Vashon Community Care residents are focus of photography show

Shirley Boardman was one of 70 Vashon Community Care residents who participated in a recent photo shot. - Kathleen Webster
Shirley Boardman was one of 70 Vashon Community Care residents who participated in a recent photo shot.
— image credit: Kathleen Webster

The faces of Vashon Community Care’s residents will grace the hallways at the center when the photography show “Perfectly Aged: Faces of Vashon” opens during the gallery walk on Friday.

The more than 70 photographs — intimate, warm, contemplative and joyful — mark the culmination of considerable effort and skill on the part of three professional Island photographers, several care center staff and a bevy of volunteers.

“It is powerful and awe-inspiring to see these photographs,” said Naomi Goldick, a social worker at the care center. “The portraits capture the essence of strength and beauty that can be found in all of us.”

Goldick dreamed up this show last fall after she heard something in the news about beauty contests, young women and photography.

“I thought, ‘Why is it always the younger, the better? There is so much beauty in the people I work with,’” she recalled.

Within two weeks, the show was in the works, with Island photographers Rick Dahms, Rebecca Douglas and Kathleen Webster agreeing to go to the care center on Nov. 3 for what was billed as a “Day of Beauty” and photograph all the residents who wanted to participate. About 60 residents joined in.

“The day was really fun,” Dahms said. “It felt more like a picnic.”

Adding to the festive atmosphere were volunteers Indigo Lewis and Joan Webster, Kathleen Webster’s mother, who helped with props, hair and makeup.

Rebecca Douglas has photographed people across the age spectrum and said she thought it might be a challenge to draw the residents out and capture their essence.

That turned out not to be the case, she said.

“The residents were just so happy and flattered,” Douglas said. “We don’t think we are beautiful at that age, but we really are.”

Webster, too, found the residents were enthused and made the all-day event easy, although the photographers shot one resident right after the other much of the day.

For Goldick, what the event brought forth in people was reward enough.

“The day of the shoot people who may not think of themselves as beautiful or who may not say a lot for whatever reason came alive for the cameras,” Goldick said.

While they were working, the photographers sometimes put their cameras inches away from a resident’s face, creating evocative images.

“I think it is really important that people see these faces and see the wisdom of the years coming through,” Webster said.

Each photographer chose the final photos for the residents, though doing so was often difficult, and Goldick sometimes weighed in.

“When you are talking to people and taking their picture, you’re visiting a lot of places,” Dahms said. Different emotions — and different parts of the person — express themselves as the stories change, and the photographs capture that, making it challenging to choose just one image.

Indeed, some of the residents have more than one photograph in the show, and at Christmas time — as per Goldick’s original vision — VCC gave the residents and their families four-by-six-inch framed photos from the shoot. Goldick called those gifts “mantle” pictures and noted they were not always the same as the ones chosen for the show.

Island photographer and VCC volunteer Chris Beck had not been able to attend the Day of Beauty as a photographer, and as her gift to the project, she produced the 120 prints at Christmas and the photos for the show as well.

Ray Pfortner, known to many Islanders for his landscape photography, donated his time and skill and hung each photograph.

Looking forward, VCC staff hopes to keep the art of photography alive and is applying for a grant to purchase digital cameras and host an intergenerational photography class and show.

But for now, the photos of “Perfectly Aged” will hang for the month of February.

“I hope everyone comes,” Goldick said.

Webster, whose father was cared for at the center at the end of his life, said she hopes the photographs she took express something about VCC and the work that happens there. And she hopes her photos reveal the participants’ hearts.

“They’re pretty beautiful,” she said.

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