When I started thinking about this portrait project, I naturally thought about Judy V. She was someone people loved. Beautiful (inside and out). She was also someone I always wanted to get to know better.
But Judy passed away in 2017.
Then it occurred to me, why not find a way to honor her as a total bad ass? I reached out to her husband Roger and we talked about how we could include her.
I sent Roger the questions I've asked every participant, and he tried to answer the questions in Judy's place as best he could.
(Roger in their kitchen with Judy's preserved tattoo)
What’s your story?
Knowing Judy, she’d state that she doesn’t have much of a story and there’s nothing special about her.
Of course, that’s ridiculous.
At her core, Judy loved people and needed to surround herself with friends as often as possible. Her dream was to either have a building in which all of her friends lived or at least a neighborhood in which they all owned homes.
She would talk about how lonely and alone she felt while I was sitting on the couch a few feet away from her, and I understood what she meant. Judy wanted to always be in the company of friends. I wasn’t enough since I was supposed to be there and provide support and companionship as her husband.
Her mission in life was to smile, have fun and make people happy, and to help take away any pain or drama that distracted friends from being able to enjoy themselves.
She also was very skilled and accomplished as a hair stylist, displayed a passion for lifelong learning that belied her struggles in just getting by in high school and she was incredibly creative. That creativity was expressed through the fashion shows she designed for the Mission Boutique and the elaborate decorations prepared for our Halloween parties.
What makes you nervous about getting your portrait taken?
Absolutely nothing would make Judy nervous about getting her portrait taken – she loved being in front (or behind) the camera. However, she would question why anyone would want to take a picture of her and believe that she wasn’t worthy of the attention.
Can I share some of your images?
That would garner an enthusiastic yes.
What do you love doing that makes you feel kick ass?
Judy was proud of the work she put in to transform herself from a Goth queen to a happy camper. She organized and scheduled monthly camping trips, and eagerly learned about how to set up camp, tie various knots, spot different types of wildlife and vegetation and pretty much everything about nature and the outdoors. Sunday mornings were spent watching nature shows.
She trained very hard to prepare herself for the rigors of long hikes in altitude, walking hills in the Metroparks wearing a weighted, 50-pound backpack.
Considering all of this effort, Judy would grudgingly accept being referred to as kick ass for the skills she developed.
(From goth to camping)
What inspired your portraits?
This is difficult to answer because Judy isn’t able to provide input on the portraits. From my perspective, the inspiration is a desire to ensure that she is remembered. It’s disturbing that people are so afraid of death that they avoid it, and those closest to the deceased.
I recognize that Judy represents my past, and I don’t want to define myself by a yearning for what can no longer be. But I can live in the present and still acknowledge the past. It also doesn’t have to be sad. Judy’s memory should be honored and celebrated for the wonderful person she was. I wish people could talk about her, or anyone who has died, without feeling uncomfortable.
I consider it a great honor to include Judy in this project and hope I can do justice to her memory through my assistance in this effort.
What bad ass women inspire you?
Another difficult query because it’s not something we discussed. For many years, she had a fascination with Marilyn Monroe, and that was at least partly due to knowing the hardships Marilyn endured and fought so hard to overcome.
More likely, she would talk about women she knows, whether they persevere in the face of crisis or simply are good people who make the world a better place by their everyday actions.
I’m fairly confident about this because she would occasionally say how she idolized me. That’s somewhat boastful of me to mention, but I also view it as an example of how Judy did whatever she could to make people feel better about themselves.
And I’d expect that same attitude would be extended to women in her life whom she admired.
Any other comments?
One of the best comments I’ve received referred to Judy as a force of nature. She was this unifying person liked by everyone. Some even elevated her to an exalted status typically reserved for celebrities.
I’m not given to celebrity worship. However, there’s no doubt Judy put forth an effort on behalf of others that was worthy of respect, if not adulation.
Judy would say that she didn’t do anything special. It wasn’t like she led any great charitable causes or volunteer efforts. She made a difference in the lives of people she knew by being selflessly willing to drop everything to listen and comfort a friend in need.
(Dress I would have picked for Judy)
Jen's thoughts: If Judy were able to participate in this project, I know exactly how I'd photograph her. I wouldn't do anything goth. She already kicked ass at being a gorgeous goth queen.
My inspiration for Judy would be those classic Hitchcock icy blondes. Like Tippi Hedren in The Birds.
I really enjoyed getting to know Roger. My husband and I always wanted to get to know them better. They love horror movies and creepy stuff. Seeing their home while working on this with Roger was a treat. Of course bittersweet as well.
The thing I think is really lovely is the preserved tattoo. I remember meeting Judy for the first time and immediately talking about tattoos. She spoke about having her tattoo preserved before she died, and It's really a beautiful thing. I know some people are taken aback by it, but Judy seemed to embrace life and death. Or at least that's my impression.
And I guess that's the gist of this post, trying to get to know someone after their gone. And finding ways to remember her and celebrate her. Because she was most certainly a bad ass.
This is one of my favorite photos of Judy. I loved seeing her enjoying the frozen lake.