5280 has been Denver's magazine since 1993. They are a classic Denver read with all the best angles on anything happening in the Mile High.
I spoke at an event last fall, and one of the women in attendance is married to the Senior Staff Writer at 5280. Kristen began following my blog, and when my world ruptured, she shared my story with her husband, Robert Sanchez. Robert contacted me last summer to ask if he could tell our story in the magazine. We have met many times over the last six months, he has studied our family with discretion and integrity, and the December issue of the magazine will feature his words. This has been a 100% positive experience from beginning to end, and I have been honored to work with Robert and his team. They give journalism a great name.
I met this week with 5280's photographer, Jeff Panis. We met at Starbucks for our first impressions, and we talked over coffee and a banana. He said I was a brave woman. He said he had read my story. He said I have a radiant smile. He said the photos would be easy and fun. He raised his coffee cup to life for the living, a mom who gets out of bed because she loves her kids, and a husband who would be proud to see the three of them moving forward, one step at a time.
He diffused my every apprehension.
He asked if I felt comfortable to offer my home as the site for the photo shoot.
My first thought: The sink is filled with dishes, there is a layer of dust on virtually everything, and I haven't run the vacuum since June.
My second thought: If I'm going to tell this story, I'm going to tell the truth. I don't have my act together. My house is loved and lived in.
"Let's do it."
We reconvened in my living room ten minutes later, and I made a quick sweep of the toys and string cheese wrappers from the living room floor before I opened the front door.
Jeff chatted with me as he filled my living room with contraptions and equipment similar to Richard Haney's flight of the balloon boy. He tested the lighting, the angles, the exposure. He said photography is 90% preparation and 10% execution, so he had much to do before he really needed me at all.
He asked if he could slip upstairs into the loft to add the lighting that would shine into the stairwell where I would sit for the photos. (Sure, if you don't mind stepping over the piles of yesterday's unfinished laundry.) While he was upstairs, I gathered the flip-flops, wayward socks, magazines, and washcloths that were strewn on the stairs; I piled them all on the coffee table.
(It's a good thing I never claimed to win any Good Housekeeping Awards. Otherwise I might have been nervous. The good news is when you live the truth, you have no lies to remember.)
When he gave me the thumbs up, I took my place in the setting he had in mind: a casual posture on the carpeted steps, my elbows on my knees, my hands relaxed, and my face looking straight into the lens.
Here's the thing. In family portraits, you want to present your best color scheme and keep everyone still long enough for the shutter to click.
In personal portraits, you want your best smile, your chin up, your eyes engaged, and your best you.
In this article, they seek to capture the authentic me, the genuine posture and heart of a girl whose husband died ten months ago. I'm not down for the count, but neither am I ready to lead a parade.
It took me a while to find my groove, to find myself.
Jeff snapped a dozen pictures, and then he sat down next to me to show me the digital thumbnails.
The lighting was excellent, the angle was smart, and he somehow avoided the smudgy fingerprints on the railing and the crumbs on the carpet. But as I looked at my face on his screen, I was distracted by what he captured.
My eyes were overwhelmingly sad. I've never seen that girl in a picture before.
He said, "I don't think I've found you yet."
"No, I don't think that's really me." And yet, I don't know how to change the spirit of my eyes any more than I know how to change the length of my nose.
"Let's keep trying, Tricia. We'll find you."
Round two. I kept smiling too much or not enough. I wasn't real. I wasn't me.
He looked at me over the camera. "Where is the confident girl? I know she's in there."
Interesting you should ask. I've been looking for her for months.
He was patient. My heart cannot be rushed.
"Look at me," he said. Click.
"Now show me the smile I saw when I walked into Starbucks." Click.
"Now ease it back a bit." Click.
"Now give me that small smile." Click.
"Yes. That's it. That girl right there." Click, click, click. Click.
Two dozen shots later, he sat down next to me again. "Look, Tricia. Look at this one. See?" He beamed with the contentment of sought out discovery.
Photo by Jeff Panis
It was me. Quiet, reserved, casual. Gentle smile with a subtle light in my eyes.
I contend that the algorithm of photography is 90% science and 10% art. But that 10% holds the heart. Without that, it's only a snapshot.
If you're near a newsstand, please pick up a copy of 5280 magazine. It's a tremendous publication, from start to finish.