(This is me trying to get caught up with the many weeks of not blogging…)
Recently I participated in an amazing project for Belmont Village, a senior living community that offers varying levels of care for our aging population. I was on their radar as a photographer because my Mom lives in one of their neighborhoods geared toward residents with dementia.When they approached me about being the photographer for their “Hands of Love” project, I was thrilled! The project was a great way to combine my love of photography with my art background. We discussed the parameters of the project and they gave me complete creative control of the photography which was wonderful.I wanted to wait until the show had taken place to share some of the images and stories from the residents. I love that this project really highlights the lives that they had prior to coming to Belmont. People forget sometimes that these seniors who can’t remember things or get angry easily once had careers, families and hobbies. I spent quite a few afternoons visiting with the residents and taking lots of photos. They were excited to share their stories and to show me their ‘props’. We even hosted an event where the families could come and take photos of their hands together with the residents. This was a huge family who was very excited to have this photo as their loved one was just entering hospice care.Every person had a story…some were simple and some tugged right at my heart. Here are some of my favorites…
Meet Bob…Bob used to play baseball. In fact, he once pitched a no hitter during a very special game. This is the game ball which was signed by all of the participants. This ball has been one of Bob’s most prized possessions. Bob has a grandson who is also a pitcher on a baseball team. Right before our session, Bob handed down the cherished baseball to his grandson. These are their hands.
Meet Merle…Merle is 110 years old. She has written 11 books, all in long hand in spiral notebooks and all since she turned 70. She is a prankster with an amazing sense of humor. My daughter was completely smitten with her when they met and often asks if we can go back to visit. These are her hands.
Meet Christine…Christine is a fun lady who painted her nails just for our session. She used to be a model in her youth and brought a photo from one of her sessions along. She even offered to model for me, if I ever needed a “more mature lady”. These are her hands.
Meet Fred & Carol…They live together here as they have for many years. Their wedding photo was up on a high shelf and when I asked them if I could take it down to photograph it with their hands they said “I don’t know why you would want to take photos of these old ugly hands.” These are their beautiful hands still holding on to each other.
Meet Rute…In her youth she was a pianist. When we asked her to play for us she informed us that she wasn’t sure how any more. We told her that it was OK, just pretend. But when she placed her hands on the keys they just seemed to know what to do all by themselves. These are her hands.
Meet Jim…Jim was a pilot. His son is also a pilot for the exact same airline. The bond between them was obvious just in the short time we spent together taking photos. The son holds his father’s hands because he was too shaky to hold the hat himself. He is also wearing his father’s watch. Such a powerful image of their hands.
Meet Mike…Mike was an architect in his younger years. He wasn’t even going to participate in this project but I happened to see him reading the paper and I started up a conversation with him where I learned that he used to design buildings. He shared that he had some cool photos of himself in front of a building that was special to him so I ran up to get them and he agreed to pose for this photo for me. These are his hands.
Meet Bob…Bob brought out his dog tags along with stories about his time in the military. I love this photo as it speaks to an entire generation of men who were defined by their war time service including many of my own relatives. These are his hands.
Meet Herman…Herman was a basketball player. You can tell he is tall even though he was sitting in a wheelchair. He even pretended to shoot the ball for me. His love of the game was evident from the moment the ball was handed to him. These are his hands.
So many great stories…too many photos to post them all here. A few weeks ago they hosted an opening where the photos were on display for both the residents and their families to see. After the show ended, the framed photos were then gifted to the residents (or family members). I was sad to see how many of the people that I had just met were already gone to higher level care…even my friend Bob the baseball player. Much to my surprise…Bob and his family organized a visit to attend the photography show. He is currently in rehab after an amputation but he begged them to let him go for the evening to see his photo with this family and they finally said YES! It was touching to see them there. This is my Mom’s hand holding the hand of my daughter. This is the hand that changed my diapers, prepared the food that nourished me and taught me how to be paint. And this is the hand of the child that I have done the same for.
Hands are a powerful thing.