What’s your family life like?
Nick’s take was created from interviews made in 2000.
[Nick’s Take was written in 2000. As of June 2011, Nick and Reba travel together on his assignments, Ian got married in in the fall of 2011 and Eli is in college on the West Coast. All is well.]
When I first became interested in the Geographic, I remember reading that Geographic photographers had a really high divorce rate, and I was just starting my career. Reba and I were lovers, and then we had kids by accident. The family thing for me came over a long haul. Then I woke up one day, and I had two kids, and Reba and I had twenty years together, and it is a true family.
But to tell you, has it been hard for me to manage work and family? No. It’s been super easy. Reba is an artist, and one of the reasons she fell in love with me is because I was going to be a photographer. So she’s really supportive of that side. And then the kids never knew anything different. I’ve always done this.
A lot of my colleagues, I think, fall in love after they’re established photographers, and they do this heavy courting when they’re home, then the woman (or the man) wakes up one day and says, hey, this guy’s gone half the time — I didn’t bargain for this. It actually helps our relationship, mine and Reba’s. It gives her space; I go and do my thing, and the kids just adapted to it. We get homesick, but it makes Reba and I have more of a love affair when I come home. So we have this constant fire, and we don’t get so tired of each other.
Okay, some parts are really hard. The hardest thing is staying in touch with reality. Because I go off on this very romantic life, and I’m the center of attention, and I’m doing what I want to do every single day. Then I come home and I’ve got to be part of a family, which requires giving. I struggle with it.
In the old days I didn’t communicate when I was traveling, because I couldn’t. There were no telephones. I would leave, and two months later I would come home and it would be really exciting. Starting with the Megatransect, I could call home anytime I wanted to. Satellite phones were our survival mechanism, so I could also use them to call home and do email. I was really homesick the whole time, because I could talk to Reba and she could tell me how much she missed me, and I knew how much I was missing with Eli and Ian. So I don’t like being as connected as I can be now.
My son Ian didn’t know he had such good parents until he saw everybody else’s. All his friends’ parents are divorced, and they hide everything from the kids. Reba and I put it right there on the table. We told him, if you want to do something, you come to us, you tell us about it, we’ll talk about it, but don’t hide it from us. And we didn’t think that was working, but one day he’s 19 years old, and he comes to us and says hey, I decided I want to XXX. And we’re like WOW. Are you sure? It’ll make you stupid, it’ll make you really hungry. And he’s turned out great, not excessive with anything, and maybe Eli’s going to turn out all right.
I’m lucky. I feel like the luckiest man on Earth, because I got this career, and I got a great family, and I just try not to screw it up.