Updated: Jan 10, 2019
"We never had wedding pictures taken."
When I heard that, I knew. I understood that this was more than just me "taking pictures." I was capturing something beyond unique, beyond special. This couple who had been married for 66 years were blessing me with the opportunity to capture those precious moments between them. A feat that no other photographer had done before, not even when they got married more than six decades ago.
It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once.
My mother-in-law approached me about it first. As one of my biggest supporters in my photography dream, she wanted to launch me into action. No better place than her own parents, my husband's grandparents. She and her three siblings were going to pitch in and wanted to give their parents this photoshoot as a gift. It seemed innocent enough at first, just like any other photoshoot, but as I pondered it more and more I grew restless. The four of them were looking at me to capture the beauty of their parents. When they looked at my pictures, they wanted to see the ever-so-real authentic love between them. Not just - POSE, SMILE, CLICK!!!!! But reality.
My MIL and I brainstormed and finally came to the brilliant idea of taking a trip through town, a journey through time, if you will, to all of the places that represented the two of them. We came up with our specific list of "historical places" and set off for one of the most amazing photography experiences I have had.
We started the early morning at their current home. Half the year they live in Mt. Carmel, IL, but the other half they travel to Florida for the winter-warm weather where they can escape the bipolar Illinois winter season. Or at least part of it. You never quite know when it will be 0° F or 80° F, all within a week. Or even a day sometimes.......
Anywhoooo, I was super nervous. Would they hate taking pictures? Was I going to capture what they expected? What DID they expect? What did I even expect???? Why had I done this to myself???? What would my MIL and her siblings think if I didn't deliver exactly what they dreamed????
Almost-hyperventilating, I decided to take a breather and wandered the property to do the one thing that ever helps give my photography mind ultimate peace: detail shots.
I joined Fred on his front porch; one of the specific special requests from my MIL and her siblings was to capture this special moment.
God + Coffee. Every morning. It is known among many that Fred is absolutely dedicated to this routine. His children, grand-children, family, neighbors, friends. They all know that this is part of who he is.
I couldn't help but smile as I took these. He had his bible in hand, coffee next to him in his St. Louis Cardinals cup, and his Mt. Carmel Golden Aces hat sitting snug on top. A perfect representation of the things he loves.
Next I focused on the beautiful collection of momentos that they had given each other over the past 60 years!
Wedding Rings + Anniversary Rings + Necklace + Earrings + Watches + Music Box
Fred + Helen joined me again in front of their lovely house, and then we set off for our 4 hour journey!
One thing you know about Fred + Helen is that they love golf. Ever since I joined the family, I knew this from the get-go. They played, they watched, they knew the in's-and-out's. And as someone who is sport deficient, I always found it a taaaaddd bit intimidating. Cause I know nothing. Zilch.
And on top of that, unbeknownst to me all these years, Helen also loves tennis! Before my time she had been quite the tennis player I heard. And of course, tennis is another sport of which I know nothing about. lol!
I wasn't sure how it would go, but once we got there, it was pretty fun watching them play! I grew an appreciation for it as I watched the joy they had in playing together. Who knew tennis & golf could be so romantic??
NEW & OLD
Next we headed to their current church, followed by a visit to the church building that held their congregation back when they first got married. It was shockingly beautiful on the outside with intricate details in the brick! So old, and so so stunning! And even more amazing, was that the building had been purchased and remodeled as a home! The owner was gracious enough to let Fred + Helen peek inside to see how they had transformed the old classrooms and balconies into beautifully decorated living spaces. I was in awe of the mix of vintage & renovation! A photographers dream! Although I sadly let me camera lay low, since it was a private residence.
Our next step in the journey took us to the places that they used to work at before retirement.
Helen had been a hairdresser and even owned her own salon! We made our way to her old shop, which had been redone over the years.
And Fred had worked at the local High School. He is still loyal and proud of his Golden Aces!
We ended the day at the most special place of all. The home Fred literally built with his own hands.
I stood in awe at the house, the trees, the lake. They shared with me stories of their grandchildren. Stories of my husband as a boy. Where he played, and ran, and sat on a long swing that hung from a tall branch overlooking the water. Memories I had never heard before brought me so much joy. I could almost see the stories playing out in front of me.
Everything was special. Each detail planned and nurtured by these two people. The row of overarching trees had each been planted in honor of the births of their grandchildren. They were now fully grown, stretching into the sky like they were bragging about their age.
They showed me everything: the shed that sat next to the garden they had once tended, the bench on the deck that he had so skillfully created, the evergreen tree that sat across the lake that Helen loved to look at, and the light bulb at the very top of the pole that Fred had placed himself.
I look at these pictures and feel an ache and yearning. THIS. This is what I want in life. I want God as the center of my marriage. I want to grow old with my husband and look back on our memories with as much joy as these two.
I saw the pride in their history. I saw the years of dedication and love.
They shared their lives with me. Their stories. Their memories.
It was absolutely surreal and so so beautiful.
I pray as you look through these, you don't just see a couple, but you see two people in love.
Today, I feel a sense of honor and thankfulness for their confidence in me.
Thank you, Fred & Helen. I love you.