While on my way back home from NYC, sitting in the NJ Transit bus I see a familiar face in one of the stops the bus makes as we arrive to New Jersey.
The man that is about to get in, an old friend of mine. It had been more than 3 years since I had not seen him or his mother. Two people who I will always remember and hold dear in my heart, they opened their doors to me when I began a photographic project about mothers, while I was studying at the International Center of Photography. I met Carlos (on the left) and Eloisa (on the right) one afternoon while walking around Bergenline Avenue in West New York, NJ. First, I saw Eloisa sweeping her front porch and I asked her for her name and to tell me her story arriving to the US. She began talking, and we spoke for about one hour and a half until her son arrived. They inspired me so much tenderness and love. Although, they both seemed to have an interesting history hiding behind their eyes, giving them sort of a melancholic look.
Several days later, as I showed this image to my teacher and classmates for my class, they seemed to be extremely impressed by it. Their gaze, their subtlety, the timelessness of this image made it extremely strong. It became what we call in photography, my baby, one of those great photos you take and you don’t know if you will ever take one like it because it is so good; therefore you can’t use it in a series of images because of its great quality.
I went to visit the family later that year to give them a print of the photo I had taken. They were extremely thankful and they let me take another photo of them.
This photo was not as good but I still cherish it. Some months had passed and Eloisa was now in beginning stages of dementia, something she did not seem to have when I had met her the first time and she had told me her life story of when she got married and then immigrated to the US from Cuba more than 20 years ago today.
Back to the bus encounter, as Carlos got in the bus it seemed surreal. Thousands of people living in the state of New Jersey and I get to see him again. I have always thought that things always happen for a reason. Carlos was surprised to see me as well, and after the bus begins to get empty we find a seat on the back and begin to chat. He tells me about how he is studying and enjoying it, as well as his job. He was coming back from seeing his mom at the nursing home. After she got dementia it was really hard for him to take care of her by himself when he had to work, it was safer for her to stay there. He told me he goes to visit her every day. I then tell him that a couple of days before I was thinking about them after seeing the teacher from the class I had made the picture for. Then, Carlos tells me how they still have the photo and how sometimes his mom sees the photo and remembers that day, and she tells him “Que bien nos vemos”, meaning “We look so good”. I can see her saying that while staring at the photo, a smile on her face and a tender look to her beloved son.