Friday, December 18, 2009


I went to a nursing home yesterday, for a story, on caroling. I made the stupid mistake of suggesting Christmas caroling to my editor, I was thinking more about spontaneous caroling, you know, at night with hot toddies and smoke breaks. That'd be fun to photograph, interview, participate in.
Caroling in nursing homes, that is my subject. I hate nursing homes. They smell like applesauce and pee. There is a hovering cloud of pure sadness that visitors can leave behind; residents can't shake it. So, I am in a nursing home, working through a crowd of about 40 people in wheelchairs, trying to chat with the ones who aren't deaf or drooling, knocking my ankles on their feet sticking awkwardly out of the metal traps of the wheelchairs. My mood was disintegrating quickly.
Then the 50-member middle school chorus came in. They sang with mild disinterest, the boys had their hand in their baggy pockets, the girls over-compensated by each trying to be Kelly Clarkson. It was a good hour of singing before the kids left. The residents seemed numb. I tried to get that one shot, you know, the political pamphlet shot where a child takes an elderly woman's hand and wishes her a merry christmas and light shines on both of them.
The shot I got was the awkward faces of preteens finishing up a song set and an old lady's face in the foreground, head bowed a little. She looks like she is sleeping but if you zoom in, which I did, she is crying.
That's the shot I got. Sometimes honesty is too honest.

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