Elizabeth, 2018

Photo Phonica

Elizabeth, 2018.
Last Wednesday, while photographing for Ash Wednesday, I saw a woman (without ashes) approaching me in a long Cruella de Vil style coat. I stopped her and asked if she might be going to get her ashes. Her name was Elizabeth and I was completely prepared to follow her to her church if it meant getting a picture of her with ashes. She said she was but she washes it off before she leaves the church. “Why would I want to wear ashes out on the street?” She said taking a drag off her cigarette. Every year I inevitability see someone or something that is amazing that I would normally take a picture of but has nothing to do with Ash Wednesday. This creates a dilemma because I am trying to preserve time and film on this one-day-a-year project while my brain (and heart) are screaming to take the picture. So I photographed Elizabeth–without ashes. After the picture, she told me that she was a retired opera singer. “Haven’t sung since 1979,” she told me taking another drag off her cigarette. I told her I’d bet she had a beautiful voice still. “Not interested in singing anymore,” she said taking another drag. As we spoke, I wanted to know what had happened that day in 1979 that made her stop. I began to think about my own perfectionism. How many things do I stop or lose interest in when it’s not perfect? When I saw her walk over, she wasn’t quite perfect without her ashes. I was even willing to walk across town with her to make it perfect until I realized that was impossible. Elizabeth’s picture serves as a reminder for me to click the shutter anyway. I’m sure her voice is beautiful with all of it’s imperfections just like she is without her ashes.