My fiancee's grandparents, Tony and Theda, have been married for almost 70 years and are still devoted to each other every day. They don't get out much any more, but they still live at home and have their independence. I remember the moment of this snap very well. Tony was on his way to retrieve his medication from the bathroom, and Theda stopped him as he passed her in the kitchen for a kiss. It was such a tender exchange.
We visited them recently to talk about whether we could have our wedding near their home so they could attend, and I overheard their "goodnights" while unable to sleep on the most uncomfortable couch in Ohio. Theda had just removed her hearing aid, and Tony asked for a kiss. She couldn't hear him. "Give me a kiss," Tony demanded a little louder. Her own voice rising, Theda responded: "Q-TIPS?!?"
This is a fine shot in the social documentary tradition. It's a formally beautiful photograph, the main subjects executing a practiced pas-de-deux amidst a dense backdrop of domestic detail. It's coloristically harmonious, with a strange sort of bleached blue-green palette, and the light is nice, if also a little strange-seeming—I don't quite parse it; maybe winter light from a window, or even a skylight. (Or a flash, I guess.) It's very balanced, from the green plastic basket atop the fridge to the plastic bottle in the opposite corner, the way Tony's shadow on the side of the fridge is set off by the light reflecting on the tiles over Theda's shoulder. I particularly like the way her fingertips seem to touch the edge of the frame, as if for balance against the slow swirl of visual movement. If the edge of the frame amputated those fingertips (or the top of Tony's head) it might throw the whole composition away.
But more than all that, the picture immediately convinces as a human moment. You can tell instantly it's genuine, taken as it happened, that these people know each other well and have done this dance before. Her expression is enigmatic, but his physical closeness, the way he tilts his head toward her, makes it make sense; you can sense their age, her concern, his stiffness and difficulty moving, their shared past. Her in a housedress, he wearing what looks like pajama bottoms—the casual intimacy of home, the proximity of sleep. Is that a hint of a walker in his right hand?
Just a lovely shot, one of the quotidian moments that pass us by every day, all our lives, that we'd never remember, particularly—and yet that seem precious, if it's two people we know, once we stop to look.
Matt Buedel is the crime reporter for the Journal Star in Peoria, Illinois, an enthusiastic amateur and sometimes semi-pro photographer, and a TOP reader. Here's a link to his flickr photostream, where I found several more gems like this one amongst the jumble.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Tom Buttimer: "Thanks for posting the picture and write-up. This is about life as we live it, quietly, respectfully, and pleasantly. No violence, yelling or arguing, just the day-to-day respect and love we all sometimes take for granted and would miss greatly if we found it suddenly gone. Thanks for making my day brighter."
Featured Comment by Jack Nelson: "I want a 'Q-tips me' t-shirt!"