Ben's my cousin. I don't know him well enough. In fact, there are a lot of enoughs that come up regarding this guy.
When we were kids we hung out, sure. But we were just kids, seeing each other in passing, hanging out and swimming at the pool at grandma's place. But life takes it turns and my folks took off for Colorado, and then … you know … cousins part ways. From then on out, we just haven't been close enough.
Family is a pretty cool bond though. I've kept up with Ben through the network and tried to stay up to date through Facebook. He's a musician, with a stunningly intimate relationship with his music. He's not popular enough, that's for damned sure.
A few years back, I crossed paths with Ben at grandma's funeral. Apart from the somberness of the occasion, my big take-away was that cousin Ben had in fact turned into a giant. I never knew him as tall — younger than me and all — but he'd clearly outpaced the lot of us and become a skyscraper. But in all that hugeness, he comes with an air of gentleness that simply softens the space around him. I find myself at peace in Ben's company, more relaxed for the time I spend with him, however brief.
That sense memory put Ben high on my list of people to photograph on my trip through Los Angeles, along with his sister Maia and dad, my uncle Jim. We met at Maia's place first and after the initial whatnots we started thinking through the shoot. Maia's LA home is fantastic, brilliant light beats through huge windows at sunset, and these glamorous blood-red curtains make for a perfect filter. Ben picked up the guitar, played a few licks, and there we were.
After this trip, I'm struck with a much more sobering memory of Ben than just his height. His dad — the aforementioned brilliant uncle Jim — has been suffering for some time. Ben has taken up the mantle of support on behalf of so many of us in the family who wish we could do — had done — more. When I look at this photo I see a guy who has poured such love into music that it makes my heart hurt. And when he tells me that no one has ever made a photograph of him with with a guitar, no one has ever photographed this part of his life for him, it reminds me of the sacrifices he's made to support his family, to live with them, to help care for them.
When I think about the model of generosity and gentleness I want to impart in the character of my own kids, it's Ben Peters. I can only hope that somewhere up the genetic path we share, I managed to pass on the humility and kindness that Ben shares with his world every day.