A documentary family photography session need not be only a mom, dad, and their young children. A family is how you decide to define family, and that shapes your session. Recently I had the honor of spending a morning photographing a wonderful man, Tom and his son Cliff. Meet Tom, who is 91-years-young.
It was wonderful getting to know this gentleman, who has lived a very full and interesting life. Tom is the father of five children, grandfather to 13, and great-grandfather to 11 little ones. Sadly, after 50 years of marriage, his wife Bea died 11 years ago.
A retired engineer, Tom has always been a hands-on type of guy, taking care of repairs around his house and working on his car and lawnmowers. Woodworking has also been a long time hobby. In addition to making the cabinets in his kitchen, Tom made many high chairs for his grandchildren and two grandfather clocks. To help keep his mind sharp, Tom does the crossword puzzle in the daily newspaper. He is also an avid gardener and until recently, canned many of the vegetables that he grew. According to his daughter-in-law, Barbara he made "the most amazing spaghetti sauce." Admittedly, since he had to stop driving, Tom has had to give up a few of his activities outside of his home including square dancing and volunteering for Meals On Wheels. Still, I was in awe of his energy and quick mind and was touched by his kind smile and gentle demeanor.
On the morning that I met Tom, his son Cliff was visiting from Massachusetts. When I arrived, Cliff greeted me at the front of the house and led me to the backyard where I found Tom hanging his laundry.
Tom greeted me warmly and after finishing the laundry was happy to show me around his lovely home and yard. Our first stop was the basement where he proudly showed me where his grandchildren and great-grandchildren had written their names on the wooden beams.
He then leads me to his workshop, where in addition to those highchairs and clocks, a lifetime of projects was lovingly created and many a broken thing was fixed.
Tom then invited me upstairs to the living room to see one of the two grandfather clocks that he made.
I also learned a little bit about his lovely wife Bea, who was a nurse and a talented quilt maker.
Tom showing me a framed photo of Bea and her quilts.
We then headed to the backyard where Tom was happy to share one of his other favorite places, his garage. He ruefully smiled as he looked at no less than five lawnmowers in various stages of being repaired. "None of them work!" he told me. "Maybe someday," he added.
We then made a quick stop to admire his vegetable garden, filled with several varieties of beautiful red and yellow tomatoes, split and bursting with ripeness.
Tom then headed to join Cliff who was busy replacing a set of wooden doors that cover the steps leading to the basement. Not for a minute did I think Tom would pull up a chair and watch from the back porch. He did exactly as I expected he would. He grabbed his tools and worked side-by-side with his son. They cut wood, measured, hammered nails, talked and adjusted their project plan along the way.
Finally, when the new doors were in place, Tom did the final inspection, checking that everything was in alignment and that the hinges were tight and secure. He smiled at Cliff, giving his approval as if to say, 'That will do nicely.'
It was then time for me to leave. I won't soon forget Tom. A true inspiration in so many ways. Thank you, Tom and Cliff, for a truly memorable session.
To see more images from my time with Tom and Cliff, please visit my website, katebuckleyphotography.com and the gallery Tom and His Son Cliff.