This is one of my favourite photos that I have ever taken, though I realise that it is entirely for personal reasons, rather than for any photographic merits (after all, it was taken back in the days of manual focus). It is a picture of my paternal Grandfather’s hands taken on a very happy day; a 51st birthday celebration for my own father, almost twenty years ago.
This was not a surprise party, but my arrival was unexpected, as I had been away from Australia for many years, and it is one of the very few times that I think my family actually pulled off a genuine SURPRISE. Security leaks spoiled any subsequent attempts (although those later celebrations were still fun). However, the operation went smoothly on this occasion, partly because I didn’t tell ANYONE that I was coming home to Australia from France, after 4 straight years abroad.
It was the middle of winter and just a few days later it snowed (I have some shots from that same trip of the Baker family home covered in white, which is unusual in my home town) but on THIS particular day it was just about the most beautiful weather, and so the celebrations took place outside, at tables set up in the garden behind the house that I grew up in.
I was sitting opposite my Grandfather on that day, and couldn’t take my eyes off of his hands, (unless it was to look up at his cheery old noggin) and, happily, I had the presence of mind to snap a photograph of them back then, because seeing those hands had a similar, mesmerising effect on me again, on the day that I re-discovered this photo of them. Almost 20 years after the picture was taken and 10 years since my beloved Pop died.
There’s as much history, character and expressiveness in hands as faces, but we don’t often look at them. In fact, I think that hands tell a story that faces do not because, relatively early in our lives, we learn to mask the feelings on our faces, but our hands often show what is really going on inside of us (this is the animator in me talking, now). My Pop‘s rough old hands, that spent a lifetime working with horses and in rural stables, and their dirty yet somehow delicate fingernails, ever-so gently caressing a fancy drinking glass, say so much to me about the many aspects of the lovely man who was behind them.