Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The most special (and possibly last birthday party) for an 18 year old

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you may have been following the story of Alex Matlosz-Cox, who is a teenager with incurable cancer, who was recently given 2 weeks to live. My family first heard about Alex on Facebook, reading a post from Frank Somerville, who is an anchorman for Fox News who has a huge following.

Last week I got an email from a friend of the family asking if I would volunteer my time to photograph Alex's 18th birthday party at a local club on Sunday evening. They had lined up a whole bunch of comedians to help Alex celebrate. I really wanted to help the family out, but had my own daughter in the hospital at the time. It was going to be a last minute decision. As it turned out, my daughter was released from the hospital on Friday night, and when she heard about this, she said "Dad, you have to do this!"

Even though I have photographed 4 Olympic Games, the honor of capturing this important moment for the family was just as special. This brave young man will not be with us much longer and I wanted to do what I could to preserve this memory for the family.

I arrived at Charley's, which is a really cool night club in Los Gatos, CA, about 30 minutes before the event started. My goal was to get some photos of Alex and his family and friends. But Alex was not feeling very well and was not up to having his picture taken. I took some other photos around the venue until he had a chance to rest. The television crew showed up and did an interview with Alex. So I took this opportunity to photograph him being interviewed.

Here is Alex talking to the reporter from KTVU.

One of the items on Alex's bucket list was to get a tattoo. Here is a photo of him showing off his tattoo to the television camera.

As I mentioned, we first heard about Alex from Frank Somerville's Facebook page. If you have not seen Frank's page, you should check it out here.  What we love most about Frank's page is that his writing is positive, insightful, and he always has great things to say. Something refreshing on the Internet. After spending time with Frank last night, I quickly realized that he is as genuine and kind-hearted in person as he is on TV and online. Being avid readers of his posts, my wife and daughter were thrilled to hear that Frank was there. He and I even surprised them with a selfie. Here is a photo of Alex Matlosz-Cox and Frank Somerville.

And here is a photo of Bobbie (Alex's amazing mom), Alex and Frank.

At 6pm the comedy show started.

(For those of you photographers wondering what equipment I used, all shots were taken with the Canon 1DX. I mostly used the Canon 70-200mm, 24-70mm lenses, and the 16-35mm lens for the wide shots. I used the Canon 600 EX-RT flash with a diffuser and turned it down by at least one stop to maintain the cool lighting in the room, but add a touch of light to the subjects.)

The family received hundreds of cards with people asking to meet Alex, And he wanted a way to meet as many of those people as possible. So they put together this party as a perfect way for so many people to see Alex at one time. All of this event was done for free, with the club owner giving the space, the food being brought by attendees, and the comedians volunteering their time to make this event happen. Awesome!

And everyone had a great time.

One after another, the comedians kept people laughing.

As well as capturing photos of Alex and the comedians, I wanted to get some wide shots showing all the people who came to support Alex and his mom.

I moved around the room trying to capture photos from all angles.

This is one of my favorite shots from the evening. I worked myself to the front of the stage. I got down low to stay out of people's way and shot this image of Alex and his girlfriend watching the show from the back of the club.

While up at the front of the room, I turned the camera back around to get people reactions.

It was great to see so many people there to support Alex and his mother.

I can't repeat any of the jokes, but trust me, these guys were funny!

At the end of the show, they concluded the comedy and wished Alex a happy birthday.

Even though Alex did not want any attention on him, the crowd spontaneously started singing happy birthday.

I walked over to him to see if I could get a photo of him reacting to this moment (not sure if he was OK with having his photo taken) and he turned and gave me this. I got chills from this moment.

And before I left the party, Alex stood up and let me take this last photo with him and his mom.

All I can tell you is...all of this puts our daily lives in perspective. I was driving over to the party thinking of all the things I have to do, and then realized that I am lucky to have the time to accomplish these tasks. This young man has very little time left with us, but is doing everything in his power to leave his mark in this world.

Alex, I hope that you prove the experts wrong and keep adding to your bucket list!

If you would like to see a video clip of the event from the Fox 2 news broadcast, click here. Towards the very end of the video, you will see where he turned and gave me the hand gesture.


Cynthia Brown said...

Dear Jeff, ~ Thank you so much for introducing us to Alex, a courageous young man, and for communicating his enthusiasm for life through your sensitive photography. God bless ~ Cynthia Brown

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jeff, the photos are wonderful and we are blessed to have had the opportunity to have you join us. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I'm speechless. Making a difference, even a small one, is priceless. Giving your time for such cause is "admirable".

Unknown said...

You're a good man Jeff Cable. You remind me of a saying I once heard. "We make a living from what we get. We make a life from what we give". You exemplify that from this occasion, and your videos. Thank you.