It’s a rare thing to do a portrait of someone that’s 100 years old. And recently I had the honor of doing a centenarian portrait of a long-time neighbor and resident of my town, Wilford Zaugg. He lives around the corner from me and I can remember him always out in his yard or farm, working hard. As a kid I remember my dad bringing home corn and other vegetables grown in his farm and garden, and when my mom put on the town melodrama ages ago, Mr. Zaugg said he had never before acted, but ended up being the star.
Before the shoot, I had a vision of an image that I wanted – a black and white portrait of him outside in his farm wearing his work clothes.
When I arrived for the shoot, he was all dressed up in his suit. I really liked him in his suit, so I started by doing some images in his home in his suit, with him showing off his custom wood pens that he makes. I also wanted some outside using his home as a backdrop, so we stepped outside and did some images in front of his home and a few in the back. At that point he thanked me and assured me that I had enough photos. But I still wanted that one image in my mind so I asked him for one more set created on his farm, but more casual, and maybe with a pitchfork.
He obliged, so with his jacket off and pitchfork in his hand, I got this image, my favorite of the shoot. I’m currently designing up a book for his daughter, and this is the cover.
I love this portrait. Being in his church clothes is perfect. To me it tells the story of a long life of a strong ethics of hard work, church, and true happiness – a legacy he has taught by example to his large and growing family.
And below is the full-frame of that same image. The square crop is great for the book cover, but I really like it un-cropped below. I love the long lines of the silo, his stance, and pitchfork, and there is so much story in this image. And I really like him still in his dress clothes but with jacket off. He doesn’t farm anymore, so the dressier clothes are more true to him. Plus the white shirt is the brightest point and it really draws you in.
Plus there is so much character in the smile, the stance, and in the little details of his dress. For instance, you may have to look at the square cropped version above, but his belt skips a loop, and his tie sits just to the side with the smaller end sticking out. The lines of the pitchfork and the lines in the barn work together, and the framing within the silo and barn are so good. This was all created with some mobile lighting that I used to sculpt him while darkening the clouds and sky. I absolutely love the result.
Mr. Zaugg’s daughter lined up this shoot with me so that we could create some photographs for his invitations, birthday program, as well as for the newspaper, and for the Governor’s office which is also doing something for him. We needed a younger portrait for some of these things so I did this scan of him when he first got married. I think he looks very handsome here.
And here are some of the other images from the shoot, both inside his home and out. This one below is of Mr. Zaugg showing me some of the many pens he’s made from wood brought to him from all over the world. And he made these pens with a lathe that he made and kept out in his barn. I think about him making his own lathe, and I am inspired. There is a solid sense of contentment in this earlier generation that is lacking today. It was the sense that you earn the things you get over time, then you made them last, and continued to fix them. And if you couldn’t afford something or couldn’t make it yourself, you did without.
This image also shows off his national award winning deer rack in the background, and his award framed next to it from Boone and Crockett.
It really has been an honor to photograph him again. I did his 70 year anniversary portraits some years back, and posted them on my blog too. But this project has been extra special. It’s been nice to work on images that I know his family will cherish, and to also hear from his daughter about the legacy of values that he’s left his family of 11 children, 52 grand-children, and 98 great-grand-children.
I hope we can all inspire and make that much of a difference in the lives we live.
And until next time, America.