This photo was taken at a wedding well over a year ago. I was shooting guests at the reception. As I was combing through some of my older photos, I kept returning to this. True, the work I typically like to do is landscape-oriented. I love fog and barns and trees, sunrises and sunsets. I love animals and flowers. All eye candy to me. Rarely do I give much photo-shutter attention to people. I’m not sure why. Every once in a while, though, I am drawn to certain faces. I don’t know this woman, I did not meet her. I do not remember taking her photo. I find myself wondering what she is thinking. She looks very, very serious. Very solemn. Contradictory for the celebratory atmosphere of a wedding reception.
That is the funny thing about photography. You can capture a moment that completely depicts the context of the occasion and requires little imagination. You can also isolate a tender moment that leaves your own imagination to itself. There could very well have been a meal blessing going on at this moment…or, perhaps, this woman is caught thinking about her own marriage, recently gone awry. Hard to say. She appears to be deep in thought, but could simply have been tipping her head down for a moment, glancing at her wine glass and considering a refill. Her next moment might have been smiles and laughter. I’ll never know, I can’t turn back the clock, nor would I want to.
Sometimes, I just like to look at something like this and ponder. The camera captures a very brief moment in time and you are left to fill in the story and punchline. I think, if I look at this photo tonight and not again for another two years, the stories I create will be completely different. When we look at a photo like this, a nameless face, we may very likely see some reflection of our own life and soul, given no other context.
When I run a story about this woman through my own head (cob-webbed, scary place it often is), I find my theory to be true–I see solemnity, perhaps sadness. And as I tell the story to myself, I understand why I see this in the woman’s face. I believe she is grieving or preparing to grieve, the loss of a friend who seems much to young to be suffering. Something she tries not to think about, something that is inevitable. Someone who will not give her the opportunity to say goodbye, isolation being their own way to deal with their grief.
I understand why she is solemn.