By the mention of Changing Faces I know some of you are reminiscing (if you are in that age bracket) about an R&B all female(?) group that laced the nineties with some of their widely appealing songs. Ok, I forgive you. I had chosen this title for this post before It occurred to me too. (I know I have easily given you a clue about my age too)
Well, it so happens that this music group has as much to do with this write-up as does playing an Elvis Presley song at a ten year old’s birthday today! I can see you keeling over in laughter.
Indeed a ten year old whom I shall call ‘K’was having his birthday and this post is about that story and not the music.
I recieved a late call to help cover ‘K’s birthday the previous evening and by now I knew next to nothing about the client, except the address of the venue.
By photog instinct I reckoned a high FPS SLR camera would be useful to catch kids in their own world and at some point a fast lens would also come in useful if the rare opportunity ever came to take relatively still shots up-close that could be used for portraits. You know children are hardly listless when we adults are already exhausted. By now I can hear you guessing my age. Well let me fill your imagination with more: I knew by now I would be doing a lot of kneeling and squatting to get really good shots that would capture the world through a ten year old’s eyes and my back was going to pay dearly for the exercise.
I arrived at the venue even before the client or their guests were present, studying the light situation in every part of the room. I opened my camera bag and my jaw dropped when I discovered I had only a 50mm prime lens and two camera bodies! Nooooo!
I cant go to desired wide angle with this!
When all those blessed little things start jumping all over it would be total disaster! Till this moment, it remains a mystery how I had swapped lenses into the wrong camera bags while getting ready to travel to the venue. Fortunately the ‘official. Photographer arrived shortly after and I teamed up with him and the rest as they say was a ”downhill ride”.
But when the official photographer pointed at the client’s family vehicle pulling up to the venue entrance I knew this was the opportunity to capture the celebrant’s expressions at the beauty of the venue, the decorations, cake and eagerly waiting friends.
Confined by my equipment selection error, I quickly trained my sights to frame through the viewfinder on the SLR now fitted with 50mm prime lens. I was cautiously aiming to capture his face as he came out of the car but it appeared he was looking downwards and just being led by his parents.
As they approached the entrance where I already knelt shutter-button ready, waiting to snap up the moment he looked up, it struck me, that as this was his birthday, there was no need telling him to look up and smile, or was there ? But since he wasnt, as soon as he got close enough, I called his name (I had been told his name) to try to cajole him to smile for the camera. He looked straight through my lens and his face changed. He parted his lips to form a smile, and I could tell immediately. – ‘K’ was special – meaning he had special needs as he suffered from muscular dysfunction that made him almost unable to prop his head up and form a straight smile. But he was so happy at they way I called his name, I knew I had touched a chord in his soul that would vibrate for long and kneeling down had paid off because at his eye level, he had looked into my camera with glimmer in his syes that could warm up anybody’s heart.
I knew then immediiately that his facial expressions though largely mixed because of his condition, could not hide the joy he was radiating.
As I lowered my camera for the first time after the first set of shots, I watched him hurry to be among his friends and pose for another picture. I reasoned that ‘K’ was well aware of the difference in his appearance. But seeing that it did not hide his. happiness made me think that in spite of it all I wouldnt change a thing about him for that singular moment I captured on camera. I saw the real him in spite of his rapidly changing facial expressions, knowing that he will grow into a fine gentleman and he will be happy.
So as I put the viewfinder up again I felt tears trying to come up, but held back. And that I did until the event ended…..
While many of us would rather trade our imperfections and if we were ‘K’, the real treasure is in who lies within….. No changing face can beat that!