sometimes I hide my tears with my camera…

Excuse me, as I attempt to do justice to a story about someone I barely knew but who changed me for good. It’s been about eight months in the making; I’ve thought about this post and what I would say, over and over, yet every time I thought about sitting down to write it, I couldn’t. I continued to put it off because I feared I would not be able to write it well, and that may still be the case but if there is ever a day to do it, it is today.

My part of the story begins with an email from Victoria, the wife of Lorentho Stephen Wooden, two people who knew my mom but whom I did not. She wanted to set up a family session with herself, Stephen and their two sons. Typically, I would respond back with some dates that I was free, how much it would cost etc. but this family session was unlike any other, Stephen was dying of terminal cancer. It took me a few days to respond, not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I wanted to do it right. I proposed the idea of documenting their family like a “day in the life”, which is exactly what Victoria was thinking. She wanted photos of Stephen doing his many hobbies, so that one day when he was no longer here, they could look back and relive the memories of the things he loved to do. At this point in time, I had documented numerous weddings, babies and other very important and sometimes stressful milestones but nothing like this. I was scared to death of this assignment, but I knew it was something I had to do. Luckily for me, they welcomed me into their home and acted like it was just another day, except the fact that there was a photographer documenting it all.  My nervousness quickly faded away. Two months after I took their photos, Stephen passed away but on the day I was in their home, you would never have known it was going to be so soon.  He continued to fight until he couldn’t fight anymore. Today, many weeks later, he was finally laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

I used to say that I “documented the best things in life”, and that is still overall true but I guess I need to edit my own statement to “documenting life, the good and the bad” or something along those lines. I am fortunate to be able to take photos of so many huge and mostly happy milestones in people’s lives and to celebrate that happiness, right along with them. I am also fortunate that I get to do something I love as a job, instead of just a hobby. But I’ve realized that above all of that, I find even more happiness knowing my photos serve as a memory of who people were, at an exact moment in time, to those they never met or to those whose memories have faded.

What’s the moral of the story? I’m not even really sure and that’s probably why it’s taken me this long to write anything. I just wanted to share a small fraction of his life’s story. It was nice meeting you, Stephen.

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  • MRNot - Great story and impressive work. I’m sure this portfolio will be an enlightening and comforting package for long years..ReplyCancel

  • Damika Baker - beautiful, brittany!ReplyCancel

  • Carolyn Mabry-Martin - Our prayers for Victoria, Matt, Gaby, may you find peace and strength. To Ditzah, Vera,Deborah prayers for your peace. I’m grateful to have spent precious moments with Stephen. We were so proud of him and we’ll miss him much. I’m thankful for Gaby and Matt. My cousin lives in them. I will remember Stephen through them. God is in control and I;m blessed that HE gave me a chance to share Stephen.
    Rest in God’s hands and eternal peace, Stephen.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa Mitchell - Victoria,
    It was truly a pleasure being one of the many nurses that had the privilege of spending time and taking care of Mr. Wooden. The time spent with him was special. He was an extraordinary man. Toward the end of this life’s journey he had the strength and a fight in him that I will always admire. He was an awesome man.I thank God our paths crossed.ReplyCancel

  • Nakeisha Iheanacho - What powerful moments captured of Stephen and his family!!!
    The comments prior to the pictures were in my opinion essential to this work.
    Many blessings to this family, friends & co-workers…Stephen
    shall truly be missed by all.ReplyCancel

  • Benjamin F. Taylor - Thanks you so very much for sharing this work. I have known this family for a number of years since we were stationed to gether in Yokusuka. Our families shared aon anumber of occasions as my sone is friends with Matt and Gabriel. We have been welcomed into the Wooden home and have broken bread with them as they have been welcomed into our home. I was aware that Stephen was ill but not of the severity. I see now that as life has continued to happen, I in turn have lost the opportunity to share with someone whose friendship I cherished . I will never forgive myself for not reaching out. I will miss him. Thank you again for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Captain Tony & Kiyomi - This is truly special for Kiyomi and I. It is understood by seafarers that you can only get to really know someone when you share the trials and tribulations of the Sea, and all she presents. That is none less true for the times Stephen and his wonderful family “manned” the winches to hoist the sails, and when we tacked across the Magothy River and the mid-Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay will forever embrace the memory of Stephen

    I salute Stephen, Victoria, Matt, and Gaby.

    Captain Tony and KiyomiReplyCancel

  • Shelley Pasko - These photos made me catch my breath. My eyes are filled with tears that are simultaneously joyful and sorrowful.. Stephen was a blessing in our lives. The pictures document everything Stephen loved in his life and the people he cherished with every breath he took: his wife and is sons. He is sorely missed by all who had the pleasure to know him.ReplyCancel

  • Denise - Oh my…this is an awesome tribute to the Wooden family. I am speechless. Thank you for enriching our lives.ReplyCancel

  • Christopher Racek OSC(SW) USN Ret. - To the Wooden family, I knew and served with your husband and father in the early 1980’s onboard the USS Lockwood. He was an incredible example of what a man should be. He was cultured and gentle, his nickname was Lobo. As I look at these pictures I can see the man I knew and respected. I am sure he was a wonderful husband and father. These pictures are moving and I wish that I had maintained a connection with him. You have my sympathy.ReplyCancel

  • Brandan Thomas - Researching my old ship USS Lockwood and totally found out about Mr. Wooden’s passing by accident. I am very sorry to hear of his passing. He was one of the nicest guys on the ship. RIP and bless his widow and sons.ReplyCancel

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