Naseeb and Margaret Baroody found each other late in life. After losing their respective spouses in 1989, they grieved separately and together and eventually built a new life when they married in 1991. As a cardiologist, Naseeb (known to friends as N.B.) traveled around the world on medical mission trips, always with his camera and often with Margaret. After he retired, they put together a book of N.B.'s photography supplemented with text from his wife.
N.B. died in February, just a few days before The Unexpected Visitor was to go to press. He bumped his head in his darkroom and developed a subdural hematoma. While Margaret mourns her second husband, she moves forward by promoting the book they wrote together.
"I feel real good about it," Baroody says from her home in Florence. "It is his legacy. It's a little bittersweet doing this book tour business because we were looking forward to doing it together, but I want to do a good job."
It's certainly a legacy worth preserving. N.B. helped and healed people in Ecuador, Africa, and especially in the Middle East, where his knowledge of Arabic came in handy. Photography was a hobby and an escape from the medical world. Over the years, he studied with photographers like Ansel Adams, John Sexton, and Bruce Barnbaum, and his beautiful black-and-white images reflect their influence.
"I think in today's world, a lot of people don't necessarily understand what's involved in doing the darkroom work," Baroody says. "It's very intensive. And it is where a lot of the creativity comes out, and those are the skills that he honed in his workshops. It makes the difference between an ordinary shot and fine art, because it requires sophisticated techniques. It's an art form."
The photographs in The Unexpected Visitor range from Lowcountry beach scenes to portraits of people he met on his journeys, like three children in 1960's Florence and a man with leprosy in Egypt. The Baroodys published an earlier, smaller version of the book, In Search of His Image, in 2007, which was limited to photographs. Publishers at Joggling Board Press suggested the addition of narrative to complement the images.
"I said, 'I don't know how to do that, all I did was hold the umbrella,'" Baroody remembers. "They said, 'You don't have to tell us about the taking of the prints. Tell us what you think when you look at one.'"
The result is a collection of poetry, Bible verses, and the stories behind many of the photos. Death and faith are over-arching themes, giving the book a melancholy yet hopeful feel.
While the couple's strong faith is evident, Baroody hopes it will resonate with a diverse audience.
"I think that a lot of the stories will speak to people in all kinds of circles," Baroody says. "It's not a book with simple answers. There is some scripture, Old Testament and New. In some funny way, I do think it speaks beyond, though primarily the book is a devotional book, whatever that means to you."
As Baroody begins the tour without her partner, she is on a mission of her own.
"The important thing is that when you get to a certain point in life, you kind of realize that the important role for you at this point is to sort of pass the baton. Whatever it is you've learned, whether it was joy or heartache, you want to share with whoever wants to listen."
Margaret Baroody book signings: Aug. 8, 2-4 p.m., Barnes & Noble, 1812 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. Aug. 9, 2-4 p.m., Lowcountry Senior Center, 865 Riverland Drive.