This month my article is not about gear, or technique or any “how-to”. It is about memories, and feelings, and love and family. You have heard the stories that when someone’s house burns down, the first thing anyone saves is photos, especially of family and friends. All material goods are replaceable but the photos of our loved ones are not. The photos of your grandparents’ wedding, your parent’s wedding and anniversaries, your wedding, children and pets, the moments of fun and celebrations, preserve those precious memories for generations. What can possibly be more important?
My husband, Lee Varis, and I recently traveled to Greece on our way to leading a photo tour of Turkey. Lee has one elderly aunt and uncle, and cousins and their children living in the Athens area that he has not seen for ten years. We spent three days and had a family reunion of three generations, including his Aunt Dora, Lee’s dad’s sister is the last of that generation. She is beginning to suffer from dementia so it was sweet and poignant for Lee to have time with her.
This first shot (the one you see at the top) is Dora showing her high school graduation photo.
All the images in this article were shot with the Fuji XT 1 and either the 56mm f 1.2 or the 16-55mm f 2.8 and all natural light, no reflectors and no flash.
Here’s Dora, 84, and her husband Sotiris, 92.
Next up is three generations of proud and strong Greek men.
Aunt Dora, daughter Lianna and her grandaughter Dora.
Here are the cousins, Lee and the sisters Sissy and Lianna.
The second generation of cousins ranges in age from 13-21, so they normally want to do the stoic, serious kind of photo. The truth is that there is a lot of love between them and don’t get to see each other often. They are happy to share laughter and fun!
Everyone came together to help prepare food for the big family dinner. A curious thing happened. Without any preplanning, all the women showed up in either red or turquoise, including me! Sissy’s kitchen was red and I couldn’t resist capturing this image of the two young cousins preparing food, and everything was red! It was a great opportunity for colorful photos.
Occasionally, I would find a moment like this one. It was a grab shot and I was not prepared, so the exposure was 1/20th and there’s camera movement that can’t be sharpened. Not every photo has to be perfect as long as it can tell a meaningful story. I’m glad I caught it.
It was my first time meeting them, and they pulled me in and treated me as though I have always been a family member. I shot a lot, did many different group set ups, some candids and tried to make a series of images that I know will be valued for a long time.
What’s important in all of these images is the deep connection and depth of love that is evident in their faces. Are they the world’s greatest photos? Technically and artistically probably not. To this family they are priceless because there is a good chance that all of these people will not have the opportunity to be together again. They will now have the memories of this special day forever. What’s more important than that?