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Thursday, July 17, 2014 4:09PM
By Susan Walker
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When you're elbow-deep in the clay of keeping a business going, you sometimes lose sight of what it was that made you want to start this adventure at all. I recently spent some time going through some old stuff, and came across some work I had done over 20 years ago. They were images I had taken in a high-school photography class. As I looked at each one, I realized there was a story behind every photograph. Some were of abstract textures, some were of friends, and some came from a homemade pinhole camera. Looking at them made me think of my art teacher, Mr. Harding, and his desire for me to look at life from a different perspective. He challenged me everyday to see things in a new way. From rolling my own film (in the dark, with my eyes closed) to photographing a rusty nail from every conceivable angle, he opened the door of creative thinking for me. He loved art and beauty, and in turn, made me love it too. He would let me spend hours after school in the darkroom, mixing chemical baths and poring over images I developed, with a quick high-five and a "Don't forget to lock up when you're done." He would critique me when my work sucked, and praise me when he knew I had given him everything I had. He loved pushing the boundaries, and would get excited when his students thought outside the box. During my reminiscing, I thought, "I'm going to find Mr. Harding, and thank him for challenging me to work harder." So I went online, and after a lot of digging, unfortunately found that he had passed away almost 10 years ago. He was 69 years old. My heart sank. My chance to tell him was gone. I wallowed in the sadness of it for a few days, but then I realized that he had spent more than half his life doing what he loved as a career. He taught art for 37 years, motivating so many people to see life differently. He had a gift, and he embraced it.

So here's to you, Mr. Harding. I'm forever indebted to you. Thank you for teaching me how to make a working camera out of paper. Thank you for letting me use countless rolls of film to capture that perfect image. Thank you for enouraging me to push my own limits, and embrace beauty in the common and unusual. Thank you for showing me how to see shadows, and, most importantly, how to find the light.

                                                                           

 
Thursday, May 08, 2014 6:16PM
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The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire.
Every stage of their growth has its own beauty,
but the last phase is always the most glorious.
                             -from Calendar Girls

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of photographing 5 amazing women...mothers, grandmothers, and a great grandmother. I've known all of them for over forty years. They've always been beautiful, but in this season of their lives, they are truly glorious.

 
Friday, March 28, 2014 11:16AM
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With Mother's Day on the horizon, we are starting to run around, hoping to find the perfect gift for that special woman in our lives. After all, she's the center of our family. She's the rock, the one who is always steady in the storm, the one who keeps our family together.

                                

In youth, she's the one who finds the perfect bandaid for the skinned knee, and knows exactly how many kisses it takes to make the tears subside. During adolescence, she's the one who sits on our bed with us, cradling our head after a heartbreak, stroking our hair until we fall asleep. In our 20's, she's the one who stands at the front door, smiling, waving, while quietly crying that her baby is moving on and starting a life of her own. As we roll into our 30s and 40s, we call her frantically because the baby's temp is 102, we have no idea what to do, and an hour later, she is at the door, with chicken soup and some Tylenol. As she ages, her young, smooth hands become a bit more complex. The skin is a little tougher, but stronger. Many diapers and dishes have seen those hands.  As she matures, all of the wonderful little memories of laughter and joy are hidden in the lines around her eyes, indicating a life full of love and grace. And in every stage, she is beautiful. 

Now is the time to cherish this woman. Mothers, take the time to be photographed for your children. They will treasure these images. They will be invaluable to them one day. The lovely Sue Bryce, said it best when she quoted, "You MUST exist in photographs for your children." Don't wait until you feel prettier, slimmer, tanner...Your children don't care how thin you are. They don't care that you need to lose 10 lbs. They love you. You are beautiful now.



 
Thursday, February 06, 2014 12:40PM
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This is Maria. She's 94. She's a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, a grandmother...She and her soulmate were married for 70 years and raised four children. When she was 40, they decided to pick up their life, and move to a new country to give their children a better life. A new country where they didn't speak the language, and there were no guarantees of anything. But you see, she is a WOMAN. She is a warrior. And she is BEAUTIFUL. Every wrinkle around her eyes is a reminder of a challenging, but amazing life. And the best part? She is my grandmother, and I get to share in this heirloom that she has created. She is the last of our remaining grandparents, the last of her generation in our immediate family. And we cling to her because she is our link to everyone who came and went before her. She is one of the founders of our traditions. She, along with my other grandmother, Conceição, are the women who created an amazing legacy.

After my first grandmother passed away, I remember feeling so sad that I hadn't set aside any time to intentionally photograph her. And I remember sensing an urgency to make sure I didn't let it happen again. So we took a day, set up a little studio, and photographed our Maria. It was a bit challenging at first, because she has dementia. It was awkward for her to be in front of the camera. But as we went on, we starting asking her questions....about her youth, and about how she had met our grandfather and how they fell in love. That's all it took. Her eyes began to twinkle and she became a schoolgirl again. She told us wonderful stories of their young life together. She giggled when she spoke of how handsome he was. It was such a precious moment. I'm so grateful to have been a part of it.