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

Friday, July 11, 2014

clinton 39 years later

It was the winter of 1975, and I was an undergraduate studying photography and graphic design at the University of Wisconsin. I decided I wanted to travel through the mountains of eastern Kentucky to track down and photograph traditional bluegrass mountain musicians.

I drove through the hollers and asked anyone who'd hear me out: do you know any fiddle, mandolin or banjo players who've been playing for a long time? Making their own instruments, maybe?

One of the families to whose cabin I was pointed belonged to the Bailey clan. There was WR and Dahlia, who were in their 70's or 80's, their son Riley, and Riley's kids Clinton and Leon. WR and Riley made banjos, dulcimers and fiddles and played them well. I enjoyed this family so much I returned to their place two more times on subsequent visits to Kentucky.

So, I was on a search for The Baileys last week when I pulled into their town. I asked the first person I saw there if she knew Clinton Bailey. She said: yes, he and Leon live with their mother Ruby up yonder. 

I navigated the twists and turns of the holler, asking people along the way if I was getting any closer to the Bailey place. Up yonder can be hard to find if you haven't been there in 39 years.

Well, I did find them, and I spent two different days with them, meeting their family and their friends. I was accepted with warm, open arms. Sadly, Riley was no longer alive, but the next generation(s) greeted me kindly and were so appreciative of the photos I had brought along to give them.

I figured it would be fun to share the image I made of cherubic little Clinton, who was five or six at the time - and the photo I made of him last week with his granddaughter Makina.

So here they are.

Clinton, 1975

Clinton and granddaughter Makina, 2014

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