Guest Opinion: The power of a photograph

A photograph captures a moment in time, through light rays that shoot down like flower stems from the atmosphere. In just a click of a button, what was once transferred light through a systematic process, becomes a vivid image of which delicately displays a detailed journey.

As I position Charlie, a shelter guest, against the cold bricks which sit horizontally behind her broad structure, I can’t help but notice the sparkle in her eye. Her lips had been carefully painted with purple lipstick, something like the color of a plum picked directly from the orchard. Charlie’s black curly hair, waves effortlessly as the wind harshly glides through the air. Her skin has a hazel tint, conveying a warm and approachable energy — yet it has an obvious element suggesting she has seen the adversity that accompanies a life experience. Charlie’s excitement to be photographed is undeniable and quickly becomes infectious, as our smiles simultaneously grow larger and larger together. Her body language becomes eccentric, as she lifts her hands in the air creating her own art — purposefully positioning her arms in a symmetrical yet complex manner above her head.  She shrieks in laughter encouraging me to capture the moment before it fades. Not wanting to disappoint, I took her photo eagerly before she could move her arms back to the sides of her hips.

I take a moment to tell Charlie that a deep breath from both she and I, would be beneficial so that I could capture her face in an authentic manner, which would express just who she was, without anything extra. As we inhale together, we both exhale laughter — a moment of connection, of happiness, a moment that felt like it could last forever.  As time stood still, we could feel our problems float away like a dream, with that harshly gliding wind.  Who I was yesterday, or even five minutes ago, didn’t seem to matter. Who Charlie was, or where she had been, wasn’t of importance. What mattered was this moment- a period in time which felt special, unforgettable and felt of great significance. 

As I raised the camera towards my face, peering through the small glass square, I felt as if I was actually looking through a telescope, discovering something new for the first time. I wasn’t seeing Charlie the shelter guest; I was only seeing Charlie the woman. A vivacious, colorful, larger than life personality that spreads her love in ways that I’m not sure she even recognizes.

As reality begins to subtly set back in, and time becomes relevant and rapid again, I thank Charlie for showing me something new.  The moment Charlie and I shared was captured in a photograph and will forever act as an antidote for the power of connection.  It is simple to pass judgments, to see someone the way we want to see them- but what matters most are the moments we share with one another. To see the beauty someone has, to understand who they are- what they have been through and what they are capable of.  La Puente’s annual H.O.P.E Week, aims to do exactly that.  The Candle Light Vigil will take place Wednesday, September 26th, 6:30 p.m. at the shelter, located at 913 State Ave.  Walk with us as we celebrate those like Charlie, who have stories to tell, and endless potential to share with the world.


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