“That’s it. That’s my Dad.”
January 17, 2014 5:43 AM   Subscribe

Jeremy Cowart photographed John Schneider (Dukes of Hazzard/Smallville/Haves and Have Nots star), but didn't get exactly the experience he expected.
posted by nevercalm (58 comments total) 85 users marked this as a favorite

 
wow
posted by ardgedee at 5:47 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Powerful. It takes a strong person to let a total stranger capture that sort of moment.
posted by Renoroc at 5:49 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:57 AM on January 17


I sure didn't expect that.

Damn.



.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:59 AM on January 17


Holy cats. That's so touching.
posted by Kitteh at 5:59 AM on January 17


those black & white shots are...visceral.
posted by squasha at 6:01 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Oh, wow. Leave it to an actor and a photographer to understand how powerful capturing a moment like that is.
posted by xingcat at 6:03 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


So wait, he found out his dad died, then he went and did those color shots first knowing his father had just died, and then the black and white ones? Jesus, that's control.

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posted by Naberius at 6:03 AM on January 17 [16 favorites]


This is really great. Thanks for sharing.
posted by josher71 at 6:10 AM on January 17


Wow.

No, I'm good, just something in my eye...

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posted by Jughead at 6:11 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:18 AM on January 17


What an amazing story:

I would never, ever think to deal with that kind of experience that way. Similarly, I would never think to put those kinds of feelings in a painting, or a song. He really did that right.

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posted by From Bklyn at 6:20 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Man alive. I haven't really kept up with his work, but I have to say he's aged really well.
posted by jquinby at 6:26 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


I would never, ever think to deal with that kind of experience that way.

The night I heard my favourite brother had died of a massive heart attack at the age of 42, I went on MetaChat and wrote a thread full of funny or poignant anecdotes about him. So although my initial reaction to this post was a) I never knew Bo Luke could act and b) it seems kind of narcissistic for him to respond to his father's death by having pictures taken of himself, my next thought to recall my own means of dealing with grief and then the reflection that people probably do process grief in the medium that they know best. Mine was writing; Schneider's is acting.
posted by orange swan at 6:30 AM on January 17 [25 favorites]


Man alive. I haven't really kept up with his work, but I have to say he's aged really well.

He totally out Pa Kent Kevin Costner.
posted by Atreides at 6:34 AM on January 17 [11 favorites]


Thanks for the post.

I've learned over time that, however someone chooses to grieve, it's just fine.

This was powerful and moving.
posted by HuronBob at 6:47 AM on January 17 [16 favorites]


Wow. It's his job to feel and express emotions not his own... he's entitled, for once in his life, to see what's really his treated with the same craft and artistry by the photographer. Amazing and powerful.

Kevin Costner as Pa Kent! Ha! That's as silly a notion as Superman killing someone, or casting the charming and sweet actress from the Muppet Movie as Lois Lane. It's really a shame there haven't been any Superman movies since the one Richard Pryor was in, but William H. Macy would be my pick for Pa Kent if they decided to make any new ones. *twitch. twitch.*
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:47 AM on January 17 [11 favorites]


Part of this, surely, is about letting the camera and the media machine see something real and important, and that's something I applaud, including the courage it takes to do it.

That's the generous side of my impression of this.

My less generous side is that as genuine as his response was, it was still a performance in that it was essentially staged, his expression of his feeling and what he allowed to be seen of it was carefully delimited. More disturbingly, though, is the implication of him pointing to a photo of him expressing his grief and identifying that as his father. That's almost like a line from some dark sitcom about performers and media personalities — all the world exists in the gaze of the camera upon their faces.

However, back to giving him the benefit of the doubt, the fact is that he's lived much of his life in this mediated bubble, doing interviews or photo shoots, and this is given so much priority that apparently he or no one else thinks to delay the photo shoot while he deals with the news of his father's death.

