November 30, 2007

Me and Youlogy

This is the text of what I more or less read at Debra's San Francisco memorial:

I have known Debra for thirteen years and watched her grow from an enthusiastic photo assistant to a very accomplished photographer whose work surpasses every one's I know.
Her aesthetic was flawless, every photograph is filled with emotion and heart, meticulously composed and simply... beautiful.

We became friends right away and later we became traveling companions, taking trips to Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, London and Edinburgh, we double-teamed art directors with our portfolios, we went on photo expeditions carrying 10 cameras and sometimes we just relaxed, gossiped about our peers and significant others and enjoyed our freelance lifestyle. She was my BFF.

Going anywhere with Debra was like having a personal guide to a rich, undiscovered world where everyone was a kind, friendly and fascinating character who needed to be interviewed. Her heart and mind were open to every person she encountered. In DebraLand there were no bums, no crooks, and no evil. I learned from being with her that every person was good and had a good story. Of course my stories would sometimes have to wait while she learned all about the children of the cab driver taking us from Time’s offices to Newsweek’s.

Her openness extended to restaurant meals too—every item on the menu was to be considered, many questions were asked of the server so as to be fully informed about each dish and eventually a choice was derived from items from Dish A being combined with items from Dishes B and C and probably D. Bread always required butter and butter always required salt.
And then there’s coffee—there was always a new concoction she was hooked on: somethin’ somethin’ with a shot of espresso and half soy milk and half something chai or skim…And the best time for her to order one was at an airport as soon as the boarding announcement was made. Debra would jump up and run off for coffee—making it back to the jetway with only seconds to spare.

All of you know Debra’s relationship with time was a callous flirtation. Although I would say she was always on time for work, I think she was late for most everything else—which was fine when YOU were the reason she was late meeting someone else. The beauty is that when you had her attention, you had all her attention, and being in her sphere is the only place you wanted to be.

These are true statements about Debra McClinton:

She smoked
She drank
She dressed funny
She dressed great
She laughed
She knew too many people
She was interested in everyone’s story
She asked too many questions
She listened too hard
She cared too much
She was always late
Her voicemail was always full
She drank chai tea with soy milk and a shot of espresso
She wore boots
She loved boots
She had big blue eyes the color of windex
She smoked in non-smoking hotel rooms
She was open to everybody
Everybody loved her

I will miss Debra very much, I am overwhelmed by how much her death hurts, I will think of her always, I will remember her openness, her beauty, her loyalty, her friendship, her incredible talent.

Some times, I think, I will forget that she’s gone and I will wait for her—because I know she’s just always late.

-Bart Nagel

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

dear bart,

you don't really know me- i'm wes' wife, therese.
i just wanted to thank you for the incredibly beautiful way you handled an impossible task. it gave me comfort, made me laugh and of course- cry my head off. but mostly, you managed to capture the elusive, mercurial, sunshine sending, butterscotch and dark cobalt spirit of debra. i'm obviously no writer and damn sure no public speaker. i am grateful for your stepping up and giving us all a fleeting opportunity to hug the deb we all remember in our own ways. i hope you aren't crying as much as i am- it's not pretty.
again- thank you for making that unimaginable day less awful. you're a good friend, it's clear.

therese hardison