A Declaration of Hope

Yuliya Rae Seattle PNW Portrait Outdoor Photographer

I looked around the beautiful garden that was so clearly loved and tended to for many years and noticed a striking shaft of light paving its way across the grass. Grabbing an old, slightly rusty metal chair I put it directly in the path of light and asked Melanie to sit down. Her brown curls were instantly illuminated by the warm, orange rays. The sun wrapped around her like a blanket, warm and golden. Looking at her backlit, glowing, luminous, I asked her to look at her house and think about her beloved husband and the amazing life they had together. To relish in their glorious love, in their memories, despite the fact that the house was soon to be torn down and that the love of her life suddenly passed away ten months ago. She paused, closed her eyes and cried for a few moments. My heart reached out to Melanie and I was just there, present, supportive with my spirit as much as my silence. She wiped her eyes, lifted her chin high and looked at the house again. That’s when I clicked the shutter.

People ask me why I love certain shots more than others. They may not be technically perfect, they be off composition-wise. But the shots that I love are the ones that not only transport me to an emotional moment during a photosession but also continue to evoke emotion long after the shot has been captured.

I loved getting to know Melanie and her story. I loved hearing her talk about her late husband. There was so much love and kindness in her words and memories, there was reverence in her touch when she showed me his artwork in their home. I was a witness to incredible love, even if one person was missing from the equation.

Seeing the incredible life that Melanie and Charles had both elated and broke me. It made me feel gratitude on their behalf, thanking providence, universe or whatever is out there for the time they had together. But it broke my heart on behalf of Melanie and what she must be going through.

This session was both a tribute and a declaration of hope. A tribute to her wonderful husband who tended to the garden and planted tulips and an azalea tree. To the garden that brought them together and let them enjoy each other’s company and solidify their bond. To the bench that was there to support them during lovely spring days when the lilacs were in bloom. This garden was a living testament to their love. It deserved to be captured in photos, commemorated, made sacred.

And this session was also about declaring hope that life will go on, things will move, change, evolve, but that we will always find a path to follow and make our own. Even if it’s not the path we thought our feet would step on.

Melanie is declaring hope and as a human, as a woman, as a wife, as a photographer, I was honored to be there to capture her lifting her chin and looking towards the future.

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