The voice on the other end of the line sounded so innocent and sincere that I almost said yes without thinking.
The question? "Mr. Huckaby, do you still photograph weddings?"
That's right. In a former life I was a wedding photographer -- this back in the days of film and light meters and cameras that didn't have a brain of their own. Just call me a Renaissance Man. Now understand, I haven't been paid for a photograph in a decade and a half and was curious to know why the sweet young thing on the phone had the notion that I might record her nuptials for posterity.
"Honesty compels me to admit that wedding photography was a pretty stressful sideline. Every bride wants her wedding day to be perfect, and perfection is a rare commodity."
"You photographed my mother's wedding," she told me, and then added "22 years ago."
As if I hadn't been feeling old enough this summer. I have taught many children of former children, but a second-generation wedding? That's a bit much.
I got into the photography business quite by accident. I was looking for a way to make a little extra money and the genius of my writing (I will pause here for a snicker) was yet to be discovered. Being a teacher, I was about to have three months of paid vacation, so I set about to find a new hobby that could bring in a little cash.
I had a pretty decent camera and enjoyed taking photographs, so I decided to try to turn a buck by taking photographs of pretty girls. If their ugly grooms had to be in the pictures, too, that would be but a small sacrifice.
The first day of summer vacation I drove to Atlanta to the Wolf Camera store and maxed out my credit card on a studio lighting system, a nice backdrop and stand and assorted other photography-related paraphernalia. I think I bought a book, too, on how to operate the camera.
I stopped by the printer on the way home to order business cards and placed an ad in the local paper. Voila! I was a professional photographer. When my lovely wife, Lisa, got home from work she found me in the basement, playing with my new toys and I thought, for a brief moment, that I was about to be a dead professional photographer.
Things worked out, though. I stayed with it for a dozen years and shot well over 200 weddings.
Honesty compels me to admit that wedding photography was a pretty stressful sideline. Every bride wants her wedding day to be perfect, and perfection is a rare commodity. Many a bride was so busy worrying about what might go wrong that she didn't fully enjoy what should have been the happiest day of her life. And in the days of film, the photographer really couldn't be sure that he'd done a good job until the proofs came back from the processor.
But I did OK. I never had a single roll of film that didn't turn out and several brides were so happy with my work that they booked me for their second weddings.
There were a few memorable moments, however. One poor groom -- an Air Force pilot -- made the mistake of planning a Friday night bachelor party at an unnamed gentlemen's club in Buckhead, where he and his buddies ran into a group of Marines. A heated disagreement over the merits of their respective branches of the service ensued and the unfortunate fellow showed up for his wedding with the whole side of his face bashed in.
The bride was not amused and I'm betting his honeymoon was not what it might have been.
Another time the bride and groom got into a heated argument on their way back up the aisle, after having exchanged vows. It seems the groom wasn't pleased with the behavior of the 3-year-old ring bearer. When the newlyweds reached the front steps of the church the groom got in the getaway car, slammed the door and drove away, leaving the bride to attend the reception alone.
I was glad that I had been paid in advance. And, yes, once or twice I got calls on the night before or the morning of the wedding from brides who had developed cold feet. One left for the honeymoon a day early -- with the best man.
Waxing nostalgic about the ghosts of weddings past made me want to tell the young lady on the other end of the line that I would be happy to shoot her wedding. But then I remembered that I don't even know where to buy film and that the digital age and I just don't get along.
But, hey, if you ever want someone to take some great iPhone shots and post them on your Facebook page-- give me a call. I'm still a Renaissance Man at heart.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com, www.newtoncitizen.com or www.gwinnettdailypost.com