She has become one of the truly pivotal figures in my life, one of perhaps a dozen or so individuals of whom I can safely say that my world would have been very different -- and certainly far poorer -- if they had not been part of it. Her impact on me has been so profound that I am virtually certain to think of her every single day for the rest of my life, always with gratitude, affection, and deep respect. She taught me a skill that has immeasurably blessed and enriched my life, and in the process gave me humor and laughter and fun, all during a time when I had nearly forgotten what it was like to have those things. And that is not all; among her other contributions to my life, one far less known because I do not talk about it as much, has been to be the catalyst which spurred my interest in portrait photography. How that came about is a story too long to relate here, but suffice it to say that it was the result of a conversation I had with her about ten months ago. Immediately afterward, under the spur of that conversation, I purchased several books about portraiture, read and studied them carefully, gradually started improving my Photoshop skills -- and of course, took portraits, lots and lots of them. Some have worked and some have not, but by all accounts, my skills in this area appear to have improved rather markedly over time. And all the while, I have dreamed of creating a beautiful portrait of Miss Angie, one that would bring out what I see in her, but which she perhaps is unable to see in herself. I was driven by something akin to what impelled Dante, when, in the Vita Nuova, he said, referring to Beatrice, that he wanted to write of her what had never before been written about any woman.
Perhaps my chance has finally come, although I hope there will be other and better opportunities in the future. How this one came about makes for a rather unusual story all by itself. During the final day of 2008, I purchased the Nikon Capture 4 software for RAW, which I have been wanting to do as the next big step in the development of my photography skills in general, but especially in portraiture. (Up to now, every single picture in my photostream has been a JPEG, except for a handful of images -- fewer than 20 -- scanned from photos taken with film.) I have not yet installed the software on my computer, partly because the instructions are rather lengthy and I want to digest them first, and partly because, in order to create room for it, I need to do some major housecleaning of my hard drive. Accordingly, I also spent part of the day deleting some unused programs, plus pictures, a lot of them; over 1000 already, with many more certain to follow over the next day or two. Out they go -- sunset photos, dance photos that are not worth keeping or printing, assorted shots of landscapes and desert plants, blurry outtakes of Oochie, Yo-yo, and Spoots. Pictures I find that are worth saving will be transferred to DVDs.
But all of a sudden, during the process of going through and deleting hundreds of images, I came across this, which sort of leaped out at me. I sat and stared at it for a long moment, incredulously wondering how on earth it had escaped my notice so completely for so long. I had already taken a lovely portrait of Miss Angie more than 15 months before, and there it had been all this time, sitting right under my nose and waiting to be discovered. I immediately knew that this would be my very first Flickr upload of 2009, and I interrupted my clean-up project for about 90 minutes while I prepared and edited the portrait, which immediately became my favorite picture of Angie. (That 90 minutes does not include the additional 2-1/2 hours I put into this portrait before replacing it here a few weeks later.) I hope others will adjudge it to be worthy of her, and a fitting tribute to her influence on my development as a photographer. (Parenthetically, I thought this one turned out quite well, considering that I used my camera's TTL flash when I took it.)
But more importantly, I hope Angie herself loves it. She and I will never have a relationship of equals, and I know that. First and foremost, she was my teacher and I was her student, albeit a very loyal and appreciative one, and there has never been any question about which of us has been which. Her courage and her professionalism, in that order, are the qualities I most admire in her. Moreover, in spite of our age difference, Angie has become a sort of mother figure in my life, and will probably be the last woman ever to fill that role. Her abundant life experience, plus her appearance in my own life at one of its truly critical moments, are what have made that possible. When all is said and done, she has already given me far more than I will ever be able to give her in return, although I fantasize constantly about one day being able to do something for her that will somehow balance the scales. I owe this young woman a lot, and I will owe her forever, but with this gesture I hope to reduce the debt at least slightly.
If goofiness did not already exist, I am sure Angie would have been the one either to invent or discover it. I have told her, in fact, that if she had lived in the Soviet Union back in the 1930s, she probably could have found a way to bring out the fun and goofy side of Joseph Stalin, with the result that life in the great socialist paradise might have been a good deal happier and more pleasant than it was. (Perhaps she could also have taught Stalin the foxtrot and the bolero, but I digress.) By nature, Angie is warm, affectionate, playful, and fun-loving, but she also has a serious side, which I have managed to capture here. I have seen both sides of her, and have been blessed equally by both. Her presence in my life has been a gift from God, for which I will be everlastingly grateful. And somehow it seems entirely fitting that my very first Flickr addition of 2009 should be this image, discovered so fortuitously on New Year’s Eve and uploaded only a few minutes after midnight.
The following tune is presented here as well, and dedicated to Miss Angie in fond and grateful remembrance of all the times I have danced the cha-cha with her:
(Update: I now have it on umimpeachable authority that this photo is rated "AA" -- meaning that it is "Angie Approved." She has seen it, and she likes it! And that, in turn, means a great deal to me.)
(Second update: About a year after posting this image, I also posted a black and white version of it, which may be seen here.)