Monday, January 4, 2010
Allen rarely holds strong opinions that differ from mine so when he does, I pay attention. The first time this proved to be a wise strategy was related to the decision of where to send Henry to school. I favored sending him to my alma mater, Washington, DC’s prestigious (to the extent that a nursery school can be such a thing) National Child Research Center where 30 years earlier I stapled my brother Andrew’s thumb and met my first best friend Katie Hawke. Allen wanted Henry (and eventually Jack and Joe) to go to a Jewish preschool because, well, we’re Jewish, and also to give them sufficient instruction in Judaism to increase the probability that they would be mensches. We enrolled them in the Gan Hayeled Nursery School at our synagogue where each played with blocks, made beautiful art work and friends for life, and took a few sizable steps down the road to mensch-hood.
Allen was sure that Norman Jean Roy, a prominent, award-winning portrait photographer (think U2, Cate Blanchett, Katherine Heigl, Isla Fisher) would agree to take my Saving Henry publicity photos. We had met Norman and his beautiful inside-and-out girlfriend (now wife) Joanna in June 2001. They had traveled by car for about five hours from their home in New York City to Bethany Beach, DE where Henry, Jack, Allen and I were enjoying a day on the beach. Norman’s assignment was to take a photograph of Henry for a New York Times magazine cover story that Lisa Belkin had written about ours and the Nash families’ race against time to save our children. Norman’s photographs poignantly capture Henry’s incredible strength and indomitable spirit and the havoc that Fanconi anemia had wreaked on his body. Something magical happened on the beach that day. Norman and Joanna ended up getting engaged and then married. We got one of the last and only pictures of our family of five (Joe was five months in utero and I was most certainly showing). We formed a lasting bond unaffected by geographic distance or frequency of communication.
After Henry died, Norman sent us all the contact sheets from that day on the beach with a note instructing us to pick any and all that we liked. The photographs are displayed throughout our house.
When Hyperion bought the rights to Saving Henry, Allen felt strongly that Norman should and would take the publicity photos. I thought that Allen could take the picture. I did not think it would be as beautiful as the piece of work that Norman could create.
Norman is in demand. His breathtaking work is featured on the pages of Vogue, Vanity Fair and other top magazines. His photography book TRAFFIK, portraying Somaly Mam and other survivors of Cambodia’s sex trade, is stunning. So when Allen wrote to Norman this fall asking him if he would be willing to take my photograph, I thought Norman would simply be too busy to do it. I was wrong.
On October 30, 2009, Allen and I flew to Los Angeles, rented a car and drove to Norman’s studio on Sunset Boulevard. We spent hours with Norman and Joanna talking and remembering. They shared their heartbreak over the despicable human sex trade and their inspiring work with Somaly Mam to bring attention, and hopefully an end, to it. Allen and I shared a copy of Saving Henry. I let Norman see the depths of my joy and heartbreak which not surprisingly he captured beautifully in the photos.