A moment I'll never forget...
As I think about it, I honestly can't remember the last time I can say I was nervous about making portraits of someone. Portraiture is something I'm very passionate about. The ability to freeze time, capturing the dreams, aspirations, hopes, and essence of a person's soul and making a printed portrait of them that will last well beyond my lifetime is my calling to be sure. However, I recently experienced something that I won't ever forget.
Last Saturday afternoon my beautiful daughter, Elizabeth, was getting dressed upstairs for her Junior Prom. I had seen a cell phone pic of the dress my wife had sent me while she and Elizabeth were shopping. It was indeed beautiful and I knew that my little girl would look amazing in it. I was excited for her! What memories to be made at this age in life. At seventeen one is on the brink of adulthood, yet keeping a foot just inside the door of childhood enough to not take on all of the responsibilities that adulting requires of us!
I had picked up my medium format camera and selected a lens from my camera bag that I knew would be the best focal length for the space on our front porch, where I'd soon be making portraits with natural light, no off-camera strobe lights for this. I was outside only for a moment when I heard my wife's voice as she opened the door.
"Jared, are you ready for her now? She's ready!" My wife, Mandy, announced to me.
"You bet," I replied, "I'm ready, come on out Lizzie." I began to raise my camera's viewfinder to my eye...
Friends, believe me, I was not at all prepared for this moment in the least. It was not my camera settings or the light readings I needed to prepare for, actually. I was not at all expecting what was to happen next. My camera was on, lens mounted, settings locked in, I had metered the light and I was prepared to do what I do. Suddenly, my daughter walked past the threshold in a stunning dress and onto the porch as she turned to me with that amazing smile that can light up an entire room. In an instant I was rendered helpless, frozen as if my limbs could not move. My little girl who used to wrap her entire hand around my pinky finger on our walks together had blossomed, in what seemed like overnight, into the most stunningly beautiful woman that was now standing before me. Immediately little pieces of memories flashed before my eyes... pushing her on a swing when she was too small to get the momentum going to swing herself, she in her car seat smiling at me and saying one of the few phrases she could speak in her little voice, saying, "Dadda, I love you." I remembered waking up in bed to my chest being pounced on while her seven year old self would hop onto my chest, and while leaning over my face and her little fingers would be combing through my facial hair, inspecting my goatee for silvers which she would try to yank out if found. She was always quite sad if she would find one of these silver hairs because it made her feel as though I was getting older and she didn't ever want me to get old (that makes two of us, Lizzie!) All of these memories rushed back to me as I stared into those big, brown eyes that looked to me for my reaction. Here I was, a grown man at forty-seven years old, and I felt the warmth of tears escaping down my cheeks and I tried to look at her through the blurred vision of eyes full of tears. My heart was so very happy, remarkably proud, and so very broken. In this moment I realized that my time with this amazing person, these years I've been blessed to have her living in my home every single day, are much closer to ending as she will venture off to college next year to begin her life and take on the world and make the very best of this gift known as Life.
Elizabeth Jane, I don't care how old you become or how old I become (my goatee now has more silver than black in it) you will always be my daughter, my Babygirl, and my Princess. It has been the greatest honor to raise you and spend the past seventeen years with you!!! Always remember that you are strong, beautiful inside and out, and you have so much to offer this crazy world we live in. You are blessed with so many talents, gifts, God left nothing out when he created you, and I am blessed beyond blessed to have been lucky enough to be your earthly father. Never, ever forget that, "I love you to the moon, stars, and Heaven, Babygirl."