Last summer the following club members photographed members of the Wrentham Senior Center community and printed 8×10 portraits which were given to subjects: David Marshak, Adam Ellis, Scott Langille, Pamela Ruby Russell, Joe McCadden, Ellen Kawadler, Sandy Anderson, Peyton Roberts, Tony Risica and Vicki Schepps.
Below is Pamela Ruby Russell’s inspriing essay on the subject.
Photographing My Fellow Travelers.
First, I would like to thank Vicki Schepps for giving me the opportunity to spend time photographing some very lovely and interesting individuals. It was a truly worthwhile endeavor, one that helped me become a better photographer and person. As an artist, it was a most humbling experience, seeing my own fears and hopes for my life reflecting back at me in my lens as I photographed people who had lived long and complicated lives. There are no strangers and we are all on the same path. We all want to be loved, appreciated, respected… and safe.
In a few short paragraphs, I would like to explore and share with you, my fellow Stony Brook Club members, my experience during the “Elder Shoot” at the Senior Center. I am not going to speak about exposures, numbers, ISO’s, etc. There are far more technically proficient photographers among you who were shooting that day…
Several of my subjects had never before had the opportunity to be “professionally” photographed. It was new for them, being the sole focus of a camera’s lens, the center of attraction, where “it” was all about them. When permitted, I was happy to explore their feelings with them, giving them as much time as they needed to find comfort and safety as they invited me to really “see” them, “exposed”, in natural light… no special lighting or effects… just the two of us and my camera. In one case, I coaxed a subject into taking down her tightly drawn up hair, allowing the softness of her graying hairline to more gently frame her face… Her eyes relaxed immediately, her face opened up beautifully.
Many folks of a “certain age”, both women and men, those of us who engage in that sinful luxury of a few stolen minutes spent in front of the mirror, studying our faces as we make ready for the day or we prepare for bed, are quite aware, some of us more painfully so, of the passage of time. I once read a book called “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” and one chapter was called “Faded Beauties”. The scourge of vanity is one that many folks struggle with. In reality, growing older with grace and, as long as we are blessed, in good health, loving others and living our lives with enthusiasm and joy, it all comes through on our faces. Our society puts much pressure on the impossible task of “staying young.” But little is said about the value of wisdom and lives well lived, or just lived as best we can.
In my Senior Center photographs I worked hard to celebrate and explore the beauty of the wrinkle, the value of a laugh line as well as those lines that denote cares and responsibilities fulfilled, the wisdom, depth of character and the sparkle found in the eyes of my subjects. Even the disappointments of dreams unfulfilled made for worthwhile portraits of fascinating subjects. I used my judgment as well as, yes, Photoshop in softening some contours and lines, but made sure the finished images were authentic interpretations of my subjects.
Life is heavy, not always easy. And our faces show all… if we as photographers can honestly permit our subjects to show up as they really are and not whom they think they SHOULD be, if we can share our compassion, patience and sense of gratitude with them, they will relax and welcome us into their souls and allow us to see deep into their eyes. Our cameras will capture that and we will take great portraits, honest ones. I think I was successfully able to achieve this during the shoot and I am most grateful for my subjects’ trust and for the opportunity to share this incredible learning experience with you.
I thank you.
Pamela Ruby Russell – Photographer
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