It was a rotten, rainy day in Manhattan, the kind of day that New Yorkers dread, because it means dodging umbrellas on sidewalks all day long. The streets were still full of people, looking at their phones, looking at the buildings, looking anywhere but ahead as they charged forward on their way to nowhere in particular. The rain was so heavy, and the clouds so low, the city felt like it was sitting under a blanket of darkness, and it was so gloomy that you could barely tell what time of day it was.
But just the same, I was trudging down 48th with my coat pulled tightly around me, hoping that no one would poke me in the eye with a stray umbrella.
I was supposed to have today off, but my boss Danny had called me in to work anyway, promising that it would be worth my while. I couldnt tell him that I highly doubted it. I loved my job, I really did. But it wasnt exactly what youd call exciting. And considering I had very few days off, there wasnt much Danny could assign me that would make it worth coming outside on a day like this.
As a photojournalist with zero interest in shooting all of the usual outdoorsy crap that appealed to all of my coworkers, most of my assignments involved food, the occasional celebrity baby, and a lot of dog fashion shows. That was me: Jamaicka Grant poodle tutu photographer extraordinaire.
It wasnt that I hated nature per se; it was just that nature didnt seem to have much use for me.
When I was a little girl, my parents had planned a two-week-long camping trip in the Catskills. My parents were both raised by hippies, the kind that would dance naked under the full moon and put out bundles of flowers on a goddesss feast day. The trip to the Catskills was supposed to be my first chance to commune with nature, in the way that theyd enjoyed as children.
It didnt take long for my parents to realize that theyd be communing with nature on their own in the future. By day two on the campsite, I had been stung by wasps, caught in a rock slide, and fallen out of the kayak and into the river, at which point I had to be rescued by forest rangers. We left the Catskills the next day, before a bear could steal me from my sleeping bag and drag me back to its cave.
I didnt fare much better on a family reunion in Hawaii the next year. Its Hawaii, my dad said, what could possibly happen to her in Hawaii? Heres a tip: its better to just avoid asking rhetorical questions altogether when your daughter is a lightning rod for accidents.
While the rest of my cousins were off surfing and parasailing, I was firmly planted on the beach, taking pictures with my brand-new camera. Everyone else had a great time. I got attacked by sand fleas, pooped on by a sea bird, and knocked down by a giant wave that came out of nowhere, ruining my camera and leaving me with a bump on my head the size of a softball. After that, all outdoor activities were considered voluntary, and I never volunteered.
When I decided to become a photographer, my parents were more than a little shocked.
But dont photographers have to shoot nature and weather and large animals? my dad asked nervously.
Honey, should I see about getting you a better insurance policy? my mom wrote in an email when I told her about my new job with City & Sky magazine.
Asking about insurance was safer than bringing up the sore subject of why Id gone to work for City & Sky in the first place, instead of accepting the standing job offer to be head photographer for the family business, a wildly successful chain of outdoor equipment and gear stores. I couldnt even visit one of The Grant Outdoors locations without breaking into hives the moment I spotted a pair of ice boots on the wall, or spotted another parent allowing their innocent child access to the climbing wall.
Sure, Id told them I wanted to at least try and make it on my own in the big city before resorting to the convenience of working for mom and dad, but the idea of being a photographer for The Great Outdoors, or as our running family joke went, The Grant Outdoors. Whatever you called it, taking that job would be the equivalent to pleading guilty and asking the judge to levy the death sentence.
Id seen the shots they took in our spiffy high-end catalog. Ouror I should say, my parents businesscatered to prosperous fit people who lived life on the edge in style. I knew what it must take for those kinds of killer shots to get taken, and it would be a day in hell before I signed up for that duty.
If I took the job, a week later theyd have me leaning out of a helicopter, or more likely dangling from some cable as they lowered me into a crevice, all so I could get the perfect shot of some fit models demonstrating our top-of-the-line windsurfing equipment in the middle of shark-ridden waters off the coast of Mali, or shooting out of Class V Himalaya rapids in one of our four-thousand-dollar super-kayaksall while dressed to the nines in our stylish protective gearas if that would save themor me. But I digress.