Image: Three Sisters 98, 101, 96. This image went Loan in IPC.
This story is steeped in lessons regarding making positive choices. It is written in honor of the three beautiful women in this portrait. Francis (Frankie), Wanna, and Delle.
A few years back a client called as asked if I would create a Legacy Portrait of his grandmother and her two sisters. Of course I answered yes…then he told me their ages…98, 101, 96. I was caught off guard, yet very pleased when I heard this. I thought, “When would such profound opportunity come around again?” I quickly said yes and booked the session. What a “choice” and gift of kindness that grandson made to have this portrait created for the entire family.
We had our consultation where only the oldest sister came with her grandson and granddaughter. But for sure, “she” was in charge of the discussion. She was kind, intelligent, wise and understood what I was after when it came to clothing and portrait instructions. She definitely knew what it was that we were about to create. She assured me the information would be accurately passed on to her sisters. She then told me, “Now Larry, I know you are good this that Photoshop stuff and with that said, we do not want you to be removing out wrinkles.” With a smile and twinkle, she added “We have worked hard for those wrinkles. We earned them and I ask that you do not take them away.” Although I did soften them slightly with light and a bit in Photoshop, I also kept my word and did not remove them.
Then something sad happened…The grandson called and canceled the session. “Why?” I wondered. The grandson explained to me the youngest (if you call 96 young) of the three sisters had gone into hospice. I was devastated…why did I not book the session the previous week...so many whys. The family was also devastated…as they were about to lose such a loved one. It was a rough week to say the least.
The day prior to the previously booked session, my phone rang and to my surprise it was the grandson…again. In an excited voice he asked, “Would you still be able to do that session with my grandmother and sisters tomorrow?” Of course my answer was yes and I moved sessions to fit them in…but why, how, what could have happened to make this possible. She had gone into hospice??? The answer is amazing. She had made a “choice”. She called her doctor and told him, “I do not care what you have to do to me to get me to that photography session, but whatever it is…DO IT!! I will not miss that session with my sisters. It is just too important to so many.” I went from sad too elated literally overnight.
The day of the session there were many many people at the studio. Family members there to help and support were in abundance. The first thing I noticed was how fun-loving the sisters were…and not just to each other, but to those around them. There kindness and class was palpable. And they giggled and laughed like children. As you may expect, the session went rather slow as the ladies movements and flexibility has declined…but their spirit certainly had not.
Once I asked Frankie (Francis, who came from Hospice in a wheel-chair) to stand for one portrait of the three of them…leaning on a chair of course. Her family watching quickly objected and berated me for asking. Frankie was quick to snap at them in a firm yet loving voice, “I will stand for this portrait!” And stand she did…and wow did she look great. This was one of the last times she would stand…period…it would be Frankie’s “choice” to stand.
Although I created a number of individual portrait, it was one special portrait with all three of them that tugged on my heart-strings. I asked the three of them to sit in this old white wrought iron bench. Delle moved and sat quite hunched over due to her having a spinal issue coupled with her age. It was fascinating what happened next. I asked them to hold hands. As soon as they did, the three of the lit up…you could see the energy and love flowing through them. They joked, cooed and giggled. When I was reach to do the actual creation of the image, I informed them of the significance of this portrait. I asked them to give me exactly who they are in their hearts…at the count of three. When I did this everyone “including Delle” completely sat ups straight and let their personalities show through. The group of approx. 10 family members all let out an audible gaaaasp…some had never seen Delle sit up like straight. When I was finished the portrait Delle fell back into her normal hunched position. (but with a big smile on her face) Delle had made a “choice” to forgo the pain and sit up straight. “This” would be the legacy she would leave.
Once we were finished the entire session, I thanked the sisters for this amazing opportunity to create their portrait. I also asked the oldest, Wanna (the one in the middle) how they could still be so fun-loving with each other after all these years...this was her response. She slowly and elegantly walked over to me, reached out and held both of my hands, looked me straight in the eyes and said in the sweetest southern accent, "Why Larry...you must know...to live a joyous life is a “choice”!"
This image hangs as a 50 inch canvas in my gallery...I stand in front of it daily. It brings me such joy and always helps me make the right “choices” in my life!
To all of you…”to live a joyous life is a choice.” I hope this helps you not only in your photography and art, but also you daily lives.