Photography gives Claremonter sense of belonging

To Roslyn Farkas, a resident of Claremont Manor, happiness is about learning to become immersed in the little surprises life hands to you: a painting in a museum, a blooming flower, construction along a roadway.

Ms. Farkas rang in her 90th birthday with friends and family Tuesday amid the product of this mantra—a gallery of Ms. Farkas’ professional photos and poetry over the last 41 years on exhibit at the Manor.

Her approach may seem simplistic, a series of shots of her kitchen table over the years or the progression of a house restoration in the 1980s, but it’s the bigger picture that makes these images speak; it’s the story of a Claremont woman and her “little joys” immortalized in print.

“It helps provide me with a sense of belonging, like I am a part of the physical world,” Ms. Farkas reflected. “I give myself a sense of being a part of nature by capturing its beauty.”

Her philosophy has been one of inspiration for her children, who foster fond memories of their mother and her larger-than-life spirit of creativity.

“She finds beauty in everything,” said daughter Lynn Dasteel-Klarman, referencing a series of photos on display of pipes along Foothill Boulevard.

And some of Ms. Farkas’ favorite pieces are as simple as just that—a pipe running along a well-traveled highway or a worn-down home going through the process of restoration: “It makes me feel a part of the process,” she said, reflecting on her series titled “Restoration” of a Pomona home in various stages of repair.

Her ability to find the artistic in everyday objects and activities is what her children have come to know and love about their mother and late father.

“She and my dad would try anything and everything in the arts, and she is a voracious reader,” reflected daughter Barbara Carlson, a teacher at Oakmont Elementary.

 Ms. Carlson continues to cherish many fond childhood memories of delving into her own creative pursuits, supported by her parents, and holds their many trips to the Huntington Library near and dear to her heart.

Though always having a mind inclined toward artistic pursuits, Ms. Farkas, working since age 14, says she was not able to fully embrace her “calling” until much later on in life.

 “I always enjoyed art, but never participated in it,” she said. “Photography was my first chance to become immersed in this new world.”

Her multitude of photos might suggest otherwise, but Ms. Farkas didn’t pick up a camera until later on in life. Her husband presented her with a 35-millimeter point-and-shoot in the summer of 1971, as a gift before she left home to study language in Cuernavaca, Mexico

“I was so excited,” she said, recalling snapping away at anything she could find to take a picture of. The fervor continued when she returned home to Claremont, and hasn’t stopped since. Though she experimented with different types of cameras in the years following, she mainly stuck to her beloved point-and-shoot

“It was easy to use: simple, no filter, no nothin’,” she explained.

Her attempts to try another style of photography with a Chinon camera came to a halt when it was stolen out of her Volkswagen van in Santa Monica. “After that I went right back to my point-and-shoot,” she laughed.

A resident of Claremont for more than 50 years, her city has provided a wealth of opportunities for the eager photographer. A former Claremont Colleges employee, one of her proud moments was snapping shots of Pitzer College’s Elderhostel festivities, printed in an April 1980 edition of the COURIER.

“I loved living in a college town and thoroughly enjoyed the excitement of learning and the accessibility it provides,” she said.

When she was not at the colleges, she loved capturing her favorite moments in the comforts of her San Jose home. One such image, titled “The Red Flowers,” captures a single red blossom illuminated from the sunshine peering through a curtained dining room window.

“It brings me back,” said friend of more than 40 years Phoebie DeVille, looking at another photo of Ms. Farkas’ dining room table, where she recalls many a morning get-together over coffee. “Her and her husband would tell the funniest stories.”

Seeing her friend’s artwork on display and the many memories associated felt like a fitting tribute to Ms. Farkas’ 90 years of life, shared Ms. DeVille.

“It’s very unifying,” she said. “It makes all the years hang together nicely.”

Though now living at the Manor, Ms. Farkas continues to pursue her creative passions and share them with others, whether through her photography or leading the Manor’s poetry group. Her outreach was palpable, as family and friends crowded into the multi-purpose room from all chapters of Ms. Farkas’ life.

“She is just so loved,” Ms. Carlson said.

For Ms. Farkas, the birthday exhibition brought with it a renewed sense of purpose and accomplishment, surrounded by the people she adores and some of the more cherished memories of her life. She expects many more memories to come.

“It helps me feel excited to keep going,” she smiled.

—Beth Hartnett


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