Monday, December 10, 2012

Smiles that never faded

A number of years ago, there was this couple, an elderly couple, a loving, happy hearted, sweet couple that I just fell in love with; Ed and Katie.  I met them through my church and every time I saw them I couldn't stop myself from smiling ear to ear. They were the kind of people that just loved you unconditionally. Extremely outgoing, faithful to each other for 60 years. I just had to photograph them.

After working up the courage to ask them if I could photograph them together (I'm still working on doing things like that, I always feel so weird asking....), I was relieved when they smiled big for me and in a thick polish accent gracefully accepted my offer. I was thrilled.

On a cold winter day some weeks later, we arranged to setup my lights in their living room. It was an honor for me to take their photograph, and made even more fun because I was able to bring my oldest boy along with me in hopes that I might generate some interest in photography. (It didn't work).

When we arrived at their home, Ed was half dressed in sweat pants and a good shirt & tie and suite jacket. Katie was in a dress. The two of them shuffled around the modest country home while I got my gear setup, then they sat down on a dark red leather sofa and the rest, as they say, was photo magic.

For the next hour, Ed and Katie enjoyed talking with me and my son. I learned that Ed had survived the  nazi war camps and saw some pretty terrible things, but he survived. He came out of the camps a changed man, a better man. He never took life for granted and he lived every minute of it in the moment, always expressing his endearing feelings to others and to his wife of 60 years.

Just before the the shoot came to an end, I asked them if they would hold onto a portrait of themselves taken when they were in their early 20's. I had noticed it when I first entered their house and I had been staring at it on and off during the photo shoot. I felt it would make for a beautiful final image, and it did.

In processing the images a couple of days later, I noticed just how badly damaged that early portrait was. Water damage, tears, and the black & white image had faded to more of a black & green tone.

In just under 30 minutes, I had used Photoshop CS5 to fix that older portrait, restoring it to it's original beauty. About a year later it was officially their 60th anniversary, so I had the 'portrait within a portrait' printed extra large and mounted onto foam core. The final product was amazing to look at and Ed and Katie loved it.

Sadly, Ed passed away shortly afterwards, but Katie still goes strong, still smiling, still hugging.

It was an honor and a blessing for me to photograph Ed and Katie. It was one of those opportunities that I so badly wanted and had to work the courage up just to ask for the chance. But had I not taken the chance, these pictures would not exist. Together they were a great example for married people everywhere. They were full of love for each other and for others and they never passed up a chance to express it, always in that thick polish accent.

If you know someone whose smile inspires you, don't hesitate to ask them if you can take their picture, you'll be glad you did, and you never know what you might learn about that smile along the way.

Kevin Kratka

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