"The next time you see a picture that makes you feel something,
that makes you remember something, that you would go back in a burning building for...
remember it exists because someone was there to push the button.
This thing that we do is not a trivial thing,it is an honorable calling
that by its very nature leaves something behind. Push the button friends."
Over the last few weeks I have been able to spend some much needed time with my grandmother. I admit, I don't go visit her nearly as much as I should and I always promise myself to do better next time, but it's so easy to let life sweep you up and carry you through your days, never reminding you to slow down and just sit. Sit down and talk to the people that can share more about life with you than you could ever learn going through it alone.
It's just my grandma now. Almost 4 years ago my grandpa passed away from Alzheimer's. It's crazy to think its already been 4 years and still every time I see her... I see him. For as long as my memories go back, it has always been them together. Even when they weren't physically together you just knew. They lived for each other. They lived for the family they created together and they lived for each other.
The last years of my grandpas life were the hardest and, from where I was sitting, the most beautiful. The Alzheimer's robbed him of almost everything. But there was one person he always remembered. My grandma. He could never forget her. Every single day he would ask for her and every single day she would be there. Every. Single. Day. She took care of him when it would have been easier to let someone else. He needed her there and she had promised him she always would be. In sickness and in health. She loved him through all the sickness just as much as she did through all of his health.
Wedding photos... I didn't think I had ever seen their wedding photos. To be honest, I really wasn't sure if they had wedding photos. So, last week I asked if I might be able to see them? She wasn't sure where they had been stashed but after a good 20 minute search, in the bottom drawer of a hutch older than her, she pulled a small, leather journal with only a handful of faded photographs glued to the pages. Maybe 3 pictures of their wedding day and a few snapshots from the honeymoon. Thats all she had to remember their Day One.
As we flipped through the journal, she told me proudly how she was the very first girl in her church to wear a white dress. She told me stories about how they hardly had a cent to their names and how their first house didn't even have running water or an indoor toilet. As she remembered, she smiled. Things didn't start of perfect but it seemed to be ok with her.
I thought it might be fun for us to have a little adventure together. As we drove to the church where they got married, grandma told me of the places where her and grandpa used to live and showed me the house where grandpa grew up. Most of the church looked completely different than it did when they got married but we were able to find one little section that didn't change a whole lot.
I think spending this time with my grandma finally made me realize why I do what I do. Why it is that I focus so hard to not only photograph a couples Day One in a way filled with beauty and elegance but I strive to do so in a way that intentionally reflects them in an authentic and emotional way. In 60 years I want that couple to be able to hold up their wedding photos proudly and say this is our Day One together and I want their kids to be able to look at the images and get a sense of who their parents were from the very beginning. I want grandkids to be able to look at them and see a love that was so prevalent. I want great grandkids, who may never have the chance to meet their great grandparents, be able to look at the photos and understand just who they were. I want every photograph to tell a story. I strive to capture the quiet souls in their quietness and the bubbly souls with outward joy.
As we drove home from the shoot, my grandma flipped silently through her old photo album. She stopped at one of the photos for a while before quietly saying "he's handsome..."