October 15, 2008

Box of Light is Moving

I've packed up my photos and moved to a new blog, friends. there, the photos are huuuuuuge and i can sport the pretty Luceo name. it'll be a grand ole time.
so, follow me!

October 6, 2008

Cheerleading: Rite of Passage

i've been spending the past few weeks photographing the North Augusta High School Varsity Cheerleading squad and will continue to do so til the close of the football season. Friday morning was their homecoming. I awoke before the sun rose to meet the girls at school before classes. The juniors were being made under by the seniors as a rite of passage into the varsity squad. Each senior covered her "little sister" in face paint, colored hair spray, glued brightly colored eyelashes to their eyelids, stuck moustaches to their upper lips, put tutus around their waists. Then the girls made their way down to the football field for the homecoming pep rally in the lovely early morning light.
I shot a lot of images and figured the majority of which won't make my final edit of the squad's season since striped leggings and hot pink hair might distract if there are a lot of repetitions... so here is a peek at my Friday morning:

October 1, 2008

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I have the privilege of individually photographing 31 breast cancer survivors. The photos will run in the Chronicle as a(n almost) full page portrait every day in October. They trickle in every half hour two or three days of the week and I coax each woman, some whom are much more willing than others, to have fun with the camera and their prop.
When the photo department first heard of our last-minute responsibility for filling a page every day of this month, we all laughed at such a task and hoped we wouldn't be the photographer responsible for it. After sitting in for a test shot with Michael Holahan, a co-photographer, we played off each others' ideas and I decided the central theme should be much more simple than the suggestions we'd heard, and that I would use only one of several pink props we were given. A pink scarf.
I volunteered to do the portraits, excited to get more use out of the dreaded studio, and have only done less than one fourth by today. My brief encounters with these survivors is a gift. Some twirl the scarves, some peek out from it, some drape it across their chests.
My step-mother had breast cancer not long after my little sister was born. I wasn't old enough to truly grasp the fear and strength that comes with a cancer diagnosis and treatment. I was amazed to discover in conversations in the studio that of the seven women I've photographed so far, two have had two bouts with breast cancer. It's hard to imagine overcoming something so scary and trying and then having to do it once again.
I hope I make these women (and possibly men--haven't found one yet) proud.
At the end of October, I will share my favorites images.
(Towards the end of the month, I'm betting I'll be wracking my brain for ideas for what a person can do with a scarf. It should be interesting to see how desperate, er creative I get.)

And, in the meantime, this is the lovely Sarah Day Owen, an excellent features and teen writer at the paper, who kindly sat in while I fiddled with lights and poses.

September 26, 2008


If you don't look at the Boston Globe's The Big Picture already, you should. Daily. Alan Taylor posts LARGE photos with a central theme, usually a current event, and the blog gets 400,000 to 800,00 hits daily. With media transferring energies into the web, it's nice to see photos displayed big, for a change.
I was excited to get an email from Alan a couple days ago requesting to use some images from a photo story I did on Diana Floyd, during her bout with Wilm's tumor, a pediatric kidney cancer, in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I'm thrilled for this story to get exposure because I worked on it with that purpose in mind for Children's Chance, a South Carolina group that raises money to help family's of pediatric cancer patients.
This was my first outside-of-college, real dive-in-to documentary project and in a lot of ways I think it is my most successful. I witnessed such true moments between the whirlwinds of chaos I found in her family's small trailer.
The second time I met Diana was at the hospital for a chemotherapy session. She was nervous about the chemo and I was nervous about figuring out her family's limits with me. In the small room, Diana sat on an exam table and her father asked, "You're gonna be brave, right?" Diana replied with "Right" and they put their foreheads together. I took the photo feeling as if I'd stolen something from their bond and the intimacy of the moment, yet I was amazed that they didn't even question my action, they didn't stop and look up.
I was talking to David about my favorite photo I've ever taken (and lemme tell you, I have a lead shutter finger, so there must be hundreds of thousands) and I think it's the image (below) of Diana looking in the mirror for the first time right when her hair started falling out. Her mother had brushed it as Diana watched cartoons, putting the clumps of her thick ebony hair into a sandwich bag. Then Diana got up and ran to the bathroom. With her baby sister Rebecca watching, she said matter-of-factly to her reflection "Yep, I'm already bald. You can see my skull," and with that ran back into the living room and danced to a country song. Witnessing 5-year-old Diana's innocent and incredibly brave process of coping with cancer was such a blessing.
After doing only two rather brief documentary stories (rather than essays) since, I've come to understand much better how incredibly important and rare it is for your subjects to really give you true, unlimited access to their lives. It's a bold gift to give a photographer and the viewers of the images.
and we are so very grateful.

Good news, by the way: I'd slipped out of contact with the Floyds after Diana had her chemo port removed. I no longer had a way of contacting the family and as time passed I figured I would never talk to them. Out of the blue, over a year since our last encounter, Diana's mother called me two weeks ago to check-in. She told me Diana has thick hair and is in school. Cancer-free.

September 24, 2008

Football Craze - Football Crazy : Cocks vs Dawgs

Because Augusta lies on the border of Georgia, with only the narrow Savannah River separating it from South Carolina, the night before the UGA vs USC game, the Border Bash takes place. Fans from both teams cheer on the cheerleaders and mascot from each team.
People get in line to get autographs from a man in a chicken suit.
Young children yell cruel things at the opposing team's fans.
Women in short shorts and stockings from Hooters pass out small footballs and calendars to the children and their fathers.
I could not feel more out of place. It all seems so absurd, which makes the spectacle more fun to witness. Growing up in Columbia, SC, I went to USC games. Going to UGA, I photographed UGA games. The craze and passion and drunken foolishness borders on the edge of an annoyance to me. The roar of the crowd in the games is amazing. The mad dashes and bashing of skulls on the field is admirable. Yet, the stealing from tailgaters and drunken fighting following the game disgusts me.
I mean, what if people put this passionate energy toward poverty? What if people put on their war paint and got this excited about volunteering at a soup kitchen? Never, right? Why not?
I'm not saying football is a waste of time--heck, the craze for college football is a southern tradition--but mustering up enough passion about a team that you would yell obscenities at girls with pom poms seems off.
(and if i had to hear ONE more beautiful Sarah Palin/ugly Hillary Clinton joke from the stage, no less, I would have screamed.)

in the end, my alma mater beat my hometown. 14-7.

September 22, 2008

The most important people in my life

My lovely mother came to Augusta Saturday so I could give her a birthday hug and she, her Frank, David and I could take in on the arts events of the weekend. With her visit, I finally got to make a polaroid collage of her to add to the collection lining a living room wall.
These four people are the most important people in my life. When something important happens, they are the first people I call. They've shaped who I am today. My mother, who I unknowingly received my love for people's stories because of her passion as a writer and a journalist (amongst the countless other gifts/bits of wisdom/guidance she has given me and most of the people she meets).

My talented partner in photography and amore, David Banks:

My goofy, ebullient little sister Rebecca aka Sis:
My brilliant oldest friend and kindred spirit Lindsey Kettinger: