Several years ago, in a congested New Jersey flea market, I spotted this visually fascinating woman sitting in the general dinning area and having a candid conversation with her husband and daughter.
I was walking by with one of my young nieces when the inspiration to photograph her overcame me. At the time I was sometimes shy about walking up to complete strangers with the hopes of gaining permission to take their photograph, it often felt a little intrusive and sometimes even a bit inappropriate; but the desire to interact with this woman and take her photo was intense. This feeling could not be ignored and I did not want to walk away without trying.
I remember feeling a knot in my stomach as I walked up to her and her family, with my little niece in hand, to ask if I could photograph her. She looked up at me with an inquisitive countenance as I explained that I had found her to be interesting and, if it was okay, would really like to take a photographic portrait of her. She laughed and cheerfully stated that she hoped that was “ a good thing”. Smiling and feeling a little more relaxed I assured her that it was.
What lured me to this woman was her vibrant energy. She was a shapely older woman wearing a dark black wig with thickly rouged cheeks and blacken eyebrows. Around her neck was a long string of costume pearls that went with her printed blouse and black knee-length skirt.
Most people could not pull off such a unique ensemble. It would appear on many as a desperate and comical attempt to hold onto their youth, but she had the panache to make it work. There was nothing comical or desperate about her. She had confidence and after briefly speaking with her it was obvious that she genuinely enjoyed her life. Her Husband, a character in his own right, was eager to point out that she was a “knock-out”.
I came to realize, because of her, that confidence and joy is the key to successfully being one’s genuine self at any stage in life.