A Tale of Reunion - Father & Daughter - Portrait Photo Shoot

A tale of reunion between father & daughter

When we talk about living our ‘best life’ we tend to throw affirmations around like confetti. Whenwe stop to think about what ‘living life to the fullest’ truly means, I wonder how many of us can say we dived off the deep end to discover it for ourselves? For 83 year old Jim, a keen intelligence and pure gumption lead him to take a leap of faith, grab life by the horns and ride off into a proverbial sunrise of adventures that traversed land and sea. When Jim & his daughter Shannon spent their session together in our studio, there was one particular page amongst these great tales that unfolded to reveal the pivotal journey of a father and a daughter who started life together, walked apart for some time and have come back to eachother to walk side by side again.
This tale begins with a part of us that is often lost to history, yet plays a significant part in shaping it. Our hands. Jim’s hands in particular. Jim’s hands are like great catchers mitts, huge, lined, with club like fingers that are surprisingly dexterous and even more astonishingly, soft to hold. It is these hands that Shannon remembers kneading dough when she was a little girl. She recalls Jim’s hands holding freshly baked bread which she would claim pieces of if she ran past quick enough. It is these hands that she remembers holding her tiny ones as they walked along the beach at Wilson’s Promontory in the last photographed memory of them together before today. It is these hands, with their creativity and dexterity that would take Jim to Antarctica, twice, it is these hands that would save a life, and it would be these hands that would reunite them.

Jim grew up in rural Victoria during the post war depression era. Life was tough at the time and any expectations for his future were fairly limited to working on the farm as soon as he was of age. While Jim had a great love of the outdoors, he was also creative, clever and loved to cook. He dreamed of being a chef, an occupation not particularly well supported at the time. For years he toiled until he spied a job advertised for a chef to cook abroad in Antarctica, of all places. With no formal training, Jim applied for the role, studied as much as he could and practiced in his tiny kitchen at home. He was interviewed, offered the role and suddenly found himself to be a gourmet chef in an icy wilderness far from home.

Jim spent 3 years working as a chef in Antarctica when limited resources and extreme conditions caused a bout of gastritis to overcome the medical staff at the compound. During which, the head surgeon contracted appendicitis, the assisting surgeon was too sick to operate and the anaesthetist was down as well. Jim, the total go getter that he is, stepped in, took a crash course in anaesthetics and helped save the surgeons life. Jim has numerous stories like this, extraordinary events that are simply astonishing, often hilarious and incredible to recount.
In the years following his separation with Shannon’s mother, Jim lived with an indigenous tribe, became a boxer and a body builder at 50, worked as a carpenter amongst other things, cheffing all the while. Jim recently battled cancer and won, he claims it was the 15eggs he ate a day, a habit of body building, the protein helping him stay fit. He has a sense of humour that could crack a mirror and a resilience impervious to any proverbial storm. Of course, when Shannon & Jim came together for their photographic session, the emotion of the moment was something new and incredibly unique to them. It was at their design, during their viewing, that Jim, not one to cry, became undone.

Following his divorce, Jim abruptly disappeared and Shannon didn’t see him again until she was 21. She adored her father, his absence broke her heart and she grieved deeply for many years. She recalls the photograph she had of them walking along the beach with their backs to the camera. It was clear their steps were in perfect unison, her hand in his and yet, between them there was an ominous space. She would look at this photograph, see their separation and pray
for him to come home.

Many years later, he did eventually return, but it would take some time for the two to truly reconnect. At his mother’s funeral, she held his hand and the memory of holding his hands as a little girl flooded back to her. In that moment, no time had passed. She was still that little girl and he was still her father. She felt safe, she felt loved and she felt as though he was home.

During their shoot together, they held each other’s hands, his dwarfing hers, slender, sleek and bejewelled. She realised family isn’t blood, family is the people you choose to to have in your life and her father is an old friend. She sees so much of herself in him, they both possess a cracking wit, their personal resilience would see them attempt anything and succeed, their work ethic is unparalleled.

They laugh and talk on the phone for hours, take long drives together and barely stop to catch a breath. They are so similar, they fit so well together, it’s as though no time has passed. Holding his hands and embracing eachother in that moment she came full circle.

Viewing their imagery, together, at long last, this was their tale to tell. Shannon knows her journey with her father is nearer to its natural conclusion than its early beginnings and these memories, made in their Verve session together, are a celebration of their reunion and a legacy left to them. Hanging in her home now is a large feature 30”x40” portrait in high contrast black and white, an image selected from their session of Jim’s incredible face. The piece is large enough to resemble what it might be like looking at such a man from the height of a small girl, the details characterised as larger than life. Every line, every shadow and every emotion visible and tangible, this was her customised design, so that the memory of her father, lost to her for so long, is now home to stay.
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