If his emotional autonomy is degraded and what is genuine is still carefully controlled, and there's no clear line between self and the performer, it's something that has been done to him as much as it's something he's done to himself. And within that context, with the tools that were available, he made a space where he could take that intrusive camera and use it to his own purposes, to make "real", in the way that in his world so much is made "real", his experience of grief at his loss.

So there's many things here, maybe there's something perverse about it, but maybe it's perversely honest and true. Or as honest and true as it can be. And they are beautiful photographs.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:03 AM on January 17 [11 favorites]


Jesus. Wow.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:07 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


The take that I think is spot-on is the one that says this is what he's trained to do with high emotion, just like writers are trained to write. I've talked to writer friends about the guilt they feel when something important is happening and they feel themselves writing about it in their heads. I suspect that for actors, acting -- expressing with specificity with the body and face, in this case -- is processing and expressing and sort of making a piece out of your emotions, just as it is for writers. I've just never seen it done this way.

I mean, if a songwriter had wanted to write a song or perform a song, nobody would be surprised. This is his art; I think it's beautiful, as well as a really interesting insight into actors. I don't think it's a "can't deal with the media bubble" thing or inauthenticity. I think it's his art.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:08 AM on January 17 [32 favorites]


.

I need a hug. (and want to send Mr. Schneider fan mail)
posted by DigDoug at 7:16 AM on January 17


What a powerful story and beautiful pictures. I was just thinking of my father today (he's been gone for 2 years now) and this just really moved me. I'm so glad the photographer and Mr. Schneider shared this with us.
posted by inturnaround at 8:07 AM on January 17


Sometimes, with the death of a loved one, we are in shock at first. That shock can last a minute or a week. It allows us to go through the rest of our day, pack a black dress, book a flight home, take a cab to the airport, take a cab to our sister's, go to sleep, wake up, put on the black dress, get in the backseat to ride to the funeral home, sit in the front row, and then suddenly completely break down when the priest calls Mom "Catherine" instead of Cathy. Instead of Mom.

For Mr. Schneider, seems like it lasted about an hour.
posted by maryr at 8:29 AM on January 17 [23 favorites]


Because of the nature of film and television acting, which rarely involves much by way of rehearsals and elaborate character work, and tends to shoot scenes out of sequence and with long breaks between shots, a lot of actors instead work toward developing mechanisms to access and present their emotions in a way that seems positively lunatic to outsiders -- many of them can't really shut it off when they're not on camera. I mean, if you have been given one day to memorize some dialogue and you're supposed to be hysterical the moment the camera rolls, and you need to put a character across instantly, the best thing you can do is teach yourself to be spontaneous and present and to have strong emotional reactions to things immediately. It's a genuine skill, but can be a bit startling in life (I once had Patrick Stewart start weeping in front of me when I was interviewing him and had no idea how to respond.)

When something monumental happens in your life, I can understand the urge to capture the moment. It feels like you're honoring the profundity of it. And go up to a photographer and asking to be photographed while you weep is going to seem odd to a lot of people, but it's not going to seem that odd for an actor. This seemed to have been intended as a private thing for Mr. Shneider -- the photographer is the one who asked for permission to share it. And I think it's lovely.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:42 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


Schnider's impersonation of Obama in the fun photos is also pretty great.
posted by straight at 8:50 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


It's possible that Mr. Schneider simply could not process these emotions yet, when they're so fresh, especially with a commitment to other people that he felt he must fulfill, as maryr wrote.

Often people in stressful situations will put off emotions until later. Perhaps this is his way of briefly allowing himself to grieve, capturing it to revisit later as part of a more private reaction.

Also, he is one handsome man. I sure I hope I age nearly as well.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:53 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


In an industry of illusions and facades, I'm not surprised he wanted to capture a real moment, painful as it was. And as someone who works a very non-standard, non-9-to-5 job, I kinda get how a fellow industry pro with the tools and talent to do you a righteous on the spot can seem... not all that hard to reach out to.

.

_/|\_
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:06 AM on January 17


That was so unexpectedly touching.

He was my favourite on the show from the very first episode (the one I pretended to be when we played). Between that, the story of what happened, and the progression of the images, it feels like I just watched a friend find this crushing fact out, even though I know that relationship side of that is entirely illusory.

