"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Monday, June 30, 2014

eastern kentucky

Am I really old enough to say casually, "I did that project 39 YEARS AGO?"

Well, yes, actually I am.

Back in 1975 and 1976, when I was an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin, I did a body of work that was kind of in my own Kentucky (where I grew up) backyard. I ventured into the hills and hollers of the Appalachian mountains to photograph bluegrass musicians. I produced a hand-made letterpress book featuring some of the pictures. It is called You Are Kindly Welcome.

Some of the towns I visited are in Clay County. In a recent NYT article, Clay County, Kentucky was named dead last in the state for quality of life, with devastatingly grim statistics in the areas of education, income, employment, disability rates, life expectancy and obesity rates. 

There's a lot that has gone wrong in eastern Kentucky over the years. If you're interested in reading the article, click here.

After reading the piece, I decided to fill up my Prius, pack my camera bag and hit I-70 east.

Before climbing into my car, I dug up the work from my previous trips to eastern Kentucky. Thanks to digital technology, I was able to scan and sort of salvage some pretty awful negatives (I underexposed everything when I was 21!)

Now I am on a mission to revisit these same areas and perhaps even find some of the same families (one in particular with whom I spent a great deal of time). I'm heading out today, my beat up road atlas in hand. I'll keep you posted as to what I find. In the meantime, here are a few of the images I made back in the dark ages.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

wipe it up or take a picture?

Yesterday Eddie accidentally dripped some water across the kitchen floor. 

So I reached for my iPhone and made a picture.

The decision was a no-brainer. 

I heart photography.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

i'm inspired

Brandon Thibodeaux (born 1981) freelances as an editorial and commercial photographer in Dallas, Texas. For the past five years he has photographed a number of small communities in the Mississippi Delta. “I’ve grown close to a few families out there and it’s their lives and the world around them that I photograph. The Delta is not short on photographic projects; some document its poverty, others may focus on its blues music, but I wanted to show the dignity and tenderness that I was experiencing in the lives of folks. Those relationships are what keep me going back. Their stories of trials and triumph have captivated me.”

It's gorgeous work. Take a look.

Monday, June 23, 2014

it's always the same and it's always different

Making photos from the same spot day after day reminds me that while things stay the same, they are also changing. Here's my most recent pool picture, made from the window I pass several times a day when I walk down the hall of my apartment building.

Have you ever seen the movie "Smoke"? There's a character in the film who takes a picture from the same vantage point - a street corner - every day for 11 years (for a total of 4,000 photos). On the surface the scenes look the same. Only until we slow down and look closely at the changes, some subtle and some not, do we begin to grasp the notion that time - and our own perspectives - are constantly reshaping and redefining that which seems familiar. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

the grandchidlers

It was a wonderful week. A visit from children and grandchildren.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

remembering lanis

Every summer when I was at 8 week sleep-away camp, I received weekly letters from my mom. They were always written while she was under the dryer at Lanis' Beauty Parlor.

Like most women of her generation, Mom had her hair washed and set at a standing appointment in a small beauty salon. Lanis' was a cute little place from which many blue haired women emerged. (My mom never dyed her hair; she had a beautiful crown of white hair that remained thick and wavy until the day she died.)

The letters she wrote while her head was decorated with small multicolored plastic rollers were newsy. So-and-so got engaged, she and Dad saw a good play at he University, there had been a loud thunderstorm mid-week, my little sister had spent the night at Connie's. I remember the curvy, delicate lines of her cursive and the monogrammed stationary upon which it perched - just like it was yesterday.

My barbershop project inspired me to poke my head in at some beauty parlors this past week. In a flood of memories, I thought of Lanis. I could easily recall the days I sat in her waiting area leafing through Highlights Magazine and Archie comic books while my mom sat poised beneath her skillful hands. I could conjure up the smell of Adorn and Aqua Net. I went straight back to sinks, the hair dryers, the smocks. I remembered the time Lanis cut my hair, and I left in tears because it was too short.

Here are a couple pictures I made this week in places that took me back to Lanis', those letters I got at camp and the smell of my mother's hair. I think there might be more of these in order. I like going back, you know.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

pass the hammer please

Eddie and I spent some time today working on a Habitat for Humanity house. We donated the hours to our friend Keira, a twenty-seven year old who is in the process of becoming a first-time homeowner.

To have qualified as a “partner ” with Habitat,  Keira had to prove she has a steady income, have good credit and has to have maintained a savings account for a specified period of time. She was lucky to have received the partnership with Habitat; it would have been impossible for her to qualify for a home loan otherwise. Habitat provides no-profit mortgage loans and innovative financing. And there are far more people who want this opportunity than those who actually get the chance. She is very lucky.

Part of the process for getting one’s own home through Habitat’s program is to invest “sweat-equity” hours building one’s home and helping with others’ homes. Keira has to also make a down payment, make timely mortgage payments and attend homeowner education classes.

She could not be happier about all of this! She and her two young children drive by their “forever home” (still a construction site at this point) each morning just to feast their eyes on it.

Keira has to commit to working 250 hours at her site or at others. Friends and family can contribute 110 of those work hours. That’s why a group of us were pitching in today!

We did not work at Keira’s future home, but we were in her neighborhood. It was such a good feeling to know we were helping this hard-working, lovely young woman achieve her dream.

She was so grateful and appreciative. She will be one proud homeowner when the day finally arrives. We're all very excited for her and her adorable daughters!


hot fun in the summertime

June Carnival at Operation Breakthrough meant a visit from the local firefighters, some bubble machines, moonwalks and more. Welcome to summer!