‘I, too, have a story about Richard Holbrooke’.-Hillary Clinton

In one of those moments that made me grateful for Facebook, I noticed Sarah Holbrooke’s post that the Kennedy Center memorial service for her late father in law, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, would begin in about 35 minutes on CSPAN. Thanks to Facebook, I saw she made the post 40 minutes earlier. I turned it on and began recording immediately. A slideshow tribute to this great man and incredible statesman had already begun, and within minutes, I saw one of my own photos in the slideshow!

Elizabeth and Richard, in her childhood bedroom on her wedding day.
©Tanya Malott 2009

I immediately thought of how many other great photos I had of Ambassador Holbrooke and his family, and I started digging through my files.

As Kati spoke, she said “Richard was a very good husband”. I had seen that with my own eyes. I had so many photos of them looking so happy together. I thought of how lucky I am to be able to participate in such intimate family events, and yet step back as the observer, photographing people in some of their most natural and happy moments.

Richard and Kati share a private moment.  ©Tanya Malott 2009

I get to photograph people when they are almost unaware that they are being photographed….thus capturing things that are too often left to memory, and yet seem nearly impossible to conjure once those moments have passed: little glances, warm hugs, knowing smiles and loving kisses. I believe these are all moments we treasure and eventually miss the most when our loved ones are gone. Kati’s tears brought tears to my eyes. As she said “I will miss him forever”, I felt her immense sadness, because I had seen his incredible warmth, with her and with all of his family.

A toast to the couple. ©Tanya Malott 2009

Kati and Richard admiring Elizabeth ©Tanya Malott 2009

A private bit of advice from Ricard Holbrooke to his step-daughter, Elizabeth. ©Tanya Malott 2009

I met Richard Holbrooke on the occasion of his stepdaughter Lizzie’s wedding. I don’t think he ever knew that it was really his doing that I was there. As he was accepting Hillary Clinton’s appointment as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, I watched on CNN as he thanked his “beautiful wife Kati”, his children, and his stepdaughter Lizzie and her fiancé, David. Because I was friendly with several people close to Holbrooke, I figured there must be a way to meet this unknown future bride. It was really out of character for me to initiate contact with a potential client this way, but once I met Lizzie Jennings, everything felt like it was meant to be. Lizzie seemed like an old friend. After a few exchanged emails, I flew to New York just to have lunch with her. She was beautiful, brilliant, funny, serious, and busy.... planning a wedding in France and another in Bridgehampton while finishing up two masters degrees at Columbia in international affairs and public health. She was my kind of woman, and I was so thrilled my instincts were so strong and positive about her. Apparently the feeling was mutual, and I spent many days photographing wedding related events for the family.

I think it is one thing to have photos that document an event, but my goal is always to catch something deeper. I try to capture the essence of people being most themselves, no matter what the event. I look for the way that people look at each other, hold each other, and communicate with each other. I want to catch people laughing, smiling, dancing, or whatever it is that they do when they are not posing for a camera. Photos like these tell me so much more about who a person really is.

Richard and Kati at a beautiful rehearsal dinner alfresco overlooking Cap Ferrat. ©Tanya Malott 2009

Dancing into the night. ©Tanya Malott 2009

Sometimes I wonder why I take some of the photos I do, why I look for these moments in-between, the gestures and glances that don't even seem worth photographing. None of this seems monumental. If anything, I specialize in the mundane.

Mother in the foreground, watching daughter, in the background.  ©Tanya Malott 2009

A hug and a laugh after one of the most beautiful wedding speeches ever,  that brought tears to every eye. ©Tanya Malott 2009

A relaxed and happy Richard at the wedding.  ©Tanya Malott

For me, these photos capture a side of Richard Holbrooke that was not the statesman or the diplomat, but rather the man that was very loved by and loving toward his family. I feel so lucky to have seen this happy side of a man who did very serious work.

A private moment captured.  ©Tanya Malott 2009

Kati said that Richard taught her "that a life of meaning is worth more than a life of ease". Though my contribution to the world is tiny by comparison, I feel my life has more meaning because I can share photographs like these that help us remember our loved ones just as they were.