it, or because I still have too many magazine-fueled ideas of how things are supposed to look.

She was adept at telling stories, Susan Carr. Partly because she was gifted, but also because she was wise: she knew what was good, and that most of what we have in our brief time here is more than good enough.

xxx
c

Pre-order Intimate Histories, by Susan Carr

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Photo © Susan Carr.

12 comments

  1. Thank you, Colleen for this beautiful tribute. Your words cut to the heart of things, just as Susan’s images do. That kind of fearless and honest clarity is far too rare in this world. It’s no surprise you and Susan connected so deeply and quickly.

    1. Thank *you* for your hard work bringing this project to life, and for keeping the home fires burning at ASMP, as well. Oh, and for your friendship. Because none of this would have happened without that.

      GOD BLESS THE INTERNET. It works, people!

    1. There’s some weird intermittent thing with the host server today. If you give it 5 or 10 minutes and try again, it will suddenly load.

      1. I just re-tried all the links and they’re working for me. Here’s the URL, in case that’s easier to copy/paste: http://www.intimatehistories.com/

        I know sometimes Dreamhost (which I keep threatening to move off of, but am too lazy) will get nutty with intermittent outages. It’s really frustrating. Thank you for your persistence and patience—and SUPPORT!

  2. Question – will the profits from the book go to some charity dear to Susan or an organization that helped her?

    1. Our goal is that there won’t be any profits. We’re working hard to get the most accurate budget possible and the final price that gets charged to people’s credit cards will be the cost to produce the book divided by the number of books sold. If we miscalculate and wind up with anything left over, it will be donated to support cancer research.

  3. What a wonderful tribute, for a wonderful human being. Susan would have loved the story you told. You and Susan share similar personality traits, and when I am with you am often reminded of her. She was a very good person, and a very good friend indeed. She is missed. I’m so glad she will have the opportunity for her book to be published. I have my copy ordered already. Thank you Colleen for being you, and a friend of Susans. :)

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