Hi, we're Hunter and Sarah, a husband-and-wife, luxury wedding photography team. We’re also educators, helping other photographers build profitable and sustainable photography businesses.
Last month, Sarah and I found a very unique photoshoot request in our inbox. It was a request for a portrait photoshoot, and the only details were: “We are 82 and 78. My husband Les has Parkinson’s and struggles with movement and facial expression.”
This was certainly not on par with our ordinary photoshoot request, but we were immediately intrigued. As we talked more with Judith and her husband Les, we became more and more excited for the photoshoot ahead of us. We had worked with second-career folks before on professional headshots and family sessions, but never an elderly couple by themselves.
In one email, Judith told us “Les has been an outdoors man, full of energy and life. This disease is a heart breaker. I want pictures that show our love for each other in a natural setting.” I’ll admit: were a bit worried about delivering on these requests, especially in light of Judith’s description of her husband. If he has trouble with facial expressions, how can we show love and affection? If he has trouble with movement, how can we be in nature?
But when we arrived at their home, we found that our worries had been for nothing! Although we certainly had to coax a natural smile out of him, when given the right prompting – namely his wife’s smiling face – he lit right up. And a short walk into their backyard proved plenty “natural”.
As we took photos of them first in their living room, then on the golf course that backs up to their yard, they told us stories about the adventures they’d been on. They told us about their dog Bailey and how badly he wanted to be in the photos. They told us about their trips to Africa and Europe and the Bering Sea. And they told us about the decades and decades that they’d spent together.
After the photoshoot, Sarah and I were so excited to look over the photos that we began retouching them the very next day. When we delivered them later that week, too excited to hold on to them for any longer, Judith said something to us that left us floored.
When she told us that the entire process was incredibly easy, we were pleased, but not necessarily surprised.
When she told us that the photos were everything she had hoped for and more we were flattered, but again, not shocked.
No, what left us speechless were four words she put at the end of her thank-you email: “Probably our last portraits.”
As newlyweds, processing our time with Judith and Les absolutely wrecked us emotionally. Being so young and so new to life together, it was impossible for us to imagine how they must be feeling. We’ve both lost family before and spent time in mourning, but we understood that nothing could compare to — after a lifetime together — having to process and live with the knowledge that all of this could soon be coming to an end.
Being professional photographers really is an incredibly special job. Although Judith and Les would be justified in spending their remaining time together in sadness, we were given an opportunity to enter into their life, however briefly, and turn their living room and their backyard into places of celebration — of their marriage and of their love for each other.
Sarah and I can only hope that when we’re in our late-seventies or early-eighties, that we still love each other (and look as good!) as Judith and Les do.