While rummaging through the photo section of a small bookstore in a small town, I came across a beautiful little personal project that made a big impact on me. The inspiring book was The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings, by American photographer Kaylynn Deveney. She was living in Wales when she met Mr. Hastings, the subject of her story, who was 85 when they met (and since passed away at the age of 91).
Kaylynn’s work is a reminder that there are great stories and subjects close by, and that it’s not necessary to travel across the world to find inspiring subject matter. She had to move from her comfort zone to initiate the meeting that would lead to her project and their book. She writes in her book, “At first I felt shy about introducing myself to Bert, but eventually I did walk over to meet him and he greeted me warmly.”
What results is a beautifully documented look at one man’s life through the simple, tender, and evocative photographs combined with Mr. Hastings’ artwork and captions. Through their collaborative efforts, we enter a private world of an elderly gentleman whose life makes us think about our own and those of our loved ones.
For 15 months in 2001–2002, Kaylynn would visit her neighbor three or four times a week, sometimes making pictures, sometimes not. Many of her photographs are of details: Mr. Hastings’ socks hung over his door on a hangar to dry; a broken daffodil rescued by a rubber band, which lets it stand up in a coffee mug.
“It’s tough to shoot in one room over a long period of time. You have to constantly be challenging yourself to see new details, notice nuances in the light and small mannerisms of his. It’s important to not stop looking,” she said.
As each page is turned you learn more about Bert’s home, personality, and life. By the end of the book, you really feel like you know him. Kaylynn uses her camera to shine the spotlight on an ordinary man with compassion and understanding, and perhaps she inspires the reader to make contact with people like Mr. Hastings who we know in our own lives.
If you want to see the power of words and photographs working together, take a look at Joel Sternfeld’s project On This Site. Sternfeld melds photojournalism with landscape and crime-scene photography as he goes to famous places where tragic events took place in America and re-photographs a rather ordinary scene. It’s only when you read the words and realize what happened on that site does the power of the project take hold. These innocuous-looking images take on a strong resonance, triggering your own remembrance of an iconic image or news story that emanated from that spot. A great project idea, well executed.