This photoshoot is extremely important to me. So important to me, I thought I’d never release it.. However, with the losses faced this year, I feel now is as good a time as any to talk about the time I photographed Devon Sahid.
These past two years have been tough for me. Facing things like transitioning, losing relationships, sexual assault, and the worst.. Loss. It was so painful losing Mac Miller on my 27th birthday that I was sure a part of me died. As I’m typing this, I’m a cider and an hour in to hearing that Devin Lima, one of my earliest musical influences died of cancer. Things like this tug at your heart. You feel empty. You want to shake people’s shoulders and talk about loss, but you know no one’s really going to understand how deep it cuts.
I was watching an interview with photographer Christaan Felber, the photographer of the final photos of Mac Miller and it felt that familiar tug. It reminded me of a friend of mine, a loss so tremendous that on the fifth of July when I planned to release the photos, close to the anniversary.. I couldn’t. I remembered the pressure of being the photographer for the first and final photo. With a heavy heart, I finally want to share the photos of Devon Sahid, a loving veteran, an amazing friend, and the most life altering client I’ve ever had.
Devon surprised me when I got the booking inquiry, him asking me to photograph him. We weren’t too familiar though we had familiarities. He told me stories of how he could relate to my struggle with coming to terms with polyamory; it wasn’t that he was also polyamorous but that he’d had similar struggles. He was the person who co-mediated arguments with someone who was and is so special to me that nothing seemed more important than our argument and that bottle of tequila beside Devon’s foot. I could never at the time perceive why I was the one he wanted to book a shoot with. The vision for his shoot was written as “AAAAHHH.” With a laugh, knowing that was just Devon.. I agreed.
That was Devon as I could remember. Always joking. Always laughing but for this very photoshoot, he cast aside his stoicism for genuine attentiveness to direction. I mean of course he was silly too, I mean after all he was Devon.
On July 2nd, 2017 (which feels so surreal), I sent him his teaser, as I typically do with my clients. I joked that he looked wholesome and he said “It’s all the photographer. So thank you Jasemine.” Three days later, reality set in and Devon was gone. It crushed the most important person in my life and me, but then suddenly.. There was a high demand for the rest of his photos. I couldn’t do it. These photos, these casual, backyard, photos.. were his last. They’d be used on tribute pages and obituaries and I couldn’t fathom it. Yet, there was no time to process. The amount of requests that came through were overwhelming. As I stared into his eyes, I had to come to terms with my grief.. Every joke he’d ever told, the time he drove us to Roadhouse 66 and we made up funny scenarios.. The generosity, the stories.. all of it gone.. and these pictures were immortalizing it. They were no longer mine and Devon’s… They were everyone’s and as much as I clutched to this digital moments, I had to give them away.
Photographing Devon and processing my grief through processing his photos, brought about a painful feeling for me. That if my father had lived on beyond his time, and had grown with me.. Had he passed in the present time, it’d be a similar situation. I’d be editing his final photos and I broke down countless times. For Devon, for my father, for Chester Bennington and my friend Camille who passed not too long after Devon. Life seemed to travel on, the wallposts seemed to stack but I was trapped in the greenery and the blues of the wall he stood so patiently at while I raced around him shooting different angles.
Getting to the end of all those photos destroyed me because it meant that that was the end. The intimate moments I spent crying in my lab, asking why, speaking out loud to Devon about how we were left with him in memory were having to come to a close and reality would have to be faced. When I finally pressed the last little white flag, I laid in my bed. I cried. Over the time it took, I’d lost two more great people and a piece of myself I could never get back. Shockingly enough, I found sleep. I found relief.. I found that somewhere, somehow an angel recognized the pain and let me release the pain of so much loss.
Devon’s passing and the honor he gave me to photograph him in his final days gave me the first genuine experience of processing grief I’d ever had. My father had been gone for over 18 years and it took me so long to process that. I still am. I’m grateful for my father, I’m grateful for Devon, I’m grateful for Mac Miller, and I’m grateful to have learned what it means to accept loss and to remember greatness.
To Devon, I still write you on Facebook occasionally. I still pray you watch over Ray, Anthony, Ernest, Tim, and everyone else. When we meet again, I’ll hug you and tell you how incredibly difficult but honorable it was being able to capture you at your rawest.. Completely willing to let someone else confine your beauty into compressed megabytes that would live on forever even after we had to face the loss of you, who are amazing. Thank you for the time you gave to us. I think of you everyday.
To all who have lost someone, I sympathize. & To any photographer who has taken the last professional photo of anyone, I understand. It took me an entire year to finally find the words…