Hallmark Institute of Photography
Alida White died. Never heard the name before, but world wide it is pretty popular. Not that people live up to their names, unless someone named them Thor or Boomer, but this particular name would require its carrier to be noble and giving. Can’t say she was or wasn’t, because I didn’t know her when she was her; I only knew her when she had an inoperable tumor. And at her age, when you get that condition and you haven’t had time to do all you wanted to do, that is a pretty difficult way to have to face everyday, never knowing when one will be your last.
I entered her life briefly through my wife’s good deeds. The family needed help with meals. So Sharon, along with friend’s of the family and members of OZ, a synagogue we have a passing relationship with, cooked for them. I made portraits of the family for a school assignment at Hallmark Institute of Photography. They cleaned the house, dressed up, and rearranged the furniture. Alida and Marcia put on makeup. Sometimes people don’t take family portraits as seriously, even though they should. You never know. We shot for a while. The lights didn’t work. I didn’t know how to arrange them in the space as effectively as I could have and should have. Alida tired. But never showed any lack of interest. She just tried to be as beautiful and real as she could be.
Now, photographers shoot for many reasons. And they have pithy quotes about what a photograph is or isn’t. Sure, it is a document, one that freezes the moment, capturing all that is going on in 1/160 of a second, give or take a few fractions of a second. It doesn’t speak, at least not out loud, and it lacks motion, though not gesture. You cannot touch or hold it. I only requires you to feel it.
They didn’t know me or my camera work. And I didn’t have time to get to know them. At some point, they would all look differently. From my side of the camera, they were all beautiful, knowing that the images I made would document their lives forevermore. We met electronically for a few seconds, controlled by the light and the emotions. A beautiful moment which will allow them to hold each other for an eternity.
When we went to the house for a shiva call, even though the survivors don’t do shiva, the house was full of friends. Food filled the table. The noise levels were high. They had taken one of my images which I had printed and delivered and put it on a postal size card with one of Alida’s favorite poems of the back for people to take as a remembrance. I had no idea they had done this. The rabbi said that my image was with her in the hospice. Who knows if she recognized anyone in it? But for them, it symbolized their love for one another and served as a memory of life as hers was slowly ebbing away.
Lewis thanked me. No thanks necessary. It was my honor and a mitzvah in the truest sense of God’s word. This is one reason for me to have a camera.
So, we heard that the shelter in Springfield ran out of food. The shelter near our apartment in Greenfield isn’t doing so badly but could always use some of everything. Whaddaya need? Juice, oil, towels, etc. So, we brought them the above and three pizza and some soda. Got thanks we didn’t deserve. Thank you for the chance to meet and talk.
You gotta believe how hard it is to get a job that offers some future. People don’t choose to live in these group homes. Getting out of them is a challenge.
Some days you do and some days you don’t. Cannot predict what the shoots entail or how you feel about them or yourself when you finish. Different subjects create different emotions and require different skills. One in a studio. One on the street. One in a store.
So, here I am, 65 years old, wondering what the end game will bring. Taking a hard look at myself in the camera, feeling the cold pain of my failures and the warm glow of the successes. Recently celebrated my 29th Anniversary with Sharon. Still not enough years to know her well, yet alone myself. Starting a new career in art and photography. Who knows?
Not so easy to shoot a portrait of a family in their residence. People have stuff to do. Dad has to hay. Kids have to play. And Mom, who has a responsible job outside the home, has to drive the kids to Brattleboro so the grandparents can take them to Connecticut for a short vacation. Cannot stay too long. Have to keep the camera and the models focused. Rearrange the furniture. Set up the lights. Meter. Color card. Shoot. And get out. It always helps if the family wants to be photographed and if they are sweethearts. You can see from the expressions they like to be together and that they are a family.
So, you go to a class expecting some instruction. Heisler appears with a raft of cameras. He plays with them. Shows you some of his work and then dares you to go out and shoot to kill, just like he does.
“I won’t keep this a secret,” he says. Someone taught him, mentored him and opened doors to the universe of photography that he gleefully walked through.
They be his babies. He shoots with them; fixes and repairs them; and loves them for what they should and could do.
Metalsmiths shape metal by hitting it after it has been heated in a furnace. An ancient art, it has probably been around since the Hittites, a 14th century bce group that hung out in an area which is now Turkey. Without metalsmiths, there may not have been wars, agribusiness or beauty accessories. The Morrell family, Dad Leigh and Son Justin, practice the craft, today, at Morrell Metalsmiths, relying on the same skills and knowledge as the first people with hammers to produce high quality decorations for home and office.
Doctors told her that she had a better chance of winning the lottery than having a baby. She kept trying, despite the challenge of a rebelling body and an uncooperative mind. The baby came, requiring her to make choices. She has her idea of what a kid should be. He reflects her care and love.
I never shot a baby before. Lot of work. They don’t know what photographers require of them and they don’t care.
Photographers create beauty. To take beautiful pictures, a photographer needs a beautiful person. When the person loves herself and lets the camera see it, beauty reflects. The camera facilitates the observation, but without the committment of the model to sharing, it don’t happen.