My roots in both; photography and advocacy took hold as they often do, at an unassuming age, without my knowledge of what was happening. My mother, a geriatric nurse, was somehow allowed to bring me to work with her. So, at the age of five, my father would drive me to town on his motorcycle (see: established roots as dare devil, for details) and drop me off to be with my mother. In between pretend games in which I took the starring role as a wounded cat (Really. I casted myself as meowing, distressed kitten amidst an audience of medical professionals and the elderly. Looking back now that must have been very confusing for the patients with dementia) and highjacking dormant wheel chairs (which is so much fun. I’m not even going to lie.), I would visit the people who called the nursing facility home.
I stared daily and with great reverence at images of their lives before the nursing home. I was enthralled to see wedding photos from a half a century prior – from a completely different world. In their small, two-to-a-room living space they did not display much; an afghan, stuffed animals from grand children, a book or two if they could still read, the Bible (regardless of if they could still read or not) one photo by the bed (usually of a spouse) and often a collage of photos. Seventy-five years or more whittled down to a 16×20 poster board space of memories.
I think about this often when I complete a photo session. These are the images that that they will treasure most. These images they will carry with them and hold on to with all of their might where ever life leads and to its end. These images will help them remember when remembering is an endangered species.
I am so grateful to every person who brings me into their home, their family and into that sacred space in their hearts to capture what is most important to them. I’ve considered this more over the past year, as several of the people who have ushered me into the warm space of “home” have had to say good bye to those that share a place in their souls and therefore a spot in the portraits. Knowing that I was the final person to capture their identity is humbling. It brings me profound joy to offer, not just a photo, but a memory. For that I want to say thank you to all of the people who have welcomed me into their hearts and homes.
I’m often inspired by Mary Oliver, whose words hang like a creed nailed to my heart:
When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.