I think maybe he was afraid of losing the authenticity of his beginning grief because of the circumstances. Whatever spurred it, it's a beautiful series of images, for all their gravity.
posted by batmonkey at 9:24 AM on January 17


My less generous side is that as genuine as his response was, it was still a performance in that it was essentially staged, his expression of his feeling and what he allowed to be seen of it was carefully delimited. More disturbingly, though, is the implication of him pointing to a photo of him expressing his grief and identifying that as his father.

Or maybe it was that he had the impulse to express, in some way, just how heartbroken he was in that moment, and since hey, here was a guy taking pictures, he impulsively asked to do that - less "careful staging", more "there's a guy with a camera here by coincidence and rather than trying to put my grief into words I can have the camera guy take a picture that says it all".

As for the "that's my father", that struck me as a similarly spontaneous "holy crap, I look like Dad in that photo" thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:34 AM on January 17 [8 favorites]


Powerful. Thank you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:35 AM on January 17


That's remarkable.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:35 AM on January 17


.

_/|\_


I don't quite know what this is, P-B-Z-M, but I'm pretty sure I played it a hundred times at the Exploratorium, and never managed to land safely.
posted by Guy Smiley at 9:49 AM on January 17


That's a hell of a thing to do. People grieve in different ways. I look and sound like my Dad so people mistake me on the phone all the time. I can see this helping.

.
posted by arcticseal at 9:52 AM on January 17


That was beautiful. For what it's worth, I had the same read on his motivations as EmpressCallipygos.

.
posted by blurker at 10:02 AM on January 17


My allergies. Wow. Thank you
posted by nostrada at 10:19 AM on January 17


"That's my father"

"In this raw moment of absolute grief, I not only look like him but I still feel him and I did not want to forget that."

This is why he had the pictures taken.
posted by oflinkey at 10:35 AM on January 17 [11 favorites]


My dad just died a week ago. I'm going to close my office door for a few minutes.
posted by tommasz at 10:42 AM on January 17 [12 favorites]


it seems kind of narcissistic for him to respond to his father's death by having pictures taken of himself
posted by orange swan at 9:30 AM on January 17

More disturbingly, though, is the implication of him pointing to a photo of him expressing his grief and identifying that as his father.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:03 AM on January 17


It made me wonder if he looks like his father.

I mean, I have pictures of myself when I was younger, and of my mother when she was my age or younger, and of my dad's sister when she was younger. When you line them up, you can see the resemblance between me and my aunt, and me and my mom.

But there's a couple of candid photos of us--natural, unintended poses where we're unaware of the camera-- where you can't tell the difference between myself and my mom, or myself and my aunt (except that my photos are in color). The resemblance, captured in the expressions in our faces and the movements of our bodies in those moments, is uncanny.

I treasure those photos, because I don't have a lot of photos of mom and auntie when they was young. There wasn't much money for such frivolities in their youth. My unconscious imitation of them in my youth hearkens back to theirs, in a sense.

When I read the story, I thought, "Maybe that's what he's looking for, that resemblance. that unstaged moment where you can't but help to look exactly like your parent. Maybe there wasn't much money for photos when he grew up, and his dad never bothered with them later, so this is his way of of reaching for his father one last time and capturing him on film."


I dunno. Pure speculation, of course. But if I'd had a professional photographer present when I found out my mom died, I could totally see myself doing the same thing.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:45 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


I don't know if he's been told all his life that he looks like his dad, but I can understand why he pointed to the picture and said so. At least that's what I imagine was his impulse when he said and
did that.

On preview, what he/she said. ^
posted by TrishaLynn at 11:16 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


"When I read the story, I thought, 'Maybe that's what he's looking for, that resemblance. that unstaged moment where you can't but help to look exactly like your parent. Maybe there wasn't much money for photos when he grew up, and his dad never bothered with them later, so this is his way of of reaching for his father one last time and capturing him on film.'"

