My 94-year-old grandmother, Jeanne Samuels, lives a fully independent life. Her independence, however, was threatened in early 2017 after she fell in her home in Houston and broke her right kneecap. The injury required surgery, then intensive rehab at a residential facility to aid the healing process.

I visited my grandmother most days during her month in rehab. She allowed me to photograph the entire journey, from her initial trip to the E.R., to the day she drove herself back to work. (Yes, she still works.) The story of her recovery is told through a select series of 80, chronologically arranged images, all shot on 120 film.

The five images here, were made on a single roll of Kodak Tri-X 400, pushed to EI 1600. The sequence records my grandmother being transported from the rehab facility (by bus) to her first, post-surgery doctor appointment with her orthopaedic surgeon. During that appointment, she had the staples removed from her incision, followed by an X-ray of her knee; then, she returned to the rehab facility and walked 50 feet for the first time with help from an O.T./P.T. nurse.

The camera used for the series was a Hasselblad 500CM with an early version of the Zeiss Distagon 60mm f/4. Given the fact that most of the series would be shot indoors (and entirely hand-held), I needed to push my film a couple of stops. Doing so played to the strength of Tri-X 400 and added even more contrast, and hopefully emotion, to the images.

As my grandmother was relearning how to walk, I was teaching myself how to shoot and develop black and white film. Thankfully, my grandmother did make a full recovery, and I encountered a few technical problems in the creation of this series, which I titled “Fall & Rise”.

~ Michael

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About the author

Avatar - Michael C Duke

Michael C. Duke

Michael C. Duke is a journalist and street photographer based in Houston, Texas. He works in both digital and analog film formats, and has taught photography workshops for children and adults. Whether teaching, traveling on assignment or documenting his own...

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  1. Awesome. Love the story AND the accompanying photos. You really captured this well. The TriX is perfect. Thanks for sharing.