For years Miss Lilly Bethel(?) had been a "character" and a fixture in the tiny Bahamian out-island community of Hopetown on Elbow Cay. As you strolled the picturesque town, you'd often pass her, smoking, talking to herself and sipping a Coke, likely as not on her way to or from the local general store. Miss Lilly loved cats and her small, roughly painted harbour-side shack was crawling with the town's slightly mangy strays. Dim views through her shuttered, glassless windows showed that the dirt floors were littered with opened cat food cans. On a sunny day there was always a cat or two lounging on her porch.
On Valentine's Day 2002, we were walking a friend down to the ferry for the first leg of her trip back to winter in Toronto. Miss Lilly was out on her porch, probably waiting to see what the ferry might bring. I overcame my usual reluctance to invade other people's privacy and asked her if I could take her photograph. She consented, and I made 5 exposures on my Nikon CoolPix 990 using the available soft light of a cloudy-bright day. We chatted about her 16 cats and their names. When she put down the Coke and crossed her hands with the ever present cigarette and stared at me through her salt encrusted glasses, I was pretty sure that I had a good portrait: 1/104s @F4.3, ISO100.
Two days later we learned that Miss Lilly's body had been discovered. She'd died sometime during the night after my photographs were taken. For the next few days, flowers appeared on the step of her porch. The cats looked and sounded a little lost. Others in Hopetown soon stepped in to feed Miss Lilly's collection of cats.
Peter B. Marshall
Peter B. Marshall has been making photographs since he was 11. Over the past few years his passion for photography has been renewed as a career in computers and networking supports his move to digital imaging and an ongoing love of travel.
Visit his website at http://marshall-ikonography.com/