[mon-tahzh; French mawn-tazh] noun, plural montages 1.the technique of combining in a single composition pictorial elements from various sources, as parts of different photographs or fragments of printing, either to give the illusion that the elements belonged together originally or to allow each element to retain its separate identity as a means of adding interest or meaning to the composition.
Have a montage made of your life or someone you love using a few "favorite things."
Service Fee - $65.00 / hr (includes travel time in Durango) Final product can be print, wrapped in canvas or create an awesome puzzle. Puzzle prices apply
HOW IT BEGAN
When my dad passed away a few years ago, I was packing up his belongings - just placing everything in boxes to “deal” with later as I didn’t have the heart or courage to make important decisions like throwing away a lunchbox or donating old shirts.
When I came across all of my dad’s hats he loved and defined who he was, his hard hat when he was out on a constructions site, his baseball cap when he worked around the farm with the sheep, his straw cowboy hat to run into town on errands, or his nice cowboy hat for Sunday morning church, I couldn’t put them away. They sat around the house for a good year.
I was taking a walk along the fence post of my dad’s farm one day, and it hit me what a cool photo it would be to place all of his hats on the fence and photograph a beautiful image of the hats with his farm and sunrise as a backdrop – a sunrise he always enjoyed. What a beautiful way to honor who he was in his lifetime with some of his “favorite things.”
The hundreds of photos did not turn out at all what I envisioned, so I set it aside. An opportunity came up at work for me later that year to create something beautiful for an annual event held to raise money for hospice.
I had an idea of having hospice patient’s lives photographed by taking an artistic approach of some kind but it was going to be tricky how to obtain such photos. Then my dad’s project hit me. How wonderful it would be to talk to families who had had a family member in hospice and to tell their story with a montage of a few of their favorite things. Items cherished over the years because they were more than a thing but a memory or experience.
I enthusiastically got to work and with the help of some dear friends, I created a montage for their loved one. I wanted to start with my dad’s story using his hats. But after weeks of frustration, I needed to move on to someone else’s awesome story.
My first subject I worked on was a montage of a woman, Izzy, who had had such a full, interesting, and beautiful life. Working with her daughter, Ulys, was such a joy as we went through her mom’s very special items. Izzy was a sophisticated woman growing up in a time when being a socialite meant dressing to the hilt with hats, dinner gloves, gorgeous tailored clothing. Ulys took me through her life with photos, her journals, her interests, and all of her treasures. I listened and took in all of the great stories about her. By the time the project was over, I felt I knew this woman well and was charmed by the life she lived.
When the time to work on the next montage of a man named Fred who I had known for years, I became energized in a different way. I knew his daughter, Jana, and Fred was still living with Alzheimer’s at the ripe old age of 97. Fred had only been diagnosed with the disease a few years before, but up until that time, he was the epitome of youth and life in our community. He lived on his own, he drove well into his 80’s, he was active in social events, he drove out to the hospital to work out every morning, he was funny, smart, and kind.
Jana did not have a lot of his material items for me to photograph so we took a different route. She had photos. She also knew the location of a desk he had owned and had played on since he was two that sat at his parent’s store they owned in the early 1920’s. I found the handsome roll top desk and decided to digitally place photos of Fred on top of it. His passion in life was gardening, and Jana still held on to his gardening hat that I lovingly tossed over the corner of the chair. I had the privilege to visit Fred at the nursing home he was currently residing in and take a current photo of him wearing his favorite hat. I walked over to the couch he was sitting on, and I said, “Hi Fred, it’s Joy. We’ve met before. I came to take your picture if that’s okay.” As he was staring straight ahead at first, he turned his head toward me, smiled his little ornery grin, and said, “Everybody is always wanting my picture.” I laughed because Fred was indeed frequently photographed in the newspaper for all of his accomplishments. As I left that day, I had mixed emotions. He had lived such an amazing purpose filled life, and up until a few years earlier, he was healthy in mind body and spirit. But I knew we would all be saying good bye to Fred forever someday soon and that is always the ultimate loss.
I finally went back to my Dad’s project, and although that was the most personal and emotional one for me, with enormous help from my son, Tyler, I let go of the one idea I had with just the hats and added a few other items that were more about who he was as a man. He wore a medal of the Mother of Guadalupe around his neck his entire life. It was given to him by his Mom, Lucia, the day he went off to WWII at the age of 18. A couple of years before my dad passed away, we were standing in his kitchen and he took it off his neck and told me he wanted me to have it. I was honored and scared over such a responsibility. He wore it through a war and his entire life after. I have the memory growing up of my Dad kneeling down before bed every single night, saying a short prayer in Spanish, making the sign of the cross, and kissing the medal. That had to be part of the photo. I gathered his old boots which are more awesome than any of his new ones, his old jean jacket he wore everywhere for years, some items around the farm because he loved his sheep and property with his whole heart. Then I remembered a photo my sister had taken when he bought the property of his silhouette drinking a soda - maybe a beer. Back in the day of film, it never developed correctly, but it actually turned out to be quite creative. I held on to it for years. It was perfect to incorporate in some way which I did. I scattered some photos, I cried a lot, and there it was.
My next montage was one that I will hold in my heart in a special way forever. Samantha, “Sam,” was a young, vibrant, athletic, beautiful talented 16 year old who lost her life to cancer. Although her family lost her many years ago, I was hesitant to make that call. But I did because I knew her dad professionally, and I remembered a story in the paper I had read about her that touched me so much it never left me. I wanted the opportunity to tell her story. The day I made the call, I was as gentle as I could be. I kept it short, to the point, followed by an immediate, “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea and please forgive me for bothering you or upsetting you in any way and I’m going to let you go now.” Then I heard a deep breath and a kind response. Her dad was interested and wanted to hear more. That montage took me on an emotional journey of a lifetime. I learned a lot from this young woman as I can only hope many people did. It was quite a process for her dad too as I was opening up old wounds that had healed somewhat over the years. I wanted to copy the journal entry she had posted on Facebook which was extremely profound. I wanted to also photograph some of her journals, not with the intention of opening them but as a symbolic gesture - just to photograph one because she was a beautiful writer with words of great profound wisdom. He willingly went to her room, where he had told me he had not been in years, to obtain some items that were Sam.
The day I went to pick the items up, I met him at his home office. He was a chiropractor and had a very large registration desk. He had a client that day, so he had placed Sam’s box of items behind the desk waiting for me to pick up. He told me of a conversation that day when the client came in and was on the table, and although they had not spoken of Sam for many years, said out of the blue how she felt Sam’s presence. I stood still not knowing what to say but looking into this Dad's eyes who lovingly considered the spirit of his little girl.
Many of the items in Sam’s montage were not only about "things" she loved like her shoes representing her love of sports, but also about her fight against cancer. Sam and her Dad fought a courageous fight. Dr. Dan and Sam traveled to other countries looking for a cure which is why the passport is there. But the depth of a parent’s love was when he showed me the feathers that were given to Sam when he took her to a Shaman to be healed. More than anything I wanted those few words written by Sam to be showcased in a meaningful way. The wisdom, and the love, and the light she shared, and if she touched just one person to make their life the best it could be, was indeed powerful.
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