3 minute read
Sometimes I shoot portraits of the people I cross paths with… on this occasion, I had my camera in the bag tucked neatly between my feet. I was on my way to the suburbs to look at a little house as I could no longer afford my apartment in the city. Just as my train was pulling into yet another station I noticed this really elegant lady just a few seats along. Instantly, I felt that curiosity I get about some people, that sense of being drawn to them and the compulsion to take their photo. I said hello and asked if I could take her portrait and she gestured that it was fine but when she spoke no sound came out. She was sat alone, looking incredibly well put together and oh so calm. I took my camera out and started lining up and said that I hadn’t been able to hear her… she pressed her hand under her silk neck scarf and then when she spoke again a raspy and quiet but just audible voice came out. She said, ‘I’m going to a funeral’. I felt a sudden rush of emotion as I realised that she must be hiding some scar, perhaps even a hole in her throat under that pretty scarf, and that she’d lost her voice and was now on her way to say farewell to someone she loved. The sheer, inevitable brutality of life is always an ugly thing, but even more so when it does its work on the innocent, the delicate or the very pure.
I told her I was really sorry to hear about the funeral and then decided to risk offence and told her that she was beautiful. It’s not the sort of thing I would ever normally tell a stranger, but in this case it felt suddenly important that I communicated something to her. I had to try to let her know that I could see her. I even said it twice. Really emphasising it the second time just because I really wanted her to know that I really meant it, because she really was you see. I was worried about how she might take it. It’s such a forward thing to say after all. But actually, she smiled and it was like she lit up from the inside and then I think both our spirits lifted and I took a couple of photos and revelled in our brief connection. And suddenly realised that every line on her face was a thread leading back to the beginning of her life. The traces of every expression she had ever made, of all the moments that caused those expressions. I thought of all those moments in the long life she’d already lived. Her loves and her losses, and her hopes and dreams. Her young woman’s beauty blooming and fading and then a different kind of beauty taking its place and I knew that she must miss the other kind, because we just do don’t we? And then there she is, on her way to a funeral on her own, on the tube and some stranger asks to take her photo. It’s all just so strange though isn’t it? Not just the way that each moment in our lives must so quickly give way to the next, but also that it all happens publicly, amongst strangers, in this grand kaleidoscope of lives overlapping and then moving apart and the whole picture is always shifting. We both got up at the final stop and I asked her her name. She pressed the tips of her slender fingers back into her throat and gently said ‘Kate’. I told her mine, we shook hands and smiled and I thanked her and then she turned and walked away towards her future and I towards mine
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