This post has more personal meaning than it does photographic value. It is a quick shot I took of the display for my Aunt Betty at her recent memorial service in California. The cemetery is called Pacific View and though the Pacific ocean isn’t visible in this photo, it is visible from Betty and Cliff’s niche.
Pacific view has conventional graves, as John Waynes’ proves. But this cemetery has several buildings with walls of niches. We don’t have anything like this in South Dakota and I’m not sure why. We have more space? Is is cultural? I’ve not read it but I just put The American Way of Death, Revisited on my reading list. Maybe I would get some answers there. . . .
My aunt Betty left South Dakota for California when she was 18. That had to have been a huge leap for a petite girl from the midwest. She went with her oldest sister (my aunt) Phyllis. Phyllis moved back to South Dakota after a few months but Betty stayed for the rest of her life.
As close as we can tell, this portrait was taken in 1943 in California when Betty was about 22. That’s close to 70 years ago.
This photo has powerful personal and family meaning to me but as an occasional portrait photographer and as a photography teacher, it is a good example of what I have said more than once to my young students: a well-posed, well-lit portrait will never go completely out of style.
Of course, the hair and clothing fashions of the 1940s have faded. And while a white vignette isn’t something you see much of these days, everything else about this portrait still “works,” especially the Rembrandt lighting. This photo has a sepia tone to it, though the color would have been applied by hand, since color film was a novelty in the 40s.
Finally, as I look at this “analog” picture, I think of the billions of digital files (mine included) that never make their way to paper. If Betty’s portrait had been done with a digital camera and if it had only been seen and published on a computer, we wouldn’t be looking at it today. What will exist 70 years from now that will decode this and millions of other blogs – and the pictures that illustrate them?
Early this morning we learned that my dear aunt Betty, my mother’s sister and the sole survivor of the generation that precedes me, passed away. She was 91 and died in her California home – exactly where she wanted to be.
I took this photo in 2007 at one of Betty’s favorite restaurants – Las Brisas in Laguna Beach, California. She is happy in this photo and that’s exactly how my wife described her after a conversation she had with her this past Tuesday.
Her passing is painful to Deb and me on many levels but it is, as I have said before, part of the circle of life. We have yet to plan her funeral, but when she is laid to rest, she will be next to her husband Cliff and within shouting distance of John Wayne. And I have to smile about that. . . .
Two Sisters: Bernice (Mom) and Betty (Beverly)