Hands as portraits

This photograph of my mother-in-law snapping green beans on her 88th birthday, provides for a vignette photograph that speaks to her enjoyment of cooking.

This photograph of my mother-in-law snapping green beans on her 88th birthday, provides for a vignette photograph that speaks to her enjoyment of cooking.

When I was 16 years old, I was fortunate to have a part-time job working in the News Photo Department of the St. Petersburg Times. One Sunday afternoon it was particularly quiet so I took the opportunity to learn by studying photo contest entries from past years by some of the Times’ photographers.

I was nearly half-way though a waist high stack of 16″ x 20″ prints when I came across an entry from the late 1950’s of a business man’s hands signing documents. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Veteran Times’ photographer, Johnnie Evans, had captured my father’s hands and to me, they were as recognizable as any facial portrait of him would have been. And, like any good portrait should, Johnnie captured a bit about who my father was at that point in time.

After that silent lesson on a sluggish Sunday afternoon, I began to study hands and understand how they too have a way of speaking about the nature and character of people. On occasion I have had people balk when I’ve asked to make a photograph that includes their face, but I have never had anyone refuse my request to photograph their hands – yet.

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