Many people are saying the pandemic is helping us to appreciate the old fashioned pleasures of summer — like sitting with family on the porch, riding bikes in the neighborhood or playing board games. Since most of us are slowing down and hanging out at home rather than jetting off to faraway vacation spots, we feel like we are enjoying a summer from a bye-gone era.
So, yesterday I glanced out the front window to see the little girl next door playing with her dolls. She spread out a blanket in the shade under a tree and was sitting there by herself with three dolls. For me it was a poignant flashback to when my daughters (now in their 30s) played with their dolls. I remember when they arranged a little tea party for the dolls and the dog too.
Seeing little Josephine by herself, letting her imagination provide the morning entertainment, brought me such joy. I ran for my camera and then approached Josephine and her mom for permission to take some photos. I was grateful to capture this special moment. Josephine was surprised to hear that I had three little girls a long time ago. She asked if I still had their dolls. I do.
My friend Eliza needed a portrait to publicize upcoming speaking engagements and an upcoming book. As a great admirer (for more than 40 years), I was happy to take the job. I was confidently pleased with the results, but Eliza was worried. Looking at the proofs, she was not enthusiastic about how she looked. It was months before I heard from her about proceeding.
Our dialogue about how to see your own portrait is worth sharing. I shared these thoughts: The purpose of the portrait is to present the author as “friendly, intelligent, interested in you and having wisdom to share.” It is not a beauty contest. It does not aim to make you look 10 or 20 years younger than you really are. The audience for this portrait will ask themselves, “Would she have something interesting to share with me? Is she knowledgeable? Is she a nice person? Do I like her? Is she funny sometimes? Would she be someone I would like to have as a friend?”
In reassuring Eliza, I suggested this: beauty is inside and out. Imagine someone who is not friendly, not smart and not the least bit interested in you. That person is not attractive, all because of what exists inside.
You, on the other hand, have that inner beauty and you are a beautiful woman too! When you look at your photograph, you might be critical of your own face, because you prefer a younger you. But we see you differently. We don’t really care how old you are. We only care about the intangibles, which you have in spades.
Eliza, a specialist in historic preservation, Pittsburgh history and architecture, is writing a book about two intrepid women—her grandmother and great aunt—who led the Suffrage movement and became crusaders against corruption in local government. For more information, Eliza’s website is here.
Apologies to my loyal followers and friends for the 6 week gap in blog posts. I have needed a healthy dose of personal time away since my mother’s death on July 17. There was not only grieving, but also the time consuming job of sorting Mom’s belongings as we had to vacate her apartment in record time.
Today, I’m back to processing photos and back to blogging too. I finished processing 26 family portraits I made as a volunteer at a local non-profit.
These brave parents love raising children, as they have seven!
Next week, I’ll be back to landscape photography, as we will fly off to Calgary and explore the Canadian Rockies: Lake Louise, Jasper and Banff. Stay tuned!
On Sunday I shot 26 family portraits as a volunteer for a Pittsburgh school for children with disabilities. To protect their privacy, we will keep the names of the school and the family private. This portrait was my favorite, thanks to the loving gesture of the grandfather. As you reflect on the smiles on the parents’ faces, you can tell they are counting their blessings too. These families give me a gift every year, by showing me where true happiness comes from.
Now that this pretty girl in PJs has survived her lung transplant, she has a lot to smile about. Her mom told me that she was never able to go swimming or enjoy many of the activities that healthy kids do, because she was on oxygen her whole life. Now she can.
Meeting this patient was a meaningful experience for me. Our meeting caused me to reflect on what we take for granted, and why we ever feel sorry for ourselves. In these photos, I hope you read inspiration too.
When I photograph the children at Children’s Hospital, I am always impressed with the strong spirit of the children and their parents. Most of the children I meet are fighting a life threatening illness, and it’s a stressful time.
I was particularly impressed with this mother and son. I could easily read the love in the mother’s heart through her eyes and hands.