Maybe so, that's a much better interpretation.

I look extremely like my late father. So much so that my sister is a little weirded out by it. I'm a little weirded out by it. When I've seen home videos of myself made in the last fifteen years, I'll often see someone and think it's my father and then realize it's me. That's partly because I also have many of his mannerisms and ways of moving and such.

Anyway, as much nicer as your interpretation is, if I'd just learned that my father died and I looked at a photo of myself grieving, I don't think my reaction would be "that's my father" in that sense, either, which is maybe why it didn't occur to me to interpret it that way.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:20 AM on January 17


I think maybe he wanted to use his craft/medium for something genuinely authentic, that was really his--he spends his career being someone not himself in front of cameras, and had to do so for a while just after finding out his father had died. He clearly needed a moment in his medium for something truly his own. Really touching.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:38 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


John Schneider was the first celebrity I ever met in person. I was around six months old at the time when my parents encountered him at a party. According to them, he was a really nice guy, and somewhere, there is a photo of John Schneider holding a baby bull octorok and looking not at all put out that some couple he'd just met foisted their offspring on him for a picture.

When I was a little older, whenever I'd see that photo I would think to myself that having been blessed, in a way, by an actual Duke of Hazzard meant that I was surely destined for greatness.

Anyway. These are great photos, and I totally get the need to feel like there's some part of the parent you lost still with you, and part of you, and so present that it can be captured on film.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:30 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Dealing with grief is such a personal thing.

2012 sucked for me. I'd just figured out that I was suffering from pretty severe depression around the start of the year. In July, my cat passed away after a long, long illness and about six weeks later, my other cat passed suddenly. I was crying every single day for hours and had no way of measuring whether this was an appropriate way of dealing with grief or not. Then in December, the tragedy in Newtown (where I grew up) happened. I was a complete mess dealing with all sorts of enormous emotions that I'm not used to processing. Yeah, grief, but fury and regret and guilt (over not being there in town for my family).

Anyhow, the point of all of this is I'm also a performer. I act, improvise and sing all the time and almost entirely comedy. I couldn't stop performing just because I was a basket case. When you improvise especially its impossible to put aside yourself. Your brain produces what it produces. I found myself getting some pretty dark shit out of myself in rehearsals and warm-ups because it reduced the amount of it that came out on stage. Some of it came out on stage, though. You're creating art out of yourself and sometimes the pain is what you have to work with.

I also got some of the most positive feedback of my life from strangers who had no idea what was going on. That also through my brain for a loop. All these awful things and I was maybe doing better work because of them. That thought fucked me up for a while, too.

Long story short, I wasn't there and have no idea what was actually going through Schneider's head, but I read this and teared up and thought "yeah, man, I totally get what he was doing - that's brilliant." You have to let the "real" out sometimes and I understand wanting to capture it. Its hard to tell what your heart is going through sometimes without some evidence.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:01 PM on January 17 [6 favorites]


When I started reading this article, I was in a particular mindset due to recent events -- wondering about how performers do it. How do they "have fun" while still going through life with its inevitable ups and downs. While I know it's just temporary, when I'm dealing with shit, I can barely talk with the barista at my local coffee shop without being distracted. I can't imagine having to perform under those conditions. Contrary to what seems to be popular opinion, acting professionally always seemed, to me, to be a lot harder than it looks over the long term.

I was not anticipating the ending.
posted by smidgen at 1:43 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I thought, "Maybe that's what he's looking for, that resemblance. that unstaged moment where you can't but help to look exactly like your parent."

My Dad lives far away and I only see him every once in a while. When he's left after visiting, I invariably catch myself saying something and being shocked at how much I sound like him. It's a good feeling.

My less generous side is that as genuine as his response was, it was still a performance

If he were a musician and asked someone to record him playing a song as he grieved for his dad, and then listened to the recording and said, "Yes. That's how I felt. That's my grief. That's my dad." Would you complain that it was "still a performance"?

