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:

September 17, 2008

the static of autumn hums in the air

pale September, I wore the time like a dress that year
the autumn days swung soft around me, like cotton on my skin
but as the embers of the summer lost their breath and disappeared
my heart went cold and only hollow rhythms resounded from within

Gastropod Mollusk

my first assignment this morning was at a wreath-laying event for Constitution Day. i found myself in a historic cemetery where one of the signers of the Constitution was laid to rest. a group of little girls in uniforms gathered for the event, one toting a slug she found on a leaf. she chased the prissier girls with her slimy accomplice.

after the ceremony, the girl approached me with slug in tow:
HER: "Take a picture of my slug"
ME: "Well, do you think it'll be on the front page of the newspaper?"
HER: "Oh yea"
ME: "Ok. Tell him to smile"
HER: "He's always smiling, silly."

it made my morning.

my mom found me more than once sitting in the bushes in the backyard covered in caterpillars.

September 14, 2008

coming to terms with my roots.

i grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, where a rebel flag flying atop the state capital caused much debate but stayed flying until not long ago. i visited my father's family's rural bicentennial cotton, peanut and corn farm in Georgia twice a year: every summer and Christmas, my cousins and i would pile into the back of my grandfather's pickup truck loaded with dogs and we'd wind through those fields, on Sundays ending up at a one-room church. my father grew up along this dirt road surrounded by fields where sharecroppers lived in shacks.

somehow, despite where my roots were planted, this all seems very foreign to me. foreign, not in the sense that it is new and i've never seen it. but foreign in the sense that i never participated. i'm an outsider to the fundamentalist, conservative and proud South.

i do not think my situation is unique. likeminded friends have either moved away from the South or found themselves defending its simple charms and separating themselves from those who proudly claim 'heritage not hate'.

the idea of southern identity versus southern perception intrigues me.
the idea of being born into a culture and blindly embracing it or rejecting it, as I have done in many ways, is something i want to better understand and explore. i've always felt like a spectator and looked down my nose at southern traditions, at good ole boys, at my father's family's twangs. i was raised by my mother, a liberal military brat, and understood at a young age that the flag flying at the SC state capital was something of shame and not pride. i didn't even really notice the paintings of Civil War generals on my father's living room wall until recently. there is a dichotomy between my own history of being embarrassed and being proud of the geography of my life. only recently have I become cognizant of my hypocrisy/snobbery and more interested in coming to terms with my own sense of place and my own sense of heritage in a region that has pick-up trucks labeled with bumper stickers proclaiming a love for southern heritage.

all of that is to say that lately i've been trying to keep my eyes wider open to the culture of the South. while i know southern culture isn't all rebel flags, i've come across the scenes below all in the past month.

September 13, 2008

Sweet Dreamin'

this is a bar on the outskirts of the town outside of town. i got to choose a bar to depict nightlife in the town and on my way out, after getting in my car to leave, i noticed this scene.
after the awkward-motioning-nonono-dance i did with a guy playing pool thinking i was hitting on him through the window, i shot this frame and left.
it feels like an old painting to me, with the mixed natural blue and unnatural yellow light.

there's line dancing with older women every other saturday and i hope to make it back with some of my ladyfriends to boot, scoot and boogie.

September 11, 2008

everything about it is a love song: The Lake Escape

never underestimate the power of a change of scenery and a change of pace.
this week, i escaped to david's family's lake house for a couple days.
the last time i was there was almost one year before.
two summers ago, the extreme relief was the same and the escape came at a point when i was at a breaking point (and right before a huge turning point).

something about the woods, the water that changes color with the sky, and my delectable boy all set my heart at ease.
every time.
i unwind.
i don't sigh to catch my breath, i sigh because it feels so good to breathe.
which is a welcomed change.

(*i'd like to make two notes: one, yes, i have freakish feet. two, don't forget to brush. this is my life.)