“You’re going to see Star Wars for the first time!” I was 8 years old, and I can still remember my parents’ palpable excitement when they walked out of Blockbuster waving a copy of “A New Hope.” Movies were always a special occasion at our house, but this was clearly a Special Occasion of Exceptional Significance.
My little brother and I watched and re-watched, completely absorbed by this future-past where the Good Guys were good and the Bad Guys could totally be good if they would only convert. Next was “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.” I made my brother close his eyes when Leia kissed Luke. Then again when she kissed Han. (Me? I totally watched.)
So imagine my only-slightly-less-childlike exuberance when I finally got to stand in line for “The Force Awakens” – and not just any line. I experienced the premier of the best, new Star Wars film since 1983 at Baltimore’s Senator Theatre, a gorgeous old relic of gold filagree and oversized marquees, surrounded by storm troopers, TIE fighter pilots, the youngest Fett, the friendliest R2D2 I’ve ever met… plus a thousand cheering Star Wars lovers.
I doubt I would have believed you if you’d told 8-year-old me that one day I’d have a boyfriend with biker scout armor and a membership in the Old Line Garrison – the local chapter of the 501st Legion, a nonprofit promoting Star Wars fandom through charity. But I do, and this brilliant community of superfans welcomed me along as their photographer-for-the-day.
Along with the challenge of directing costumers whose masks barely allow them to hear, let alone see or breathe, I learned a bit about the similarities between, say, Elizabethan fashion and dressing in Star Wars armor: both require a team of experts to properly fit the wearer in his or her garments, and both are phenomenally, rib-crushingly uncomfortable.
If a storm trooper ever asks you for help retrieving a soda from a vending machine, he’s not being a pretentious jerk; he just can’t bend more than a few inches at the waist.
My last photographs were of the throng of people who had waited outside for hours (some for days) to claim their seat in the theater. Adults and children alike, they were all me at age 8, seeing Star Wars for the first time. Fully invested. Completely absorbed. Once more, a Special Occasion of Exceptional Significance.
May the Force be with you.