In Ray’s excitement over his new-fangled camera, he fidgeted and skimmed the handbook. He’d previously sorted through frames of figures and landscapes and was unnerved to notice, as usual, evidence of poor print quality. With updated equipment he’d improve his craft and work with a new vision for his favourite portfolio of ageless and aging faces.
He was confident his collection titled, ‘Wisdom Years’ would grow with sharp candid shots of elders strolling tree-lined, park-side trails. Unlike the old, his new equipment would pick up stunning details of sunlight and shadows, colours and shapes.
Electing to concentrate on older subjects, Ray liked that they were genuinely approachable. More importantly, they pulled his emotions into his work—similar to when a sweet-smelling baby, cradled in its mother’s arms, draws him in. He couldn’t resist the subtle aromas of powder, soap or lotions in combo with the scent of garden blooms and fresh air. It was uncanny to Ray that his nose sensed a great photo-op quicker than his eyes could.
Facial expressions told a million stories. With purpose, Ray zeroed in on faces highlighting the joys of being ‘forever resilient.’ With no trickery or air-brushing, the photo-paper images authenticated his subjects. The intentional exposure of fine calligraphy-like lines, drawn by age over sun-worshipper’s sunken cheeks, uncovered layers of personal traits. Capturing furrowed brows, crows-feet and laugh lines further led to a subject’s innate truths and, because of characteristics such as these, Ray’s shots identified life-patterns, personalities and feelings. Peering through his camera at drooped shoulders, evidence of work-weary tolls on one’s life, automatically jump-started the hobbyist’s heart to pulse with empathy.
With a lot on his mind, he shuffled along a trail frequented by elderly nature lovers. They leaned on walking poles, slouched on their derrieres upon polished memorial park benches and were comfortable with no time restraints. This meant Ray could take his time checking out the perks of his new camera, locating backgrounds and spotting the most endearing subjects.
It was natural for him to ease into conversations. He sensed folks had a lot to tell and they longed for listeners. His insatiable curiosity for their stories subtly invaded his artistic hours so he reminded himself, I’m out here to get work done! Focus on capturing their stories in the lens! The fact was others, who have time to linger patiently, would be privileged to learn the rich backstories told, at times, through fits of forgetfulness or hearing impairments.
Near a gazebo someone very colourful and old sat very still… perfect, with eyes closed against the sun and she’s got a kitten! Ray broke the silence, “Excuse me, Ma’am,” he apologized, “I’m sorry to disturb you, but I believe we’ve met… have we not?”
“What was that you just said, sonny boy? Just where do you think we’ve met? If that was yer best pick-up line, it was pretty pathetic.”
“Can I do this?” He asked, without waiting for an answer, as he squatted and focused on her floppy-brimmed hat and clicked away. “I’m capturing your million dollar smile! You know it’s worth that much, right?”
“It better be! I paid a million bucks to keep these wretched old pearly whites!”
Grinning, Ray aimed at the grey and orange halloweenish scarf. It appeared creepy choking her double chin and crinkly robin’s throat like a boa constrictor. Angling his camera, first at her pet, and then at the pigeon-toed black sneakers with turquoise tongues and red shoestrings, he thought, what a hoot! Under a rust-coloured jacket flaring open in the breeze, a starched sailor shirt had nautical stripes and its silver buttons glinted in the sun. A wild-patterned knitted throw draped over hidden knobby knees. Zooming in, the camera scoped out two water-hose-green lumps clumped together behind the kitten. Those rubber-gloved hands could easily plunge that poor kitty into steaming sudsy dishwater! Ray’s thoughts amused him and, as if she heard them, she chuckled.
Oops, a clumsy rubbery claw lost grip of the cane and splinters caught on the ratty wool. Fearing that third leg would fall out of reach to the grass, the claws struggled unsuccessfully to free it. Ray probed to help. But, a sailor she was and spat out her version of a drunken sailor’s expletive to ward off the photographer. Not finished with him, she followed her colourful language with, “So, don’t man-handle or tamper with me, sonny!”
He nodded respectfully.
A green fist grabbed the lap-size throw and gave it a mighty yank frightening the kitten. An exasperated scowl buried itself in cat hair. Sensing she was being stared at, the little old lady flung her hands in the air like green hornets and shot a menacing look at the photographer while hot tears dribbled slowly down her cheeks like wax off a candle. It moved Ray to see her upset enough to weep. Suddenly, the kitten sprang from her lap and knocked the cane to the ground. It landed free as a jagged dead limb off an old tree.
Ray collected the kitten and cane, handed them over and steadied the camera for one last shot… I have to get those warped wet cheeks. From under the bonnet’s frayed brim, strands of hair with split ends snuck onto her apple cheeks. Her hair’s catching the sun’s grow-light, Ray’s artistic mind mused. At that very moment, the little boy inside the heart of that dignified middle-aged photographer pictured the feisty kitten-lady as being beautiful…once upon a time. And, positively to him, she still was when she smiled through those tears! Click.
The following week, Ray’s self-assigned task was to photograph grammas and great grammas celebrating Mother’s Day in a seniors’ home. Taking a chance on embarrassing the old lady from the park, who he immediately recognized, he gave her a gift. When unwrapping the framed portrait Ray had taken, a row of pearly whites flashed and misty eyes lit up… with joy, from his beloved ninety year old mother.