I’ve been spending a chunk of my time lately cleaning out my grandmother’s apartment — she’s 98, and moving herself into a health care facility. I am so lucky to still have her, and thought I knew everything about her, until I started this project. You really get a fuller picture of a person when you see what treasures they tuck into the corners of their bureau drawers and linen closets. As much as I hate the process — I really don’t like sorting, organizing and packing — I’m really grateful for the chance to get to know this fascinating woman even better.
My friend Jim Coutre had a similar opportunity, when he recently did a photography project for Concord Park. See, Concord Park, the independent and assisted living facility behind the West Concord train depot, is getting ready to celebrate its 10-year anniversary. Meg Gaudet, the Social Program Director over at Concord Park had this idea to commemorate the event with portraits of the seniors living there. Just as we do for our graduating high school seniors, this would be an opportunity to honor seniors at a different stage of life.
Meg approached Jim and asked if he would take on the project, and he whole-heartedly agreed. Jim takes a different approach to portraiture: he likes to do it in the environment where the subject is most comfortable, usually their home. So of course he went over to Concord Park, where they have a lovely parlor and an outdoor patio and gazebo, nice settings for beautiful photos. And he takes a lot of time with people, making them feel at ease, so they can really shine in their photos.
Jim told me that, at first, people were reluctant to be photographed — this is not a generation that toots its own horn. In fact, as he chatted with his subjects, they talked about their kids, their grandkids, other people important to them — anything but themselves.
But once he got a few subjects, and people started to see how beautiful these portraits were, others began clamoring to be included. The door began to open for a glimpse into the interesting lives these people had all led, and the wonderful and amazing ways they have contributed. I think it’s important to hear these stories, to know that these people weren’t always at this end of their lives, but were once vibrant young people ready to change the world. One of his subjects was a professional women’s tennis player, another a concert musician. All of them have led interesting lives.
A number of these portraits are currently hanging at the in West Concord, where everyone can see and enjoy them. Different portraits will rotate through regularly, and Jim is looking to see if other venues will display them as well. In September, when Concord Park hosts their 10th anniversary celebration, the portraits will hang in the recreation room, where the subjects and their families can ooh and aah over them.
If you find yourself in West Concord, stop by and take a look. Many of these people are lifelong Concord residents, and you may recognize some of them. You can also stop by Concord Park and see one of several collages of both the portraits and some other photos of the residents playing cards, playing instruments, and in general, enjoying their lives.
It’s really a lovely thing to see.
Family and other photos
If you haven’t stopped by the you have one more day: Jim Coutre’s exhibit of family and environmental photos comes down tomorrow, Aug 31, and they are exquisite. I especially love the vibrant colors of his photos of the southwest. Really, if you have a minute, stop in and take a look; you won’t be sorry.
A few days ago, I talked about kid activities, and how some kids play sports and others do theater. Of course, there are plenty of other kinds of activities for your kids, with just one of these being music. Specifically, learning to play a musical instrument. So for those of you who have children who are musically inclined, or who would like to be, you may want to check out the open house at Concord Conservatory.
It’s happening tomorrow afternoon, from 4-7 p.m., at the at 1317 Main Street. It’s a great opportunity to see the different instruments, meet the teachers, and learn about the different classes. Oh, and they also have voice programs — it’s an instrument too, you know.
Their website has all the details, but check it out quick, because the open house is tomorrow, and you don’t want to miss it. You can also call (978) 369-0010 or email info@ConcordConservatory.org if you need more info.