Speaking Portraits

I gave portraits to my parents and my grandparents for Christmas.  They graciously put up with me parading them around and giving them orders.  In the end I was pleased as this photography thing is still in it’s learning stages.  I didn’t post either of their actual portraits, but I thought I would post this one which was actually one of my favorite gifts I gave this year.  This portrait was an afterthought.  I took these pictures of my parents holding hands walking out their wooded lane.  It would have been quite funny to watch, them walking along, me running up behind them, squatting and shooting.  In the end the black and white version was too poignant not to frame as well.  I ran out two days before Christmas to get a frame.  In the end, this as much as the picture I took of them head on, sums them up for me.

The Oxford Project, Peter Feldstein, Photographer, Stephen G Bloom, Author

This book my mother gave me for Christmas, said she couldn’t wait to give it to me.  I list the photographer first because it is the photos that make up the project.  Peter went to to this town in 1984, to photograph all 676 residents.  Then of his own volition he returned 20 years later to photograph them again.  In this photo you can catch a bit of the boy and the man together.  The book shows them side by side.   The photos are true, real people, small town folks as they are or were so to speak.  The words are those of the people themselves, their words about accomplishments, failures, loss, love, life.

“In 1940, Harry and I were working at a bee factory in Harlan, and when I came back from lunch one day, he was filling my jars. That night we met at the county fair and had our picture taken, and that was that”.

“There used to be a hat store in town. I wish it still was here. I love hats.”

Really though what touched me even more  was that my Mom found this for me.  That she knew how much I love the lens of a camera, that she knew how much I would love these stories and that she has encouraged me in my passion.  I feel sometimes as if I have never really succeeded in anything.  I am not an expert or a scholar in anything.  There has never really been anything in my life that anyone could say, you are really good at this, you should continue…

My mother said to me Christmas day, “You take pictures of people that are real.  They aren’t dressed up or glamourized, but somehow you bring out the best parts of them.  You capture them”.

Can anyone explain that feeling you get when your mother compliments you?  My camera and I have  a long way to go.  We have no formal training together, but we have an easy partnership.  We are learning to complement each other.  There are many amazing photographers out there, making amazing pictures.  But my camera and I, we are documenting this bit of life and it may seem boring, it may seem mundane, but there are beautiful moments in there.  A drop of rain, a blooming flower, a smile, a frown, a pair of hands.  It is in these things, that I have found beauty in life, sometimes where I never noticed it before.



Filed under mama, photography, seasons

11 responses to “Speaking Portraits

  1. I’ve read that book. Fascinating. Just goes to show you that everyone has a story. Everyone. Bless you for sharing the stories that are around you. And bless your mother for encouraging you. That is so important no matter our age.

  2. I think that feeling you get can’t be explained – it’s just…wonderful. The portrait of your parents is without words, too. I, for one, am so glad you take the pictures you take – they, too, are without words. You have a serious talent, my friend…


  3. Jennifer…you made me cry this morning. I know exactly what you are talking about…the compliment of a mother…the never really finding your niche…the always wanting to be really good at something but never quite finding it…I know what you’re saying. I KNOW. I have never completed anything in my life. Except for childbirth…and it’s only because I didn’t have a choice! As a matter of fact…after about 30 hours of labor with Seth…and total delirium set in…I began unattaching myself from monitors because I was done. I was going home. heh! So yeah…I know of what you speak. Tears are streaming down my face…because you wrote my thoughts precisely.

    Just before the boutique I was a part of, my own mother gave me my compliment about photography when she said, “You should really sell some of your photos on notecards. They’re really good Michelle.”

    What? Really? Wow. It’s that confirmation…that acceptance…that moment when they see us for…us. Approval. It’s nice. And a little uncomfortable. But nice.

    I love the photo of them holding hands…it’s beautiful. I love all of your photos really… I, too, have a long way to go in figuring out what the heck I’m doing with my camera. But that’s OK…because it’s a really fun process. And every once in a while…I snap a keeper!

    Love to you friend…

  4. ps…have I mentioned how much I enjoy the little snowflakes on your blog? Adorable.

  5. wow. you stole my words too. I have no real plans in photography I just love capturing things that capture me. there is not a picture you have posted that I didn’t love. The lens sees things differently than the eye don’t you think?

  6. Google Alerts led me to your blog. Thanks for the kind words and good luck with your photographic work. Just remember that everyone does, as one of your commenters said, and I’ve said often, have a story. My mother, with just a Yiddish vocabulary of a few phrases, used to say, “Everyone has their own tsuris (trouble).” It can be in words, but also in the way they look, what they wear, how the stand, etc. Good luck.
    By the way, I don’t like the falling snowflakes because I have, in my old age, developed these spots before my eyes and it drives me nuts. Your snowflakes are just more of them, though I’m saying this partly in jest.

  7. How cool is that?! Peter sent his compliments too. I just love it. Sometimes it takes many voices telling you you’re good at something to actually believe it’s true. (I know this because accepting compliments has always been difficult for me.) Professional photographers take tons of photos and have to choose “the best” of the lot. It’s part of the process.

    Peter and I have the same love/hate for the falling snowflakes – the “floaters” in our eyes can be such an annoyance sometimes. Ce la vie.

  8. Your mom is right! …..you are a talented photographer! How wonderful that she was able to choose such a thoughtful gift! And you’re right about receiving compliments from your mom!….well said my friend!
    I hope you are enjoying these last days of this year!

  9. What a wonderful sounding book, and what a wonderful gift your mother gave you!

    Thanks for sharing it here… I’ve been loving your photographs.


  10. Mon

    LOVE that portrait of them holding hands. Beautiful – the photograph itself as well as the sentiment. And, that your parents still hold hands too, ahhhh

  11. elaine

    you are an expert and a scholar and very very good at being you, i have followed you here for a year now and think you are growing beautifully into your best self

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