My Grandmother, Helen, was born on February 12, 1916 to recent immigrants from Russia. Raised in an orthodox Jewish household, Helen grew up to be fluent in both English and Yiddish. Having faced countless tragedies throughout her life (including watching her first born die of cancer), she developed a jaded view of death and grief, a viewpoint that has heavily influenced me as well. Fiercely independent, for over a decade Helen lived on her own in a small apartment in Boca Raton, Florida.
In December of 2013, my mother, Carol received a phone call from Helen stating that she would like to be looked at as something felt wrong. Although there was no evidence of any health issues, they both decided it would be best for Helen to move into our house in Seattle until she felt comfortable being on her own once more. I admired my 4’ 10” tall, 97 year old bubby for making the 6 hour journey without any issues. Officially, Helen had nothing physically wrong with her other than an irregular heartbeat which was being treated. I tried to spend as much time with her as possible, and over the following month it was “Helen and I did this or that today” I could tell something was wrong and wanted her to know she was loved. After finding her on the ground multiple times, I took her to the emergency room to see why she suddenly had trouble walking. By the third fall it was apparent that she was going to have to minimize the amount of time she spent on her feet. Whenever asked how she was doing, Helen would say in a stereotypical New York, Jewish, old woman voice “From Hunger!”, a Yiddish idiom roughly meaning deplorably bad or dreadful, but not wanting to complain.
I am a photographer because I believe my photography is the only way to truly express myself so that others can see the world as I see it. This is why my camera followed Helen through her journey from the spunkiest woman I have ever met, full of life and color, to someone who was surely not the same woman, but nevertheless someone I will never forget. The images in this essay desaturate slowly throughout the story to further show how not only I looked at her but how she saw the world over time as well.