A recluses’ dilemma: I love photographing people. Sometimes I am pretty good at it but not most of the time. This past week I had an opportunity to photograph a very old friend, Otis. He and I went through twelve years of school together—started in the first grade and graduated together. My oldest memory of Otis goes back to the second grade when he and I were the Jack Frost Twins in the classes’ annual Second Grade Play. All the classes back then put on a play every year. We wore blue crape paper costumes with cotton fur.
Otis was, and still is, one of the most respected members of our class. I doubt seriously that you can find a single person from Burkburnett that dislikes Otis. He is just that kind of person. I am not saying that he is a person that caters to others to gain their approval. Otis is definitely Otis. He is a large person—very impressive in size. He is a strongly patriotic and strongly opinionated person. Otis does not miss words—he clearly and strongly says what he thinks. Otis has character and it is character that is his without question. People know where Otis stands.
He and his wife Carol celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary last year and I promised to come to Arlington and do an anniversary photograph but I kept procrastinating. I was going to do in on the way to Wichita Falls to visit with my older brother but I kept letting things get in the way.
A friend in White Settlement, near Fort Worth, lost her husband a week ago and getting up to offer my condolences was finally important enough to get me out of Houston. Ivan had been in hospice and was not expect to last long but I learned from Robbie that he had asked not to have a service. Had there been one I was planning on going but not having a service made the visit a little more flexible so I went when Robbie thought she would be ready to receive guest.
I finally worked out a schedule between Robbie, Otis and my brother who came down from Wichita Falls. Got all the reservations and the rental car lined up for last Wednesday with the plan to stay until Friday, Saturday or Sunday—the tail end was flexible.
I went first to visit Robbie and we went out to dinner on Wednesday evening. Afterwards we went through numerous photo albums while she shared the details of life with Ivan. Advice and encouragement from Robbie and Ivan had been a tremendous help as Janet progressed farther into the dementia. We met on line as a result of a political faux pas on my part, learned we had common interests if not politics which worked in into a very interesting friendship. Toward the end Ivan suffered much the same as Janet had.
I met with Otis and Carol at 8am Thursday and we photographed until around noon. I had great plans for the photographs but there were two approaches that to me were important. I don’t know much about other people’s marriages and base most everything on my personal experiences. I do know about love. I do know about having a wife that you completely mesh with and I believe that Otis and Carol have that type of relationship. They are still together because they love each other, respect each other and fit together so very comfortably. I wanted to show that in the photographs. I came close. Maybe not as close I would have liked but close. I also wanted to show Otis as a little larger than life, maybe got close. I guess that I generally do not look that closely at other men’s wives but until I started doing the photographs I had not realize how very pretty Carol is. She has beautiful eyes and beautifully sculptured features. It was really a joy to photograph both of them. Unfortunately I did miss one very important approach that I really wanted to do. Basically it would have been an individual shot of each one with the other in the background out of focus. I would love to have a couple of photographs of Janet and I done that way.
I learned from Janet that when you actually love and totally commit to another person that you do actually become one entity. But I also learned that by becoming one doesn't mean that neither actually gives up their self—in that perfect relationship each is still an individual. I wanted to capture that concept of each remaining an individual but there was always that other presence—it is there to always encourage and protect. No matter where you go the other is always there. I wanted to capture that for Otis and Carol and that I did not do.
I knew before I left Houston that in the end I most likely was going to be disappointed in the photographs and I am—at least the photographs of them together. I think I got a number of nice individual photos of each but I did not do as well as I would have liked on the photos of them together. I hope that I get another opportunity to photograph them in the near future.