when the leaving is hard but you go now
and you feel what you drag across the floor
because something with these trails are just different
since they shook the earth in 1904.
tallest man on earth
Before I can photograph anyone, I need to study my subject. I don't always get to spend time with brides before their wedding day, so I've had to learned nuance and focus hard to pay attention: what does the bride do for a living? What is her e-mail address (a university e-mail, an old childhood e-mail, a "first name last name" gmail?) How big is her bridal party? Who is the ring-leader amongst the bridal party? Is the bride the introverted one? Is she loud but introverted? Does she escape off to apply make-up alone, and return to the group once she's had time to herself? Is she stereo-type A? Is she late and doesn't seem to realize, or is she late and losing her marbles under the couch? How much jewelry is she wearing, wear is it from, and what is it being stored in to transport to the wedding? What kind of shoes does she have -- practical or glamorous or a hearty effort to achieve both? There are dozens of minute-by-minute displays to study so I can better understand, and therefore better photograph. I'm well-trained in processing small details quickly and giving myself a general answer to the question: Who is this person?
So, when my "bestie" of almost 14 years stepped in front of the camera I had an odd moment of panic. I couldn't be more comfortable with her -- even the her that has changed and is changing. I trust her, we've analyzed our oddest and best body features together for years (I'm much shorter than her, but my legs are inches longer! She has a Victorian neck with chiseled collar bones, and I have a tree stump.), I know the stories intimately that have brought her here, and vice versa. We both lament the problem of being young -- using words we didn't understand, wanting too badly to be an integral part of a grown-up world, trying to be taken seriously! We've been transformed as people on a dual-year basis: each of us at 16, 18, 20, 22 and 24 are at core levels different women, and it's unsettling to look back and think "Oof. Once I was a little girl who thought I knew what I was talking about." It's unsettling because we know how particularly intent we were on being mature, smart, well-spoken. It's unsettling because we realize we'll in a few more years we'll look back on today and think "Oh, what immaturity. We thought we knew so much." Change is hard for her, compassion is hard for me. She can be overly dramatic, I can be overly stoic. She's very ordely, I'm very scattered. I know this friend well. But the reason for my odd moment of panic is that I know her so well, connect to her so quickly, have so much information about her, I wondered if I could document who my friend really is today in her life.
If you were to meet my bestie, you would notice about her the exact same things that drew me to her when I was 11 years old. You'd notice her brash sense of humor, her "How did she come up with that?!" weird yet spot-on analogies, her extroverted need to be in the middle of people as often as possible, her vocabulary. You'd hear her various, constant laughing. You'd want to be close to her energy and buzz. You'd be interested in her deeply emotional and sincere opinions. Whenever I've photographed her in the past my instinct was that mouth-wide-open, amused, laughing Lydia. She is still that, but as she's come into herself ever more, I find myself seeing her confidence, her chin up, her experienced strength, her empathy, her boldness, her quietness. I've come to her house at midnight to sit with her while she wept on the floor. I've toured her college art show, admiring her higher-education work. I've watched somebody else become her very best friend, just like she watched the same thing happen to me. And very soon I'm going to watch her leave behind her childhood, family, client base, and foundation to move to a new city and life with very little security. As we photographed, I had the Courageous yet Kind Lydia Jane in my heart and mind. I love you, old friend.
(Pssst! Go see her beautiful new logo and website ---> l y d i a j a n e . c o m)