Thoughts Behind the Photograph
What a fantastic time of year! I love the fresh winter air, smell of pumpkin spiced treats, sparkling Christmas decorations and spending time with family & friends. My only complaint is the lack of outdoor photo opportunities, but I can live with that. 🙂 There are many moments during the holidays that trigger childhood memories, memories such as building gingerbread houses (without eating the materials), constructing tree ornaments out of macaroni and taking your picture with Santa. I was one of those children who was perfectly happy sitting on Santa’s lap and smiling for the camera (see photo below). I remember other children who became instantly paralyzed the minute Santa’s helper shouted, “Next!” The scene from the movie A Christmas Story is a fantastic depiction of the anxiety many children experience moments before taking a photograph with Santa, but not this kid.
To my surprise, I was asked to photograph Santa interacting with children and adults during a holiday party hosted by my employer. What an amazing honor to be on the other side of the camera 30 years later—I was absolutely thrilled! The holiday party produced well over 100 portraits during a period of four hours—a long night to say the least. I truly believed my photography role was challenging. However, that was before observing Santa lifting close to 100 tiny bodies and producing over 500 smiles for the camera. Santa’s perseverance throughout the night was impressive, as he displayed no signs of fatigue or boredom. Santa simply treated each child interaction like it was the first.
The night ended and I was given an opportunity to visit with Santa. The minute our conversation began, I could sense his caring nature and innate ability to instill joy into the hearts of those who interact with him. I was instantly captivated and desperate to know more about his jolly personality and how it all began. To gain insight into the world of Santa, I visited with a very close friend of his, Mike Harvey. Not only was I given the opportunity to visit with Mr. Harvey, the big guy himself cured my curiosity by answering the questions listed below.
I love the following quote from Mr. Harvey.
“Anthony, in the Harvey family, when asked if we believe in Santa Claus, we can’t help but answer that we do. We have been working with the big guy for over 50 years.”
I believe too Mr. Harvey, and I have the t-shirt to prove it! 🙂
Interview with Santa
Anthony: When did you start entertaining children and adults as Santa Claus?
Santa: Well, strangely enough, I couldn’t pose for photographs until photography was invented, and people didn’t often ask for me to come sing or pose until C. Clement Moore wrote that wonderful poem about me after he stayed up one Christmas Eve, and chronicled my activities. I started occasionally working directly with Mike Harvey in the early 1990s or so. Children often ask me how old I am. The best answer I can give them is that I am younger than dirt, and a little older than my teeth.
Anthony: What inspired you to entertain as Santa Claus?
Santa: In 1956, Martin Umansky of KAKE-TV asked a young man who had been working at KFDI radio to join the pioneers of local TV in bringing the a new medium of entertainment to the people of Wichita and Kansas. That young man, Henry Harvey, was my connection to KAKE, and later, to KWCH in Wichita. After Henry Harvey passed away, his son, Mike Harvey, began to help bring the North Pole Workshop TV show back to Kansas, and he has helped me arrange personal appearances, also.
Anthony: What do you find most rewarding about taking on the role of Santa Claus?
Santa: How does one answer a question like this? When you are being yourself, and doing what you feel your creator has made you uniquely to do, that should be rewarding. Bringing the peace, joy, love, hope of the birth of Emmanuel, our Savior, to a world looking for hope is the most rewarding thing one can do.
Anthony: What is your most memorable moment as Santa Claus?
Santa: Over twenty years ago, I had the opportunity to talk with Wichita Children’s Home residents at a Christmas party in a room in the Petroleum Club. One little boy had come from such a horrible situation that they told me he wouldn’t talk to me, and I should be careful. As he came over to me, I looked at his eyes, and we locked gazes. I did what I could to share my love and care for him through that look. He came to me, let me lift him to my knee, and we talked. I told him people cared for him, and that the person whose birth we celebrate at Christmas loved him more than he could know. I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, and he said that all he wanted was “to go home”. I suddenly realized that in our conversation, we had shut out the rest of the room, and it was as if it was just us in the room. Then I heard a collective sigh, and I realized that the entire room of over a hundred children and adults had literally been silently holding their breath as this little one opened his heart to Santa and Jesus’ love. It was as if a camera with a macro lens had been focused on a tiny flower, and no one dared breathe for fear of moving the flower out of focus. At that time, I knew I could make a difference in the lives of children.
Anthony: What was your most challenging moment as Santa Claus?
Santa: Stepping into the studios of KAKE-TV and trying to bring the humor and joy of the North Pole Workshop to the families of Kansas as had been done since 1956 when Santa’s Workshop first aired on KAKE. Many of the people who had helped bring those shows to the air waves over the years were again in the studio to help make it happen. The legacy of bringing that joy to Kansas once again, and conveying the true meaning of Christmas when reading the story from the Gospel of Luke was a heavy responsibility.
Both Mr. Harvey and Santa are amazing individuals and I am still beaming and overjoyed that I was giving the opportunity to interview both of them—I am truly blessed. Special thanks to Mr. Harvey for taking precious time out of his busy schedule to answers my questions and granting me access to Santa. Santa is such an important icon in my childhood and both he and Toyboy will always have a special place in my heart.
Anthony enjoying a moment with Santa.
Camera Settings and Edits – Santa Photo
- Photograph name: I Believe
- Camera Model: Canon EOS Rebel T5i
- Shutter Speed: 1/200
- Aperture: f/4
- ISO: 400
- Lens: 24-105mm L
- Focal Length: 35 mm
- Image Quality: RAW
- White Balance: Flash
- Flash: 430 EX II