Photographers have fallen in love with the evening light at Koreshan State Historic Park. I have discovered how they flock, like birds, toward the buttery, golden light that precedes the weekend sunsets. Some of them are like detectives attempting to find just the perfect slant of light, others are on a reconnaissance mission to stake a claim to a spot where they know the shadows will be most dramatic at some future moment.
They are setting the stage for the arrival of their subjects: families entrusting the capture of a memory to the professional picture makers. From inside the Art Hall, where I volunteer, I have a unique perspective on the drama that unfolds. The front porch of the 1905 building is apparently a favorite setting and from my anonymous vantage point, I get to look out on the world seeing the families from the back as they gather and pose, like actors on a stage. And I wonder, “who are these people and what is their story?’
There was a young couple with three children. Dad was pulling a little red wagon which was loaded with wrapped Christmas boxes. Spilling out the back was a red, flocked blanket, some fabric Christmas bells, and some stuffed animals. I watched as the photographer directed them to soft, sheltered area under a grove of Sabal palms. They spread out the blanket, piled up the boxes and began positioning the children like overgrown dolls, in a variety of poses. They were making a Christmas card.
A family with three generations in tow, all dressed in color-coordinated royal blue shirts or blouses or dresses, the older man in a white straw cowboy hat, posed in several locations for just the right setting. As the photographer was taking photos of small groups of the family, I asked the teenage boy what they were planning. He said they were on their way to a family reunion in Texas and wanted to leave behind some pictures of where they live in Florida. It pleased me that the Art Hall and Koreshan would be a silent part of the souvenir.
One afternoon, I watched in awe as a lovely young woman, celebrating her Quinceanera, arrived in a turquoise chiffon gown with an ethereal full skirt. Her long black hair fell in deeply marcelled waves down her back below a high crown of her loosely braided hair. Three attendants in short peach dresses walked to one side while her escort, smartly attired in a tan-colored suit, held her arm tentatively as if the entire experience was a bit more than his young years had prepared him for. Her mother carried a bouquet of turquoise silk flowers and white pearls and handed it to her daughter as the photographer made final tweaks to the formal portrait pose. It had the feeling of somehow between a prom and a wedding and judging from the attention to detail, it honors the importance of this rite of passage for this young Latina and her family.
Last Sunday, an entire bridal party arrived for the formal portraits that had apparently followed the wedding and preceded the reception, both held somewhere else. When leaving the park, the groom held his new bride’s long veil and tulle train gingerly as they processed by the Art Hall. Her bouquet of white roses was as spectacular as the supermoon that rose later that evening. What a lovely momento for the beginning of married life, having it sealed by this celestial phenomenon.
I am a silent witness to these small and precious moments, and to the ceremony and the ritual and the warmth and the connection that brings us together in love. What an affirmation this is, and how essential a reminder in our world these days.
Liz and Peter continue their pilgrimage to here, discovering moments of connection and wonder as they spend three months in their Airstream at Koreshan State Historic Park in Estero, Florida.