Recently, I asked for people to come to me to be photographed if they were over 70 years of age.
Meet Alison. She is 80, born in the South Island NZ town of Hokitika in 1935 to parents of Scottish descent. The youngest of 3 children, she attended a Maori School in Minganui, a Convent, Boarding School and finally College before departing New Zealand at 18. She travelled to Sydney on the MS Wanganella. It was built in Belfast by the same people who built The Titanic - luckily it stayed afloat for much longer.
Alison's life has been interesting and she has some solid advice for all of us so make sure you read until the very end.
Her first job in 1956 in Australia was as a "Ground Hostie" with QANTAS and then relocated to Darwin during the Olympic Games. As part of her job, Alison headed to Singapore and with it the Raffles Hotel and the notorious Boogie (Bugis) Street. It was the 1950's, and this area was a haven for Transvestites who would rendezvous with tourists and Sailors. Alison stared in fascination as she had no idea what a Transvestite was up until that point.
Back to Australia and then onto Fiji where she met her Welsh husband, Selwyn. He was a Pilot for QANTAS after flying Mitchell Bombers over Europe during World War II. They fell in love and travelled onto San Francisco before heading back to Sydney.
Wedding bells rang for them in Taumarunui, on NZ's North Island. The travel bug hit again and they headed back to Sydney to build a home on the Northern Beaches. Two children followed. The first, Ross, in 1963 and Katrina in 1967. In between births, they lived in San Francisco and New York with a few months in Europe before heading back to Sydney via Tehran. The Shah was still on the throne and it was a pretty dangerous place to be.
Eventually, Selwyn retired and Alison took a job at the Royal North Shore Hospital - working for the Diabetes Education Programme. Regardless of all the incredible travel with her work and husband, her greatest achievement was the birth of her two children. Life was good.
Then along came 1985. Selwyn passed away suddenly and with that, came the inevitable shock and confusion when your life changes in a heart beat. 1986 was no kinder as Alison's mother also died. As we all know, it comes in threes. Her father died a year later in 1987.
That's tough, but life was about to get tougher with her own battle.
In 2007, Alison was diagnosed with cancer in her left breast and after a lumpectomy and radiation, all appeared to be fine. Then in 2010, it all came back. This time, behind the right nipple. She made the decision to have both breasts removed as, in her own words, "she no longer needed them".
What I noticed about Alison was that she is a very beautiful and elegant woman. When I photograph people and animals, I talk of capturing their beauty through my lens. Beauty is not about being pretty as pretty is a fickle thing, often with little substance or lasting qualities. I've noticed that pretty doesn't even show up well in photographs. However, beauty is the light that shines from within all living beings and the natural world. It is eternal and indestructible. Sometimes it's hard to see but if you take the time to observe and be still then you will see it in everything around you.
Alison's light is very apparent. Her energy is fun and strong. She reminded me very much of my late mother-in-law, also a New Zealander.
I asked how she coped with losing 3 of the closest people in her life in succession and then dealing with a double cancer diagnosis. Her answer was simple. She said it was the love and support of her friends, family, colleagues and also the love and companionship of her dogs. Alison also believes in giving 100%, whether that be in her career or for family and friends.
I believe Alison's robust attitude to life also saved her. She looks forward, regardless of the weather, to her daily 5:00am ocean pool swim whilst her beloved dog, Missy, looks on. She feels gratitude every day as she watches the sunrise. She's already dusted off the cobwebs and kissed Mother Nature whilst the rest of us are still in the Land of Nod.
At the end of the day, it's up to us to make the very best of what we have and they do say that our time here is the "School of Hard Knocks". But it's still a wonderful life.
If you are looking for a Portrait Photographer on the Northern Beaches to capture your Mum, Dad or family including your pets for all time, then please call Jane Earle on 0434 549 372 to discuss your requirements. One life. Capture it. Remember it.
Love and Light
Jane Earle Photography