The Big Fish

This is part of my Forever Grateful project.
As I was selling my home and placing my business on hiatus for a period of time, I took portraits of about 30 people who influenced my career over the past 12 years. This was my way of saying “Thanks” and letting everyone know that I couldn’t have done it without their support.

Cullen,

Though we had known each other from our days at SAK Comedy Lab, our friendship and mutual support system became something I have depended on through it all.

When you moved to L.A., you already had a successful career as an actor in Orlando, FL, but you were that big fish in a small pond who was determined to make waves in the ocean that is Hollywood. You hit the ground running and your drive has been inspiring to watch. You taught me that you have to be relentless and build off of any momentum you get. With each new part that you booked, you had me design a postcard that you mailed out to all the casting directors in town.Cullen Douglas - Promotional Postcards

You knew that to make money, you had to spend money and you were constantly investing in your career with all the promotional materials you made. You didn’t sit idly by on the sidelines, waiting for the right agent, roll, or fairy godmother to hand you the life you wanted, you fought for it (and continue to fight for it), tooth and nail.

On top of being inspirational to watch, I have received countless referrals from people who met you at auditions and your students. And because of the frequency of which you book, your face in my portfolio often brought in other clients who were hoping to become a working actor such as yourself.

And on top of all that, you have been a true confidant. Success sometimes seems very exciting from the outside, and many people will tell you that the set backs shouldn’t get you down. But you have always been the one to listen to me talk about the struggles and say, “I understand.” I truly appreciate your friendship and your support.

Forever grateful,

Blake

P.S. Thank you to Rachel, Cameron & Gabriel Douglas as well… your entire family rocks and each one of you mean the world to me.

The Story behind the Shoot:

For several years, I was the technical director for Cullen’s One-Man Show, “Afraid to Look Down”, which is his real life story of becoming a first time father to Gabriel, an everyday kid who happens to have Down Syndrome. He performed the show at local theaters and around the country for different organizations that were trying to raise awareness and bring together people who are affected by DS. The show would open with Cullen sitting in the single chair on stage, representing the waiting room at the hospital, just before his wife Rachel goes into labor. For the moment of Gabriel’s birth, we often used a side or backlight as Cullen first realizes Gabriel was “special” and later we used a spotlight when Cullen spoke to God, demanding to know what he did wrong to deserve this. It was a truly heart wrenching and vulnerable moment on stage that a lot of families in the audience could relate to. It got people talking and opening up about that moment of despair that often comes along with being a parent of a child with DS.

Cullen Douglas – Afraid to Look Down Postcard – 2004

By the end of the show though, Cullen is celebrating Gabriel’s 1st birthday… something the doctors said he might never reach. Now, at age 19, I felt it would be nice to revisit scenes from “Afraid to Look Down” only this time with Gabriel side by side with his loving father.

Cullen & Gabriel Douglas - photo by Blake Gardner Photography
Gabriel & Cullen Douglas – photo by Blake Gardner Photography
Cullen & Gabriel Douglas - photo by Blake Gardner Photography
Gabriel & Cullen Douglas – photo by Blake Gardner Photography

You can read more from my Forever Grateful project HERE.

7 thoughts on “The Big Fish

  1. Thank you for sharing this! Cullen and his family are extraordinary people! I have the honor of being a friend of Cullen’s and my family are forever grateful to have met him through Rachel whom was the first person we spoke to about Club 21. We never had a problem accepting our daughter who also has Down Syndrome, but it took us a while to open up and look for other families and support we didn’t think we needed but well received. Through Rachel, we met Cullen and he is simply an outstanding man as is his family. Sorry for the long comment, jist wanted to share briefly about my family. Great article!

  2. This is a beautiful & touching post about friendship, support & gratitude. I wish you the best on your new adventure! If you come to Orlando, let me know & I’ll gather you some people for shoots! ~ Andrea Canny

  3. Thanks for sharing this material . It is lovely!
    Let me know when you play ” Afraid to look down ” again 🙂

  4. Pingback: Forever Grateful |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s