Stephanie A. Jarstad (BFA ’12) loves a love story. So when a BYU class assignment came to shoot a photo series, she staked out the temple grounds.
It wasn’t new brides she was after.
Jarstad wanted to capture what marriages looked like decades down the road. She stopped older couples, looking for long-marrieds to photograph. The elderly couples were surprised, she says: “Most of them were like, ‘What? You want to hear from us? You’re interested in us old people?’”
The ensuing photo series, To Grow Old with You, was exhibited in BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library in 2012—and it has grown since. Jarstad, now an Oregon-based wedding photographer, has kept the series going after graduation, and it has been featured by her local news channel, in Country Living, on Huffington Post, and on Yahoo. Here, find details about the project paired with her photos of couples whose relationships have stood the test of time.
Bertha and Chauncey C. Riddle (BS ’47): 71 Years of Marriage
Chauncey and Bertha were among the first couples Jarstad photographed and, wrapped up in capturing the image, she didn’t get their story. “I just took the photo. I hadn’t yet developed the idea to document the couples’ love stories,” she says. While developing the film, Jarstad wasn’t sure whether to include the picture in the series—without a caption, it felt out of place. Luckily, a technician working in the print lab recognized the couple and got her in touch with them. In 1944 Chauncey and Bertha met on a hike up Mt. Timpanogos. They were married six months later and raised 13 children. This photo is particularly precious to their family; Jarstad heard from the couple’s granddaughter that Bertha passed away. The couple didn’t take pictures often, and the granddaughter said it is the best photo of them the family has. “I love this image so much,” Jarstad says.
Sally and Lon Brown: 70 Years of Marriage
As a little girl, Jarstad would beg for details about how her parents met—like how her dad first approached her mom in the BYU library, asking for an eraser. She loves getting those sorts of details from the couples, like how Sally liked everything about Lon—except one thing: “This will be hard to believe, but the only thing I questioned was he had very curly hair,” Sally said. Lon, now bald, was quick to respond with a grin: “I still have it. I just don’t display it anymore.” Jarstad also asks the couples for advice on how to make love last. “People see one of us, they know they’re going to see the other,” said Lon. “We’re always together.” Adds Sally: “We’re both pretty pliable. We aren’t set in our ways. So the give and take.”
Richard and Jan Helewell: 65 Years of Marriage
Taking photos on black-and-white film is “a stylistic choice,” Jarstad says—often an attempt to give a picture a “timeless feel.” She wanted these photos to remind couples of their wedding day—something she sees in this shot of Richard and Jan. The couple’s love story began when the two were only in the 8th grade, and Jan asked Richard to the Sadie Hawkins dance. “After all the years, they were still so funny and bashful about it,” Jarstad says. “We just laughed the whole time.”
Diane Carman (’89) and George W. Pace (BS ’61, DRE ’76): 60 Years of Marriage
“I like the thrilling aspect of being able to connect with people on the fly,” says Jarstad, who typically photographed her subjects in front of the temple wall for a nice, studio-like backdrop, like in this shot of George and Diane. As the project came together, Jarstad says she focused on “capturing the core of a couple’s relationship and how they connect with each other.” The biggest takeaway Jarstad learned from George and Diane was that couples don’t have to be interested in all of the same things. Jarstad says she feels like her own generation, when looking for a spouse, “wants to be clones of each other,” she says. But George and Diane said that when were newlyweds, they didn’t have much in common. Raising their children and being united in the gospel is what really brought them together, Diane said.
K. Douglas (BS ’68) and Fran Wayne Chamberlain (BS ’62): 55 Years of Marriage
Jarstad shoots the series on real film. With only 24 photos a roll, “I took only two or three pictures per couple,” Jarstad says. And the first shots she took of Doug and Fran didn’t turn out. “My exposure was a little bit off. . . . With film, it’s a little less forgiving,” she says. Fortunately, Jarstad ran into Doug and Fran at the temple a second time. “It was raining, and they had their umbrellas, and it just seemed like the perfect moment,” she says. The couple told Jarstad they’d had plenty of ups and downs while dating—they were together eight years and broke up six times before getting married—but in the end, it worked out. “We just couldn’t communicate,” they told Jarstad, but “the stars kept bringing us back together.”
Ray and Tess Johnson: 54 Years of Marriage
“It was such a fun project, and it really fueled me creatively,” Jarstad says—which is why she’s kept the series going. Now four years later, she takes nominations (email them to firstname.lastname@example.org) of couples to photograph, which is how she met Ray and Tess. Meeting in their home helped their story unfold, says Jarstad, who now shoots video of her interviews. Ray and Tess, from Holm, England, met at a dance hall as teenagers. Since Ray was diagnosised with Alzheimer’s, Tess has taken to dancing with him again in their living room. “Everybody wants to be that old couple that’s still so in love,” Jarstad says. “I just wanted to show that. Look at these people. They exist.”
Cheryl and Steve Worsley: 49 Years of Marriage
After Jarstad stopped them outside the temple, Steve and Cheryl not only consented to photos—they invited Jarstad over for dinner. “I feel like that’s only possible in Provo,” Jarstad laughs. The couple, which owns a catering business, made an elaborate meal with homemade pie for dessert, served on their fine china. Reminiscing over their courtship, Cheryl told Jarstad how she fasted and prayed when debating whether to marry Steve. The affirmative answer she received “was like lighting,” she said. The couple eloped the following Friday.