Mary came to me at the darkest time in my life. It was a hole that I didn’t think I would be able to crawl out of. If you have ever been there, and you are still on the right side of the grass… I am happy for you.
I knew that I had to turn to what I knew… Photography.
I was a fan of the punk band “X.” They had a song called “Riding with Mary.” It was about a girl who was wild and on the run. Her sister put a dashboard Mary in her car to assure that she would return unharmed.
That always stuck with me. That a 99-cent piece of plastic would protect you from a crazy world.
I contacted my friend, whose wife was a model. We talked one night about doing a couple of photos of her in an old car with a dashboard Mary in the background.
Two weeks later, I opened my recycling bin and a gift was waiting there for me. My Virgin Mary statue. I looked around, and in this very private area, Mary had been laid to rest.
I took her out and put her in my living room. I walked around her for two weeks, then wrapped her in a towel and took her out to shoot. I took her downtown on a Sunday afternoon. I was looking for ONE image. When I saw her through the lens for the first time, I could picture thousands.
All of a sudden, the color was coming back into my world. I could breathe again. The sorrow was still there, but I was creating something that would bring tears to people’s eyes. People who would stop and pray when I was out with her.
I am not religious. I do believe in the power that the world sees in religion. I am moved by so many things on this earth. I hope this is a contribution that brings Peace, Strength or Happiness in a dark place.
My stepdad put a camera in my hands when I was nine years old. I used to sneak and look at his British photo magazines when he wasn’t looking. There were always girlie photos in them, as well as great black-and-white photography and special effects. I was most interested in the special effects (just after the girlie stuff). I began to emulate what I saw on those pages.
Back in the ’70s, while my friends rode skateboard ramps, I took the pictures. Growing up, my friends always said, “Chris, go get your camera.” In high school, I shot for the yearbook. At that point, I knew that I wanted to be a professional. I worked for the college I went to and quickly found a job shooting auto racing. I traveled the country (and escaped death a number of times).
After six years of that, I landed a job at NBC Studios, my dream job. I quickly picked up on what to do and what not to do as I continued to hone my skills, photographing celebrities.
In 2004, I was going through some very rough times of my life. I ended up in that deep dark place that you feel that you will never escape. I always try and think positive. I knew I had to do something creative to keep me occupied.
One morning, while leaving for work, I took my cans out to recycle. I opened the bin and there lay Mary on a bed of LA Times. I stood there frozen for a second until I realized what I was looking at. I took her out and looked around thinking someone was watching me. I put her in the middle of my living room and walked around her for more than a week. One Sunday afternoon, I knew there was going to be a nice sunset. I wrapped her in a towel and headed to downtown Los Angeles. I placed her up on the edge of the 4th Street Bridge, which was bathed in the rich, warm sunlight. When I looked through the lens, I knew I had something beautiful that I could photograph around the city. She became my foreground texture.
Since then, Mary and I have been on a number of journeys together. Each one is worth a thousand words. I look forward to thousands more.