A Senior Portrait, as we usually think of it, is a photograph capturing the essence of a young person and all they have accomplished up to their final year in high school. It conveys both a feeling of celebration and a sense of accomplishment. Most importantly, it conveys this young person at a particular moment in time — a preserved memory in a photograph.

Our Senior Portraits also celebrate individuals at a particular moment in time — the senior as he or she is now, their presence, their warmth, their language and expressions — while capturing the personal lore that made them who they are today. These are not comprehensive biographical films. Instead, they are personal accounts of older adults’ most treasured stories — what they most loved, what surprised them in life, what wisdom they have to share — in a beautiful format that can be shared and appreciated by future generations.

The Senior Portrait mission is to help seniors capture their memories and family history through the tradition of oral history and the craft of documentary filmmaking. Together, we create something meaningful, both in process and product, for the older adult and their family.  

The Senior Portrait Process

Getting to know you

We’ll start by getting to know each other in a short visit spent perusing family photographs, up to sixty of which we’ll scan. The portrait will be arranged in several thematic vignettes, and these photographs will bookend and illuminate the stories in each vignette. Following this initial meeting and photo collection, I’ll create a list of questions based on what I gathered from the senior’s photos and words —- interests, family life, work, and favorite memories. Then, I will share the questions via email so they can reflect on them before our 90-minute interview.

Oral history interview

Getting to know a person in their own home is a distinctive, personal experience, and thus valuable to the documentary process. For this reason, the oral history interview is filmed in the senior’s home.* This 90-minute interview is composed of three main themes:

  1. Roots and childhood

  2. Life’s work and passions

  3. Life today and tomorrow (the elder’s perspective on life, and wisdom for future generations)

Though there is a structure to the interview, the approach is organic and story-focused. Because it is a collaborative process between the senior and the filmmaker, the interview is conversational.

*the interview can also be conducted in a studio, which can be booked for an additional fee.

The product

The culmination of this experience is an artfully composed portrait, arranged in a series of 8-10 minute thematic vignettes, each bookended with archival family photos. Though the portrait can be enjoyed in its entirety, the vignette structure also allows the viewing and sharing of each story separately.

The final portrait will be delivered to the client as a digital file in duplicate stored on two custom USB drives and posted privately online where it can be easily shared with family and friends.

 

Enjoy this short excerpt from a Senior Portrait vignette:

An excerpt from a Senior Portrait of Stephen Elkins-Williams