Acting is an art, and being suspicious of the inauthenticity of acting is older than Plato.
posted by straight at 2:00 PM on January 17


I don't quite know what this is, P-B-Z-M, but I'm pretty sure I played it a hundred times at the Exploratorium, and never managed to land safely.

;-) Gassho.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:29 PM on January 17


This was really moving. It took my breath away.
posted by MissySedai at 3:35 PM on January 17


I mean, if you have been given one day to memorize some dialogue and you're supposed to be hysterical the moment the camera rolls, and you need to put a character across instantly, the best thing you can do is teach yourself to be spontaneous and present and to have strong emotional reactions to things immediately.

I was listening to an interview yesterday with one of Australia's grand dames of stage and screen and she spoke about an objective mindset she carries around so when she is experiencing a strong emotion in real life there is one part of her mind observing and filing away her response so she can draw on it later in her acting.
posted by Kerasia at 3:54 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]



(I once had Patrick Stewart start weeping in front of me when I was interviewing him and had no idea how to respond.)

Oh, you do not drop a line like that , without telling the story! What did you do that made Sir Patrick cry??
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:27 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Am I the only one who clicked on the link, and immediately thought "Oh, of course the photographer is John Schneider's son, they look so much alike!"

That being said, that was an incredible article.

Man he has aged well. 53?
posted by Sphinx at 6:40 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Here's the Patrick Stewart story.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:20 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


This was cool. Thanks for posting it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:25 AM on January 18


I loved this, thank you so much for posting it. The shooter's narrative proved him to be a great natural storyteller, and the Schneider pictures are mystical and profound and revelatory, actually (a crying man). I too sense something 'actorly' about it, but it did not disturb me.

We have no idea what the subject's relationship to his father was -- maybe he hadn't seen him in years and years. We have no idea what the genesis of his tears was -- pain or loss or anger or fear or relief. Yet we focus our gaze through our own relationship to our fathers and to grief. It's a little bit of alchemy.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:57 AM on January 18


The photos kinda creep me out, but I appreciate being reminded of Bo Duke.

One of the cast members was John Schneider. You might know him from his work on “Dukes of Hazard” or “Smallville”.

Or his record! I had such a crush on him.
posted by Houstonian at 9:36 AM on January 18


What a beautiful story.

A lot of you are looking at those black & white photos in isolation and wondering why he would have them taken while in a state of grief. Well, grief is an odd thing. You never really know what you'll do. But keep in mind, just before those photos, he was taking promotional photos for his new show - laughing and playing around and holding in all that grief because he's a professional and the show must go on and all that. He spent that time in the photoshoot, pretending to be that guy, that character, that image - even while he's already grieving his father. That news still raw and in the front of his mind. No wonder he wanted to put a line under that experience - of pretending everything was okay, while he had just found out his father was dead. No wonder he wanted more truthful shots of his emotions that day, after pretending for an hour that he was fine, even after such devastating news.
posted by crossoverman at 6:15 PM on January 18 [4 favorites]


That makes sense.

But coming back to this thread after having watched Jack Gleeson's presentation to the Oxford Union about celebrity culture †, I find Gleeson's (mostly secondhand) observations and theories to be very apposite.

Gleeson mentions, I think, consumption in the context of Weber's charisma and celebrities — we consume the selves of celebrities, their private selves along with their public selves, and eventually these celebrities can only understand themselves within the context of this public consumption. The only things which are real are those things which are consumed by their audience.

So here John Schneider arguably realizes his grief, in both senses of the word, via the continuing process of having his soul stolen by the camera's lens.

† Those who, upon watching the video, are surprised to discover that the actor Jack Gleeson is our own Rory Marinich are excused this justified misidentification. He is not. Probably.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:00 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


It does seem like there is pain in his eyes the whole time, though. To me, even in the dance photo he looks lively but broken.
posted by morganannie at 4:46 AM on January 19


Actors have to be very in touch with their emotions. In short, they are very good at feeling. I think that's the moment he captured - his release of his grief. Great story. Great pictures.
posted by xammerboy at 3:40 PM on January 23


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