This year-long personal project is nearing its conclusion. Last week, I visited the nursing home for the next-to-last time. Driving home, I tend to reflect on the visits. The way I work there has evolved. I no longer bring in big lighting setups and backdrops. I spend longer with each resident than when I started. I listen more and ask more questions. If someone can’t talk, I may hold their hand. I help fix hair and straighten a necklace. I tell her she looks beautiful. This time, one thing someone said made me realize the most important thing about this project.
Joan: “I feel so important. I feel so special!”
Some of the residents here may not even remember any of this tomorrow, but what I learned is that the most important thing I can do is to make someone feel important and special. And in the process, I make a portrait of her for all of time.
Walking the halls of the nursing home, you often see people in their rooms, like this. But this isn’t who they are. You can only find that out by entering the room and connecting with the person in some way.
Althea worked at Laconia City Hall. She writes poetry. She told me about her children and grandchildren.
Mary: “My daughter brought me this pumpkin.”
Mary: “Do you mind if I tell you a dirty joke?”
Mary: “A white horse fell in the mud!”
Marjorie: “I’m a part of The Pothole Group. Five of us started it. We’re all here together. We get together to remind ourselves that being forgetful is just a bump in the road…well, until it becomes a sinkhole!”
To read how this project got started, click here:
To see parts II through XII, click the links below: