I once got a phone call that shook me to my core. The statement was simple, the implications undeniable. “It’s praying time” the voice of Debbie Blackwell – Cook said from the other end of the line.  I didn’t have to ask what she was referring to. I already knew. Our mutual friend of a certain age was pregnant with her first child and there were complications. Serious ones. As in, she almost died. Like, she left her body. Twice. It was praying time, indeed.

That was a year ago and I am happy to say that she made it and her baby boy did, too. In fact Jaxson Collen turned one yesterday and was celebrated at what can only be called a completely unique birthday party for a baby.

Accompanied  by her husband (and little Jaxson’s father), guitarist Phil Collen (who was recently inducted into the Rock n Roll hall of fame along with the the group Def Leppard) Helen  L. Collen hosted an photo exhibit featuring images she has taken during  her travels. The collection depicts the beauty, wonder, and fragility of life. It was called “Gratitude”, for obvious reasons.

Outside Gratitude Exhibit, NYV 5/20/2019

The show was curated by Phil Collen which  was fitting since if it weren’t for him,  no one outside of Helen’s inner circle would have known how dire the situation was. He shocked the world when, during a radio interview, he spoke about his wife’s challenging childbirth. 

After Phil’s revelation, I really got some phone calls. Did I know?? Why didn’t I say anything? How’s Helen? How’s the baby? Uncharacteristically, I had no words.

That’s all behind me now.

Now,  at a time in my life where I’m losing friends that are my age or younger, and my own mortality is a reality, I’m just happy to see people I know and love following their interests and passions.

I’ve photographed many events over the years, but this one was especially soul satisfying.  That whole ‘one of my closest friends could have died during childbirth’ thing still makes me pause and  go whoa. ‘Cause that could have gone  a whole other way, ok?!!! Shooting the exhibit was fun for me, too, since Helen and I share friends from our days at Brooklyn Technical High School and a few of them showed up to check out her  exhibit.

Brooklyn Tech Alumni

And then there was Patrick McMullan!

THE Patrick McMullan

Checking out the photographs

The celebrity event photographer extraordinaire whose pics used to be in ALL the magazines and who is the photographer  whose work I admired long before I even started shooting. I spotted him before anyone else and made a bee line straight to the man.

At Gratitude Exhibit
Me cheesing with a NY Legend!!!

Thankfully he was approachable and funny and, like the “Gratitude” exhibit itself, totally freaking  fabulous!!!

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