A portrait

Had some fun today.

A bit of background: Many years ago when I worked for the local newspaper, I did a feature on a young artist and he grew up to be the art director of CARP, (it stands for Canadian Association of Retired Persons) a magazine for seniors. Somehow I got involved in a feature on accessible houses because I designed ours, was interviewed, and pictures taken. From there I’ve kept in touch with the senior editor, Jayne MacAuley, and she’s been keeping me and my work in mind for several years now.

The first attempt was a fashion shoot featuring clothes designed for people with disabilities. I am a size 16 and the designer makes her samples in size 5. That certainly wouldn’t work. I’m far too large and not the fashionista type. I love simple but elegant clothing, however I usually end up in slacks and shirt with open neck and cuffs turned up. I work and I guess I look like it. That’s fine. If anything was to be in the magazine I wanted it to be on what I’m all about, not clothing.

Julie and Paul

Then I received an e-mail last week from Julie Matus, the photo editor of Zoomer Canada, the transformed-by-Moses-Znaimer CARP magazine, wanting to know if I’d be available for a portrait shoot at my home this week. (Moses recently wrote an editorial on Universal Design that I love. He’s into it almost as much as I am.) The photo shoot was set for today. The feature is called 45 over 45 and I assume I’ll be with 44 other Canadians around my age who are doing something with their lives. I hope that’s what it is.

Around 1 p.m. Julie Matus and Paul Alexander arrived. Paul is a professional photographer who works all over the world but I didn’t know that until they left.

Paul spotted a beam of light coming through the skylight over my desk and that’s where we took the first of many shots. He takes a whole mess of pictures at one time and catches every move. One crazy joke and he had me.

I’d thought long and hard about what to wear. The photo won’t be used until October. I didn’t want to look all summery in a fall feature so I chose a crisp white Land’s End blouse and turned up the cuffs, a pair of dark brown slacks, my good old high brown leather boots, pearl earrings and my Rolex. That’s it. Less is more in my books. My very old, but still functioning, Fortress Scientific 2000 electric scooter with reflective red and white, stripped traffic stopping tape completed my ensemble. You gotta love it. I’ll bet no one has worn a scooter in a recent issue of Zoomer.

We also shot out in the backyard because they wanted a simple green background and then sideways beside our van with the side door open and the ramp showing. I think that one made an interesting design but I’d rather have a face-on shot with the article. I’m a face-on sort of person, I think. What they use is really all up to Julie.

I also screwed up the courage to asked Paul to take a shot of me with my good old CMT hands showing. They don’t look like normal hands but I’m certainly not ashamed of them. They write stories, working these keys like crazy, even though I can only type with the knuckles of my little fingers now. I just do a lot more editing, that’s all. They also let me connect with thousands of people around the world wanting to come to Niagara as tourists through my AccessibleNiagara.com website or asking questions about our mutual disease, CMT. I’d love a portrait that includes my hands but it never seems to happen. It seems people are ashamed of my hands for me. They are the people who don’t really know me. I’m not ashamed of anything about me. It is what it is. I’m playing the cards I’ve been dealt and I’m doing my best with my hands and legs, what little there is left of them. It’s not hard, it’s just life.

After two hours, Paul had what he needed, Julie agreed, and we said our goodbyes. I felt like I’d been massaged.  Even the sweaty air kisses were fun. There’s something about posing for a camera that makes me feel good. I must be a lot like my late father, Floyd Crabtree. Amongst other things, he played sax and clarinet and sang for the big bands… until they went out of style. He started out in black face in a minstrel show as a little kid likely around 1920. He would have been 5. He was never afraid of the limelight or an audience. My sister, Kathie, is an actress and has a singing voice to die for. Her husband is a successful muralist. One of my nieces is modeling while studying in NYC. Another very talented niece is majoring in stage design. I guess you could say we’re a pretty out-there family.

I Googled Paul Alexander and was bowled over. He’s photographed a list of celebrities as long as your arm including Viggo Mortensen, Isabella Rossellini, Samuel L. Jackson, Forest Whittaker, B.B. King, Christopher Plummer, Daisy Fuentes, Johnny Depp and Matt Damon and, I’m told he works for Italian Vogue as well. The companies he’s worked for are everyday names like Coca-Cola, Nike and M.A.C. What a life he must lead. I still can’t quite believe he was here.

An e-mail thanking him was answered tonight and he promised a signed portrait so I’ll have something very nice to remember this day by. Thanks Julie and Paul. It was truly special.