Have you ever found yourself meandering through a crowd, watching people and how they interact with each other? I do that frequently with the hope that every so often, I’ll cross paths with at least one person who just blows me away with their positive energy. Someone who could inspire me and rekindle the fire of creativity. Last Thursday night, I was asked to photograph the 2011 Soupfest that was put on by the Cornerstone Foundation here in Rockville, CT. For those who aren’t aware, the Cornerstone Foundation has over the years “become a trusted grassroots, community-led, not-for-profit provider of social services that make downtown Rockville, Vernon, and surrounding communities better places to live.” Photographing events is something I periodically like to do as it gives me an excuse to hone my skills as a photographer, but also get to people watch. And tonight would offer some gems! This is my account of the one gem that shined the brightest for me…
The night started out pretty much uneventful from a photographic sense. Some people were there already when I arrived. More followed after, eventually filling the hall under St. Bernard’s Church. Groups were quietly chatting among themselves, none standing out more than the others. I set my gear bag down out of view next to the stage and started taking some test shots to get a feel for the lighting. Normally I like to get to a location early, or at least have an opportunity to scout it out ahead of time, but this particular instance was somewhat impromptu. I was running late thanks to my “Day Job” and had gotten to the church right at the scheduled start time. After meeting with the event co-ordinator and my trusty assistant (who was documenting the names of people who would be photographed throughout the night), I began taking essential shots.
First was a run through the kitchen to photograph the representatives from the three local restaurants (Casey’s Cafe, Papa T’s and Mitchell’s) who were competing to see who had the best soup. It was a pretty standard task and everyone was very pleasant to work with. Next came the row of silent auction items. Again, pretty standard captures with people leisurely perusing through the many items up for bid. After, I grabbed some shots of the soup table where people could get delicious samples from all three restaurants. It was then that I noticed one particular table seemed to be having a more jovial time as laughter was emanating from this group of people. So I decided to migrate over to that area with my assistant.
That’s when it happened. That creative spark lit up like a sparkler on the Fourth of July for me! At the heart of the laughter was this tall, slender gentleman with long flowing grey and blonde hair. He looked as if he had weathered the storm of life, but relished the challenges and took them head on. His playful demeanor was accentuated with a leather dog collar and chain… as I saw it, a biker’s tie. He was dressed in layers. A blue denim jacket covered a black sweat-jacket peppered with white skull and crossbones. That covered another button down shirt which had a print T-shirt as the inner-most layer.
His amicable spirit was freely flowing without regret or remorse. This man is the type of person that is instantly likeable. The kind of person you want to have around to brighten a cloudy day. So I politely asked him if I could take his picture. “Oh of course!” he bellowed and playfully hammed it up, preening himself with a smile. I grabbed the shot as carefully as I could as this was my chance to document a fun spirit that you don’t see every day.
It was over before I knew it and I thanked him for allowing me to photograph him. I also paid him a compliment about his collar as to me, it was something cool and unusual… a humorous contrast to the stereotypical nice guy that hinted at an interesting back story. My assistant went to work and asked him for his name.
“Richard Robbins. But everyone calls me ‘Bones’. Just make sure to call me ‘Bones’!” I overheard him tell her with a huge grin. I felt myself smiling as a result. I mean, how can you not love a guy who goes by the moniker, “Bones” (Yes, I do enjoy Star Trek if you were wondering)???
I knew at that moment that his photo was one I would take from the night and put a little extra care into editing. And with that mental bookmark placed, I went on with my task of documenting the evening.
Further into the evening, our MC, Captain Bill McGurk was talking about Veteran’s Day. This night was the Marine Corps Birthday and the night before Veteran’s Day. Captain McGurk took time to recognize all the Veterans in the audience by asking us to stand when he called our respective branches. When he called for the Marines, Bones quickly stood tall and proud. I honestly can’t say I’m surprised that Bones turned out to be a Veteran. In hindsight, he displayed many of the wonderful traits that I’ve come to know in Veterans. This just added to my desire to learn more about Bones as well as to find him later to thank him for his service.
The night carried on with the Auction. I happened to glance over after the first few items were sold and saw Bones’ tall figure stand and walk towards the side exit by the kitchen. It took me a minute to realize that he was leaving for the night. My heart sank as I realized I would not get the opportunity to shake his hand and extend my thanks and gratitude for his service to our country. Nor would I get to speak with him more about my photography and see about getting together in the future for a proper photo shoot.
I am happy that I at least had the pleasure of meeting Bones and the opportunity to capture the kind hearted personality that is Richard with this, my favorite photo from that night:
I truly hope that I will be able to cross paths with Bones again. I very much would enjoy a long conversation with him… to find out more about the man behind the soulful expression I captured. Until then, I wish Bones all the best that life has to offer no matter where his travels may take him.
Semper Fi, Devil Dog! Thank you!
To view photos from the 2011 Soupfest, please visit my official website: http://www.dv-photography.com/event/Cornerstone-Foundation