A Life in Pictures

As a photographer and an artist, I am keenly aware of the impact an image can have on the viewer, on the memory of an event. On one’s life.

Last week was a beautiful, but mixed emotional time for me, as well as many around me.

I spent Thursday afternoon at a funeral for a friend. I hadn’t seen him or his family in quite some time, and to me, his passing was unexpected. I was in a little bit of shock during the whole process, but I was glad I was able to be there to say farewell.

The funeral hall was crowded, hardly an open seat anywhere to be had in the room. There were friends, relatives, children and loved ones all with a single person on their mind. There were thoughts and prayers, books and candles, flowers and stories, but as with any occasion, I was drawn to the photographs. The display, the book, the images all laid out for the friends and family to see. A way of saying, “I was here. I mattered. I was loved.”¬† We see the smiles, the silliness, the serious moments.

We see a life.

When all is said and done, when the flowers are dust and mourners have all cried their last tear, the stories preserved in photographs are the stories of our lives.

Which brings me to another occasion I attended this week: the wedding of my dear clients. I took their engagement photos and when it became clear the whiz-bang cousin with the LA photography gig was not going to pony up his time for the sweet couple, I asked if I could be their photographer. They agreed and over the last few months leading up to the wedding, I’ve gotten to know them and I’ve enjoyed seeing how dear they are to each other.

My love for photography came coupled with my love for telling a story. The photo below has a story, as most really good moments in life do.

The bride’s family is from Minnesota. The weather this year has been especially hard on the northern states and even though May is upon us, a terrible snow storm descended on the state, killing several calves at the home farm. Dad didn’t think he could make the wedding. Changing his flight was an impossibility so he was going to forfeit the cost and stay home.

The bride was devastated. Not having her father at the wedding to give her away was more than she could bear. So many little problems had come up in the planning of the wedding, so many little problems had been solved, overcome, or worked around. Why in the world was this happening now, at the 11th hour?

In an act of love, absolute and sweet beyond words, the groom could not accept seeing his beautiful bride in such sadness. He picked up the phone, spoke with her father, then called the airlines and booked Dad a flight. Cost be damned, his bride’s happiness was the only thing he considered. It was the only thing that mattered.

In spite of terrible airline schedules, the flight came in on time. In spite of bad weather, the plane made it with time to spare. In spite of all the odds stacked against the couple, everything worked out fine and her dad arrived on time.

…and I got this picture. Dad seeing his beautiful daughter in her wedding gown for the first time. The bride seeing her dad and knowing how difficult it had been for him to leave the homestead and make the journey to Arizona.

Seeing Dad

There are no words. There is only this picture. And in the end, it is all we have.

I remind you again, my friends. Take good pictures. Take bad pictures. Just take them. Oh, and get a few printed. Your children will thank you one day.

The Last Dance

“Hello?” the sweet, searching voice on the phone asked. “Is this Lily and Daisy Photography?” The soft, slightly German-accented voice sounded both hopeful and sad.

“Yes,” I answered. “What can I do for you?”

The voice on the other end of the telephone asked if I had been the one with the camera at the Knights of Columbus Valentine’s dance the year before. Indeed, I was. I had accompanied my husband and his band, Desert Swing to capture some images for their website, when a woman who worked for the Knights of Columbus approached me and asked if I minded taking some pictures of the guests at the event for them. I had a great¬† time meeting the attendees and chatting with the folks enjoying the music and the good food. I never imagined I might be capturing a last image for someone.

The woman on the phone introduced herself and told me I’d taken a picture of her and her partner together. The picture, it turns out, was the last one ever captured of him. He’d been sick, you see, with cancer. He’d been battling a long time, but on the night of the Valentine’s dance he had felt better than he had in the months before or in the days following. He died shortly afterward.

I didn’t know what to say. The lump in my throat grew as the conversation continued. I tried not to cry; I could only imagine the pain this sweet lady was feeling and wanted to do anything I could to make the sadness a little less for her.

She asked if she could buy copies of the images I had taken of her and her friend. “Of course not,” I blurted out, before thinking it through. She sounded crestfallen. I added quickly, “You tell me the pictures you want and in what size, and I’ll give them to you.”

“Oh, thank you!” she replied, then tried to talk me out of giving them to her, but I insisted. How could I possibly take money from this sweet lady when she’d already been through so much?

Smiling during dinner

We live in a small town and I actually saw this sweet lady over the weekend. She was smiling again and seems happy now. Time, I think, has healed her wounds and it’s wonderful to see. You don’t always know the impact you’ll have on someone’s life, however small. You never know when you might be the spectator to the last dance.

Last Dance