Joyce Hackett

I had the biggest honor: a photography session with a lovely and zestful spirit; Joyce Hackett. At 95 years young, she was a divine pleasure to spend time with.

Our session was completely candid and unposed. I simply followed her around while she spent time in her garden. An avid gardener for most of her life, her only request was that I capture her amongst her beautiful pink roses that bring her such pleasure.

It is always hard to predict how people will act when you take their picture. To her credit, she was completely natural and unfazed, as if being the center of attention is an everyday occurrence to her. Yet to others in her independent senior living facility, she was seen as somewhat of a celebrity that day. Interested friends were watching as we strolled around with camera and reflector in tow, wondering what all the fuss was about. “I’m doing a shoot for Vogue” was the response. Indeed, maybe I was.

Joyce could easily be a super model. Take Iris Apfel from New York for example. The 94-year old designer-turned-super-model is fast becoming one of the fashion industry’s most sought-after models. Along with being the subject of a documentary and a book, Iris is causing a stir on the fashion scene. She has had front row seats to New York Fashion Week for several years and garners great respect. There is no reason Joyce cannot do the same thing.

A statuesque beauty at 5’9”, she exudes warmth and grace. I wanted to capture this essence in our time together. One of the challenges is taking pictures in bright sunlight when a subject wears glasses. The reflections can wreak havoc in post production, casting unwanted shadows that need substantial corrections. This was the case with our shoot, but in certain lighting, the effect wasn’t as intrusive as it can sometimes be.

Joyce liked her portrait so much, she had her granddaughter make her 11 prints so that she could share them with her friends. And I have since learned It is customary that when someone passes away at her retirement residence, that the staff puts up a photo and an obituary at the front desk. Joyce took a copy of her portrait to the staff and said, “When I pass away, please make sure you use this photo of me! I’m not planning on going any time soon, but I want to be prepared with a great photo”.

My heart overflowed with gratitude and humility at her kind words and it reminded me of the trust and vulnerability a subject unconsciously bestows on a photographer. This is a sacred privilege I do not take lightly.

I am looking forward to another shoot with Joyce where we have a bit more time to include hair, makeup and wardrobe changes. As Canada’s newest super model, she is going to need to practice.