Saturday, February 12, 2011

My closet runneth over

This weekend, I had the opportunity to do some volunteer work with a group of women from my church. Our service was to go to a local women and children's shelter and host a Valentine's brunch and party for the residents. My particular job was to take portraits of the women and their daughters for them to put into special picture frames they decorated as part of the event.

As I walked in, laden with camera equipment and wearing my heart socks (yes, I decided to keep them), I felt so conspicuous. It reminded me of an instance many years ago, when a journalism classmate of mine went to report on a soup kitchen. This particular classmate was a returning student, an "older" woman in her mid-thirties from a very wealthy background. She came to class with perfectly coiffed hair and a diamond ring the size of gumball. The day she was supposed to go to the soup kitchen, she "dressed down" — in perfectly pressed white jeans and a polo shirt. I felt like a less-posh version of that journalism classmate, as I stood in the hallway of that homeless shelter.

It turned out to be harder than expected to take photos of the shelter residents. While one or two volunteered as soon as I had my camera ready, most shied away, or said their hair was a mess, they didn't have any makeup on, or they didn't want their pictures posted on the Internet. I tried to at least get some portraits of the children, since these families may not have many to remember this stage in their lives. Sometimes, the mothers would follow when they had an opportunity to have a picture taken with their girls.

For the most part, these subjects did not smile for the camera, nor did I force them. I wanted to capture the reality of this moment in time: their suffering, their toughness, and their inner beauty. To respect the privacy and safety of the women, I won't be posting any of their pictures, but they were some of the most memorable — and beautiful — I have ever taken.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Grace. I just started reading your blog this morning. It is so great! It is moving, funny, shocking, all at the same time. I want you to know you are having an impact on me. I kind of stumbled across your blog from another site, BlogHer. This entry has made me rethink how I use my clothes as a barrier, between me and other people. I know I have way too much stuff, not only in my closet but throughout my whole house. I am going to be thinking on this all day today as I drive around, delivering mail. I believe you may have inspired me to do something drastic! In a good way :) I am looking forward to reading all of your entries and am going to space them out a bit in order to enjoy them more. Don't want to stuff myself on all the goodness at once! Keep it up and know that you are making a difference. Love, Tammy in Illinois, Mom to 2 Teens


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