My father, the mentor
To: Bernard Herve Bros (February 12, 1957 – January 14, 2017)
On January 14, 2017, the world unknowingly lost a great man. He was many things to many people: a son, a brother, an uncle, a nephew, a cousin, a husband, a friend, a grandfather, and a dad. My Papi. He was not only my dad, but my inspiration and my greatest mentor.
When I was a young teenager my father gave me what would become my dearest love yet. He gave me the gift of a passion for photography. Along with that gift, he equipped me with my first set of used film cameras: a Nikon, Canon, Minolta, and Sears KS Super. I'm not sure what he saw in me for him to skip over my two older brothers and pass such treasures on to me, but those cameras were like pure gold in my hands.
He would take me to nature parks where squirrels, trail signs, and trees were my constant models. Though I had no idea what I was doing at the time, I was so ecstatic to shoot anything one of my four cameras would be so kind to capture. Eventually, my dad taught me how to observe and understand my surroundings rather than shooting purposelessly.
It was as though photography was Papi’s native language and the camera somehow communicated to him exactly what to capture. He was patient. He mastered the art of analyzing what was around him as if he were painting a picture in his mind, and the camera was there only to snap his mental image into reality.
Though not fluently, I began to speak this language as well. I was able to better understand the beauty of nature's lighting. I took the time to study the world around me through nature's point of view, such as lying on the ground to see how life looked from a flower's perspective.
Those four cameras became my dear friends up until my sophomore year of college. My first mistake was not appreciating my old companions. I told my dad I wanted a digital camera instead. So he bargained with me: one digital Canon EOS Rebel (also known as the Canon EOS 300D) in exchange for all my precious films, which at that time were used more as shelf decor collecting dust in my dorm room anyway. Hastily, I made the trade, something I would regret later.
PUSHED TO THE SIDE
As time passed, I grew discouraged and pushed my love for photography to the side (a story for another time). But years later, through the encouragement of my dad and husband, I finally bought a Canon T5i. It wasn't the fanciest of cameras, but it brought me to a place where photography was all I wanted to do again.
Papi continued to support this passion of mine by buying me affordable equipment. I remember when he gave me an editing program I had never heard of before, as well as an Altura external flash kit for my Canon T5i. It wasn't much, but for me it was everything. Those two things brought me another step closer to achieving my dream of becoming a legitimate photographer.
But I had to take a bigger step if I wanted to seriously pursue this dream. In order to buy my ideal camera and more equipment, I had to get a full-time job that paid well. I remember the day I called my dad to tell him about my new job as an executive assistant for a large global marketing firm. His response: "But what about your photography?" Of course he was happy for me, but Papi knew me better than anyone else. He knew I was too creative and free-spirited to settle for a nine-to-five desk job in the corporate world.
And he was absolutely right. I was miserable. I hated every second of it. So as I temporarily had to push my love of photography to the side once again, my father was there to constantly remind me that I was only working this dreaded job in order to get the funds I needed to focus permanently on photography.
WHEN THE WORLD, MY WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN.
It was October 28th when I received the phone call. I could tell by my dad's voice the news wasn't good. I was speechless at the words crawling into my ears from the other line. "Do you understand?" he asked me. "Yeah," I replied. Stage Four Pancreatic Cancer. That is what my dad had.
You want to know what really sucks about this type of cancer? The fact that doctors d̶o̶n̶’t̶ can't find it until it is in s̶t̶a̶g̶e̶ f̶o̶ . . . too late. I was shattered, broken into a million pieces. I c̶r̶i̶e̶d̶ s̶o̶b̶b̶e̶d̶ w̶a̶i̶l̶e̶d̶ w̶e̶p̶t̶ —none of these words can describe exactly what I did that night. Yet I was somewhat hopeful too. Papi was always a fighter.
If you knew my dad or ever heard me tell stories of him, you would know he was a strong man, both mentally and physically. Diagnosed with polio at the age of one, my dad had to wear a metal brace and walk with metal crutches for his entire life. Never once have I met a man who used these metal contraptions to show the world just how strong he was.
He worked for the United Nations as an assistant to the Haitian Ambassador when he was a young adult, and he was an electrical engineer for the majority of his life after that. He could invent and build anything that mind of his could imagine.
He used to climb ladders backwards to get on top of rooftops to fix satellites. He made this metal rod in order to drive manual cars. He always worked hard (and with the biggest companies, I might add). He did it all. All this to say, Papi’s mentality and willpower wasn’t altered one bit when he was told he only had three months to live.
Not only was he clothed in strength, but he had a brilliant mind and a ginormous heart as well. Even though he knew he was dying, Papi pushed me every. single. day. He would give me advice, praise my achievements, and provide me with more equipment. He built a computer for me, gave me two brand-new monitors, and even left me his drone that he never used (or even opened for that matter). It all showed how proud he was to see me grow in the very gift he had given to me years ago.
One of the greatest lessons my dad taught me about photography was that it’s more than just aiming and shooting. It’s more than just the equipment used. It’s about studying the art, understanding the world as my subject, seeing not only with my eyes, but with my mind and heart as well. His encouragement gave me wings to fly without limitation.
I remember being in a group chat with Papi and my mom one night. Without getting too deep into the emotional conversation we had, I will share something incredibly profound that he wrote to me that night:
“Photography makes you see in a world that others can’t. Keep me close and you will see its wonders, and like that I will always be close to you as I wanted, to guide you and protect you even with my sick physical body.”
Since Papi’s passing, there's somewhat of an emptiness in my heart that even photography can't fill. Sometimes it is too painful to take pictures because I no longer have my mentor to critique, admire, or appreciate my work. But I know quitting is not an option because it would make all my father ever did for me in vain.
Whenever I begin to lose heart in my photography, I will remember his words. In fact, I hope to print it on a large canvas one day. His words echo so much truth, and I understand now what he did.
My father didn't show me photography just so I can admire it as a hobby or even depend on it as a means to make money. He showed it to me as a way to open my eyes to the world around me. He showed it to me so he could always be with me.
I may not be the greatest photographer, but to me photography is much more than a talent, skill, or job. It's a connection. With every press of the shutter I get to relive every memory, every moment, every lesson that my dad taught me about this beautiful art. He will live on through my passion and love for photography, and no one, not even the greatest photographer, can take that away from me.
So thank you, Bernard Herve Bros, for showing me what photography truly means. The world will know you through my work.
The following are pictures of a few of Papi's belongings at his home in Revere, Massachusetts. I took these soon after he passed, which to my surprise brought much comfort to me. The pictures are of specific objects that I felt highlighted the things I will remember the most about him.
His crutches made him who he was: a real Superman. He was a lover of music (especially jazz) so he always had a sound system set up. He loved collecting trains, cars, and boats (he used to take me to different lakes where we would take pictures and drive remote control boats), and of course he was a man of good taste with a collection of Cuban cigars to prove it.