I had been looking forward to yesterday for a long time. Glynn and I love doing what we are doing at the moment - running our workshops, building a community, helping people reach the goals they set within the arena of their photography. It is incredibly rewarding and we cannot help but love it. But yesterday was a chance to 'pay it forward' - to give something to a community because...we could!
One of our dear friends and fellow photographers, Kerry Sumner collaborated with us to help organise a day for a group of volunteer photographers to travel to Benalla, a country town in our state of Victoria. It is here, in an aged care centre where she regularly travels to visit with a very special man in her life, her uncle Lindsay. Because she knew the staff there very well, she was able to organise access for us all, and a 12 seater bus as well.
So, we all met at 7:30 am and took the two hour drive to Benalla. We were all very excited to be a part of this chance to use our photography for the good of others - namely the residents of this aged care centre and their families.
They were all very excited that we were coming. There was about 10 of us, men and women who wanted to be a part of this project to provide portraits of these wonderful older people who are often forgotten when it comes to portraits. I actually imagined that many of them would not want to be photographed, something I am feeling more and more as I get older. But we were wrong. So many of the ladies had dolled themselves up and done their hair just for the event. The men, feeling their beauty on the inside, had not perhaps gone to the same lengths but were nonetheless just as keen to be photographed.
Either way, I was so pleased to hear that they were not afraid to sit and have their portraits taken by several people - sometimes at once! They were happy to take direction, pose for the light and be a part of the creative process. So, we spent the day conversing with them, discussing the past and present, enjoying their surroundings and laughing at their often rather wicked senses of humour. I believe that youth is never a matter of numbers of years past or left to go. Youth is a matter of attitude. Some of these people were among the youngest I have ever known. Their dignity and desire to be photographed despite the years that have etched themselves into their faces astounded me and taught me yet another lesson in humility, beauty and reality.
I hope that we are able to do more of these kinds of events. We will be sending discs of images to the centre so that families are able to access the images that we have taken in an effort to honour and dignify their elders. Some of the images we took are moving and sad. Others are the result of a humorous interchange. Others are simple portraits of dignified people. It was a day I won't want to forget in terms of the joy it brought and the lessons learned.