Timing and Patience

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Are you the type of photographer who walks up, assesses a scene, and snaps a few photographs before lowering your camera from your eye and moving on? Perhaps all of us do that at one time or another, but I urge you to experiment with patience, and try to wait for a scene to develop before you press the shutter button.

This portrait is of my grandmother, Norma. Many people have taken her photograph during her ninety-one years on this planet. I wanted to capture something about my grandmother that illustrates a certain aspect of her personality – her laugh. You see, Nanny Norma doesn’t laugh like your typical grandmother; with a child-like glee in her eyes and a taut, smirking grin, Norma exclaims with a loud exhale of all the air she had been holding, pent up in her lungs, during the duration of whatever story you happen to be telling her. This is no normal giggle. This is the laugh of a woman who has heard it all, and yet still makes each and every person she crosses paths with, feel like their story is the funniest, most unique tale she has every heard! This is what I wanted to capture, yet to ascertain it, I had to be patient.

I had a Fuji 56 f1.2 lens mounted on my Fujifilm camera, aimed at my grandmother’s face for well over ten minutes. I had my camera stealthily resting in my lap, surreptitiously¬†pointed at Nanny Norma. She listened to a story, pealed an orange, went to the bathroom, began to knit something. I waited patiently until finally the moment arrived. My father began telling another story, and I could see the glee growing in Nanny Norma’s eyes, like a small spark that catches on kindling. As the story progressed, her smile grew taut and she leaned back, resting her hands on the arms of her red squishy chair. As my father approached the punchline of his tale, I refocused my camera and tried to hold it steady in my lap. Right as my father uttered the final few words, my grandmother began to laugh in her amazingly unique and wonderful way, and I took this portrait.

I think of that day and of my Nanny Norma’s wonderful laugh whenever I see this photograph, and I never could have captured it if I hadn’t been patient.

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