Soul People

David Steen: The Power of Light

I’m curious to how and why we don’t always understand why someone touches our lives. Often, only with hindsight.

I met David at a book launch for ‘Discover Your Woman Within’, by Charlene Bell Tosi.

He was the only man in a room of women. Powerful itself. The house was full of his iconic photography. Sean Connery, Rod Stewart, Britt Ekland, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Unaware of his talent, we spoke and he took a very quick and firm interest in my life and my photography. I made a flippant comment about an exhibition I was holding on the Saturday evening, in early Nov and he asked if he could come. ‘It’s only my holiday snaps’. That’s fine he said. I’d still love to come.

Struggling to find my Hollyhock cafe in the dark, he persisted and entered dressed in a large fur cape with beret. ‘Spot the photographer’, said my brother. And he didn’t mean me.

David insisted I signed my images. Almost disgusted that I hadn’t already. He chose one he wanted to buy. I was blown away. A real photographer wants one of my snaps. It was sunset from the coastline near West Whittering. Why? ‘Because the sunset is something that hasn’t changed since the beginning of time.’

In addition, he purchased my book ‘Around the world in 138 blogs’. A week later I received an email entitled ‘Seven days PLUS’. He’d read my book, only previously enjoyed by those who knew me or I’d travelled with during that year. Certainly not by a stranger. I was intrigued as to how it would be received.

‘We met a week ago. I feel I know so much about you. What an amazing book you have written about your travels and feelings about life. I have been moved by what I have so far. You are a very special woman with a great talent for story telling, that CPUs be the Irish in you and explains your liking for liquor!! I thought your piece on Success was beautifully written. Perhaps you should become a travel writer/ photographer- that beats work!’

He went on to invite me to come and talk about photography. “Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement”.

I was a little sceptical. Why should he care? Why me? Is he strange?

It’s so hard for us to trust the kindness of a stranger. To trust they don’t have a dark ulterior motive. Of course he has a motive. But as I only later discovered, it was simply because he enjoyed making others happy. To share his knowledge. To connect with people.

As well as an eye for light, he had words for every occasion. He’d send me quotes to remind me of life’s moments and riches. ‘every day brings a chance to start over’, as well as a wicked sense of humour ‘all the nice girls love a sailor’ after I’d returned from my sailing adventures.

When we met he brought these insights and stories to life. Stories of meeting Ronnie Briggs and capturing him on a railway line in Brazil. He was captivating. A man with such a full and enriched life. He spoke of his four wonderful children and grandchildren. Of his late wife and the life they shared.

I felt blessed.

A few weeks ago, his daughter contacted me to tell me about his death. I didn’t know. I was deeply moved. I felt a little cheated that we hadn’t had contact for a while. Touched that she had made the effort to contact me, not knowing who I was. She opened, saying she knew I was a friend of her father’s, but that we hadn’t met. Beautiful.

I went to his memorial service and was simply blown away. I’d only witnessed such wide spread love at my uncle, a local postman’s funeral in Newry, Ireland. David had made such a profound difference to so many people. The unconditional love he shared with his family and beyond filled the church. Words taken and shared from the depth of his children’s souls. His grandchildren all carrying a large piece of him into their lives. The music. The words. The emotion in the air. I felt honoured to have witnessed the ceremony, and be amongst the people he so obviously cared so deeply for.

‘I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question’.

Thank you David. For a glimpse of your life, a pinch of your knowledge and to be touched by the love you so freely shared. For believing in my talent. For reminding me to trust strangers. For showing me the light.

To see his magnificent work:

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