Artist Letter

A Letter From The Artist

In the summer of 2015, I was hired by the Fountains At Millbrook, a Watermark Retirement Community which offers a variety of living styles for older people. At 17 years old, I thought I had finally landed my first “real job”, nothing more. Over my four years of employment, I came to find that The Fountains was much more than just a place where I served people lunch and dinner—it became my second home. I came to meet some of my closest friends but also some incredibly kind-hearted individuals who have seen and accomplished inspiring things throughout their lives.

In the fall of 2016, I left home and my job for the first time since I was hired to pursue a degree in Graphic Design and Photography from The College of Saint Rose. Many tears were shed that last week knowing that life is a fragile thing—when I returned it was possible not every one of my beloved residents would be present. Therefore, I always made it a priority to put a smile on their faces whenever I could as they so graciously did for me. The simple act of just giving someone a compliment on a piece of jewelry or a hat that boasted their military service had opened up the conversation to their life accomplishments. Once I heard one story, I wanted to know them all. I held them close, sharing with other co-workers if the time was right.

A year later I enrolled in a Black & White film photography class. I instantly fell in love with the medium and would spend hours trying to perfect my compositions along with my prints in the darkroom. This class was influential to my progression as a photographer, but also in the design of this series as the third assignment introduced me to the idea of environmental portraits. I remember sitting in class wanting to find a way to leave Albany to photograph some of my residents, but it wasn’t feasible at the time. I stored the idea away and gave more thought to doing a larger exhibition to honor some of those significant people. Those thoughts eventually came to life in my proposal written in June of 2018.

As a young girl, I would eagerly sit with my older family members and listen to the numerous stories they had to tell. One of my favorite people to spend time with was my great grandmother. I spent countless hours with her growing up, hearing about the amazing life that she led, visiting her apartment to play, and go on walks. I only wish I was able to record her stories before the Alzheimer’s ceased her ability to recall them. She lived to be an impressive 100 years old. After I lost her along with two of my residents in July of 2018, I knew I had to make this project a reality.

Over the course of four days that August, I met with 17 incredible individuals from The Fountains. Without the pressure of school, I was able to seamlessly move forward with my proposed endeavor. Just when I thought I had heard one incredible story, another five were to follow. Each night I would come home, unable to stop myself from beaming over these people’s words and inspiration. I am beyond grateful for the trust they have given me in addition to their willingness to invite me into their homes and lives.

My goal was to shine a spotlight on the special people who so effortlessly touched my heart, along with many others. Throughout my remaining years in college, I was able to show this body of work three times (2018–2020). The response to Reminiscence far exceeded my expectations and for that I am forever grateful. Moving forward, I hope to document more incredible individuals to show that the elderly should not be forgotten. If I had to share one thing I learned during this time it would be that each day is filled with 24 fleeting hours, what is here today might be gone tomorrow.

gab gordon