Work as a photographer long enough and you develop an instinct for an instant classic.
When you first see the image on a computer, an iPad, or even on the LCD screen on the back of your DSLR camera, it has all the elements you want in a great photo — context, intrigue, emotion.
And so from last weekend’s pair of youth soccer games, this one of our 6-year-old son stood out from all the rest.
Every weekend, I capture plenty of images of our boys running and kicking, but this one is unique and for so many reasons.
My son is playing goalkeeper in an oversized highlighter green pinned, wearing what appears to be gardening gloves with the tips of the fingers cut off. The look on his face, it tells me something, but what’s intriguing for me as a Dad is, I’m not sure what he’s conveying.
Is he watching the play carefully to see if the attacking offense will come his way to try and score? Is he bored since keepers spend a lot of the game standing around instead of being a part of the action? Is he sad? Is he determined?
What do you think?
My heart grew swollen with pride, hope, fear, all the fatherhood emotions, when the boy jogged out to the mouth of the goal. I spent nearly the entirety of my youth, all the way to high school graduation, playing keeper.
The experience gave me a lot of highlights, and more lowlights than I care to remember. I loved the role — commander of the defense, the last line standing between your team’s jubilation/relief or sense of deflation. One deflection or one miscue makes the difference.
Is my 6-year-old ready for that?
Many of us Dads wrestle with the desire to stand nearby, like behind the goal, and give our children direction. Let us help. Let us show you how. But during the game, that would simply be inappropriate since he already has coaches.
And he has to discover the ups and downs — and how to deal with both — on his own.
What I have now to pour all these emotions into is this photo. I can’t stop looking at it. I see him, I see myself, I see the past, I see the potential future, I see so much, and yet, I also see something simple, just a 6-year-old child participating in a game.
Dave Pidgeon is a writer and photographer based in Lancaster, Pa. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.