This is a story of, yes, a spur of the moment 4×5 portrait session from my habitual morning visit to Angelina’s Cafe. I have a daily delicious scone baked with care by Chelsea. I have ridden the evolution of Chelsea’s scones from the first batch resembling blueberry pancakes through today’s flaky and succulent ones. The daily fix is washed down with a hand-poured coffee made by her husband Goodwin. Goodwin puts every ounce of his being into making a perfect cup of coffee. For me, this is good. Coffee is my drug of choice.
Before leaving home, the inner voice whispered “Take Chelsea’s portrait”. I have never taken a portrait before using a 4×5. Onto my fragile back went the 4×5 bag’s dead weight. I went to the cafe’s garden and set up my Toyo 45A and attached a Schneider 210mm lens. I metered the light and struggled to get good pre-focus using the retractable hood and a loupe, sans dark cloth. Chelsea is a new mother. I plucked a large hosta leaf and decided to use it as a symbol of new motherhood. The advance work was done.
I love Angelina’s Cafe. Some of my favorite images grace the walls, gathering dust. I enjoy talking to Lisa the owner and making small talk with other customers. When the crew needs ice, I fetch ice. When they need cool, I bring in fans. At this place the world’s stresses are beridden. I do crossword puzzles in the garden and have fallen asleep there in “my” chair several times. When I am in this cafe, I feel damned good. Cafes are my element.
I entered the place and wasted no time asking Chelsea if she would like to have her portrait taken. The prospect of a lens unmasking was unsettling and unexpected. Our friendship has bred trust and respect, and this fostered a resounding “let’s do it”. Out to the garden we went.
I confess to being nervous at go time. I am not well familiarized with the camera. I checked and double checked the meter readings and focus to avoid spoiling what for me was a special moment. 4×5 is a plodding process that my anxiety accelerated. Chelsea sat and I made a suggestion for a slight tip of the head and a serious demeanor. I positioned the coddled hosta leaf. It was time to press the shutter two times.
When the scanned negatives appeared on my screen I was overcome. I had made soulful imagery with special personal meaning. I added a small amount of warmth to the lower key image, giving a retro feel.
I lost a child to the flu virus in 2009. Chelsea has a beautiful newborn. The happiness in her and Goodwin’s eyes as they hold their beautiful child evokes memories of good times with Victoria. I know now, this is why I take pictures.
I hope you enjoyed this post. My imagery is shown on my blog Victoria’s Light, named in memory of my daughter.
Click here if so inclined: victoriaslight.blog
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