A Personal Tribute
Juliana Laury Photography | Chester County, Lehigh Valley, and Montgomery County Wedding Photographer
Disclaimer: I just want to start by saying I debated about posting this for some time. My generation has a particular habit of posting anything and everything about their personal lives on public platforms, often in my opinion to the point of forgetting to truly live and breathe the moment we are in. My good friend Jenni wrote a blog post called The Time is Not Now, and I would challenge everyone to read it and consider its message. What I am about to write and the images I am about to share today all happened over the course of about the last 3 months and even earlier. I just chose to be present in the situation and look back in appreciation for all that unfolded.
I think now is as good of a time as any to tell everyone the story of how exactly I ended up photographing weddings for a living. You might want to grab a nice hot beverage for this one, because this is about to get long and personal, and I just have to let it go there.
First and foremost, I need to say that I realize I have been blessed with an incredible family, the kind of family who fosters kind, generous, sincere qualities by example alone. And I also know that the strong marriages I have seen before me are sadly much less common in today’s society, and I am so grateful for a gift I know not many other women have. I have been lucky enough to live 23 years of my life with both sets of happily married grandparents to admire. Both married for 57 years, all four were waiting in the hospital hallway the day of my birth. All four were there for me for every holiday, every birthday, graduation, and all four were in my parent’s kitchen on my wedding day, waiting to see me as a bride for the very first time. I even have it documented, their faces, each and every one of them when they saw me in my dress. I remember how my grandmas smiled when they helped me put on my jewelry. I remember how my Grandpa Altmann cried when he hugged me. And I remember how my Grandpa Bellitto laughed with open arms when he walked out the front door toward me. I think even better than the memory, though, is the images. Pixel for pixel those pictures are worth more to me than any amount of money I ever paid for them. That’s why I do the same thing for others, because I KNOW how priceless they are.
Let me back up a bit and tell you about my senior year in college, it was this time 2 years ago in fact. It was around this time that we were assigned our senior project, which was to choose anything we wanted to study for a full year and really delve photographically into one final culmination of work to be put up as our senior show. It was also around this time that my dad’s father, Grandpa Bellitto as we called him, was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of 83. So I chose to study the one thing I knew no one else in my class had, over 100 years of matrimony combined before my very eyes. So that’s what I did, I spent half a year photographing what marriage looks like 50+ years in. I don’t tell brides this very often, but I actually became a couple’s portrait photographer because I learned how to photograph old love first. I guess you can say that is a little backwards, but I truly believe it was the right path for me. It wasn’t until about a week after I graduated that I realized that after I had my own wedding the following month I would have to sit down and decide what I wanted to specialize my business in as soon as I returned from my honeymoon. And I did just that. I took a look back at the previous seven years of work and realized it was the light in my grandfather’s eye when he looked at my grandma, it was how my dad held my mom’s hand after a quarter of a century together; those were my favorite images. So I did it. I made some phone calls. Actually, I made a lot of phone calls. The rest is pretty much what you see here, the culmination of my last year’s work breaking into the industry.
When I hung my Senior Show titled “Genesis” in April 2013 I printed these words, “I am forever indebted to the subjects pictured before you and it is for them that I dedicate this show.”
Last Tuesday October 14 at 10:07 am my father called me and told me my grandfather had passed away that morning. I could go on and on about what a good man he was, tell you his stories that I have heard so many times I have memorized them, and I could type for days about all the ways he put others before himself. But you know all of that already. Because you met me. I am who I am today because of what he taught me. Right before he died, my grandfather asked his son, my Uncle Christopher, to say a few words for him before he was buried. For the rest of my life I will never forget how he gripped that podium and with tears spilling from his eyes he said, “If you seek Anthony Bellitto’s memorial, look around you.”
The images enclosed in this blog are some of my favorites, starting with the image I used for my Senior Thesis work, and ending with an image of the last time I ever looked into his eyes and held him close. I am so blessed to work within a craft that gives me the gift of reliving these moments even after they are gone. And those images wait for me, on days like today, when I can’t sleep and I just want to see his face again. And so I tell you today that what I do for a living is really just an extension of who I am as a person, a person Anthony Bellitto Sr. helped to shape, and for that I am blessed.