One day on the honeymoon, not even a week after our wedding, we were just lying on the bed talking. At some point, one of us was on Facebook and saw a Facebook Live video of the first step of the Clemson House demolition: removing the iconic neon sign. This was where I met Alex and so many of my photography club friends, and where we climbed on the roof and collaborated on photo ideas we had. This was where I took so many photos. This was where Dan proposed to me. This was where we took some of our wedding photos as the thunder started. And now we were watching that place go away, and nobody else would get to experience what we did.
We were two of thousands who watched as this iconic part of campus was slowly taken apart. We saw the Facebook comments rolling in:
“I lived here all 4 years!”
“I was married in the penthouse in 1974.”
“I made some of my best friends on the 4th floor.”
Throughout the day, several Clemson Photography alumni who shared some of those memories with me tagged me in some Instagram posts from our trips up there. We saw that day that even though our connection to the building was unique, we were far from the only ones who felt such a strong connection to this place.
What was unique, though, was that our engagement was PROBABLY the last reservation made at the penthouse, and we MAY have been in the last photos ever taken of the building before the demolition.
Someday, our grandkids will be showing their kids our wedding pictures in front of a building they never got to see in person, and telling them, “That’s back when Clemson House was still there. That’s where they got engaged and they think they were the last to reserve the penthouse and the last people to take pictures with it.” If our descendants are Tigers, that’ll be something they can show their friends. Future Tigers will see those pictures the same way we look at pictures taken with the “Hollywoodland” letters, Old Man on the Mountain, or the Pont des Arts. I was in Clemson last week and saw that the windows have been removed from Clemson House. We’ve been married for four months and our wedding portraits are practically already antiquities.
The thing is, we don’t always know when we take a picture that something in it won’t be there in a year. It could be a building, a person, a connection, a time in your life, or a feeling. That’s why it’s so important to have pictures, and that’s why so many of us have the drive to give people the best pictures possible.
Note: Everything in this blog about Clemson House and my own wedding day was drafted before I actually started shooting weddings myself. I hadn’t published it yet, but now I have something to add to it.
I was recently a second shooter for a major wedding photography company. With this company, I’m hired to shoot for the whole day and then upload all my RAW (unedited and uncompressed) files for someone else to edit. The couple receives their whole gallery within six weeks. One night, a little under three weeks after that wedding, I got a text from the main shooter:
“Hey Christine, sorry for the late text, but can you check your email?”
Well, that’s a text that normally signifies something important. I nervously opened my email.
“Hey Christine, do you have any pictures of the guy with the glasses? He passed away and the couple would like some pictures to be able to show at his funeral.”
I froze when I saw the picture he attached. It was a picture of the groom standing next to a guy with glasses holding his son, the little boy who’d caught the garter. I remembered that he’d held his son on his shoulders so he could catch the garter. The main shooter knew that I had pictures of this guy because he was a groomsman and I’d been assigned to take pictures of them getting ready and take group pictures of them. I couldn’t even remember this guy’s name, but I apparently had some of the last pictures ever taken of him. I knew that I’d have a picture of just him and the groom and a picture of him getting ready with the groom. I looked through my pictures and saw pictures of him dancing with his young daughter at the reception, and then a few of him holding hands with his wife as they danced around their son and daughter. They just seemed like sweet photo ops at the time I decided to take them, not very different from photos from other wedding receptions, but now they were so much more than that. These moments were how he would be remembered because there are pictures of them.
Things happen and it’s sometimes hard to explain to other people what life was like before then, but seeing pictures on a wall or in an album doesn’t always require an explanation. The groomsman’s children are 8 and 4. They won’t have as many memories of him as they’d like, but they can look back on pictures of him to remember how he smiled or that day they all danced together at the wedding reception. I won’t be able to show my future children where Dan proposed to me, but they’ll be able to see pictures from that day, and they’ll have a better understanding how perfect of a view that was for a proposal. This is why I do what I do: of course we want to remember the significant events of life, but the little moments that aren't pre-planned or talked about are just as important to us to remember.
"Never mind the great ideas, just life itself."
-- Charles Mee, Hotel Cassiopeia