Photo from the "Hands of Life" exhibit.

If Isaac Gadsden ever asks you for a hand, you probably ought to give him two … so he can take their picture.

Gadsden, a resident of the Merion Senior Living community, has created a photography show, focusing entirely on 50 people’s hands.

Isaac Gadsden. (Jeff Hirsh photo).

His work, called “Hands of Life” will be on display at the Merion at 1611 Chicago Ave. on Friday, June 2, from 2-4 p.m.

“Everybody’s hands are different,” Gadsden says, just as “people themselves are different.”

The look of the hands is often due to what the particular person did for a living. With Evanston primarily a white collar/non-industrial community, there are not a lot of weather-beaten hands from working outside in the winter, or from plowing fields in 90 degree heat.

Because the Merion is a senior community, many of the hands simply reflect the aging process, with associated illnesses.

Gadsden, 80, began his photographic study of hands four years ago, after he and his wife moved from Delaware to Evanston to be closer to family.

“When I came here I was thinking about doing something,” Gadsden says.

“I thought I might be interested in taking pictures of people’s hands as they get older, and really take a look at them.”

All of the photographs were taken at the Merion. Most are residents’ hands. Others are employees’.

“You get different reactions,” Gadsden says.

“Most people have difficulty recognizing their own hands,” unless, say, there is an identifier such as a ring.

“Once they do recognize their hands,” Gadsden notes, the individuals are often surprised.

Sometimes, Gadsden says, the people he asks are reluctant at first.

“Nah,” some say. “My hands have too much stuff on them.”

But after seeing the photos, the reaction often changes to “that’s not bad. You can use my hands, but not my face.”

Which is fine, because this photo exhibit is hands only.

This is actually Gadsden’s second such “show of hands” at the Merion. The first, after moving here, was before COVID-19 put a stop to such activities. That photo show was smaller than the new one.

One pair of hands that you won’t see in the show are Gadsden’s

“I don’t know what story my hands tell,”he says.

Isaac Gadsden’s hands (Jeff Hirsh photo).

So here’s a bit: Gadsden says “most of my work was with a computer and a pencil” during his career, which included a stint with DuPont.

Ironically, he also worked for a company that manufactured film, although he was on the production side, not the picture taking portion.

But now, Gadsden is telling stories without words, just pictures.

“It’s kind of fun,” he says.

It sure is. Hands down.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Join the Conversation


  1. Mr. Madsen, what a wonderful “study” of us human specimens. Those hands do have many “stories” to tell, don’t them, as well as a few “songs” to sing!
    “We got the whole world….”
    Thank you for your artistry. I’m envisioning a special exhibit along with some good stories at our Noyes Cultural Arts Center!

  2. Great observation Issaac, I see you are continuing to make astute recognitions. Age has certainly not hampered your facile mind, hang in there old friend, miss conversing with you.

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