I go into Ektar film knowing it's going to be really saturated. Every time. And still, I can't resist it. I tried to recently in a Kowa Six in bright, vibrant downtown Charleston. I can't lie-- I'll probably use it again. I dig it. And use more of it; those 12 shots just won't do it for me.
There are so many phenom painters here in Charleston. This town either breeds it or attracts it. I'm not sure which. Either way, I like it. Meet Kate. Her bold colors, contrast and thick shadows just make me feel courageous. She's another painter I'm going to add to my growing collection. And, it's just in time for that spring time clean-out/art-switcharoo, color-swap kind of season. Her fantastic little show was at Candlefish. Check her out! You can purchase from her directly, too. Go, Kate!
So, I'm technically back in Charleston (though my blog has pinned me in Manhattan Beach for quite some time now). I fell off the blogging train. I loved my trip so much that I pulled out my film cameras and just became completely consumed. It was a creative escapade. A dream. A flighty glimpse of total freedom. In fact, I've already flown back to Austin to do some more work (see my Instagram for more up-to-date shouts).
In between shoots here in Austin, I landed by recommendation at Hotel San Jose. The wisteria has just begun to bloom. There's that ideal springtime breeze that blends just right with the sun-- it's not too hot in the sun and just cool enough in the shade for a light sweater. When I come back to Austin, I'll be staying here. What a cozy, gorgeous, well-styled place right in the middle of downtown.
"These. These are real waves," I thought to myself. It was overcast, but I still squinted my eyes. The waves were big and they were loud. I think the repetitive roar of their forming and crashing is what I noticed first. The sand wasn't white, but it was abundant, flat, and warm. There was a misty fog rolling in. I only had a short time.
I limped down to the water awkwardly because I pulled my quad in my left leg. Long story short- I haven't hiked in a while. But I was too distracted to notice the pain. And it wasn't by the seagulls that were nosy, fat, and clustered, but by the thought of my old Great Dane, Lu. We threw her ashes in the ocean back on the East Coast. But as soon as I heard the water, I knew she had made it here, too. The emotions-- I mean, waves--came barreling in: blues, greens, and soon brown with sand.
I tiptoed backwards from the icy whitecapped water, but it caught the front half of my feet and sent a life-giving chill up my spine. I took a deep, salty, smoggy breath in and instantaneously every sense was alive. This is what it's like to feel a place. How am I possibly supposed to capture all of that into an image?
I could rant, because my phone died amidst other things. And it was a debacle getting another. But then I look at these photos and it goes away. Just disappears. There are such bigger things than broken phones and mislaid plans. There's so much more. I watched from a distance as this old team still made do. This duo that has had its ups and downs. I watched him brush her hair. I helped her hold an old photo of him with her arthritic hands. Little notes were written on them from when he was far away, "With love," "Hello Precious,"and "To the Sweetest." I stared at her crystal blue eyes and I wondered, what's it like growing old? Having all those memories, some coherent, some not; having so much past, having so much history? Do you recognize yourself from that long ago? Do you wish for it back? And, of course I worried. For them, I tried not to cry. And then I read:
And perhaps it's as simple as that. Not having all the answers, not knowing what's next, but having a friend, family member, or someone in the same boat aging alongside you. Being surrounded by good people you love. That's what pushes you through.
I went in reverse, Montgomery to Selma. Montgomery was full of police, politics, hoopla, and quiet protesting. The mayor promised things in a robust and commanding voice, but as I looked around, not many people were paying attention. I arrived around 11 am, while the mayor was speaking and just before the parade began. Children were playing on iPads, halfway interested. 'Bama-clad residents came for the show. Grandparents who have many memories of this day brought their grandchildren. But, I looked up to see policemen at the top of every building, including some in front of the clock on top of the capitol building. If something was going to happen, I didn't want to be there for it. I had a feeling more things were happening elsewhere. I left there for Selma. Selma was quiet, deserted, left over. The media had already come through. Oprah, John Legend, and Common had already made their appearance. As I pulled in, I saw a group of elderly people linking arms. On this day, 50 years ago, they sought a dream and lived a nightmare. These few left with visible scars, previously broken bones, and hats covering old wounds from billy clubs bravely relived that day. Too worn to make it all the way across, they walked what they could and came back. Anne Pearl Avery, John Pearlie Pettaway, and George Sallie so graciously allowed me to photograph them. There, with eyes aged and tinted blue from cataracts, John Pearlie Pettaway said it best, "We all gotta come together. You hear? I don't know how and I don't know when, but we all gotta come together."
If you've seen the recently produced film, Selma, I don't need to say anymore. I'll let the images speak for themselves.
Jon and Robyn Hicks are two people I met completely by chance. I was introduced to Stephanie in Atlanta, who introduced me to Jen. I said I was going to pass by Serenbe and Jen said that she had two amazing friends there I just had to meet. And boy, was she right. Both Jon and Robyn are filmmakers. They've recently produced a film called Picture Show that was an Official Selection for the Indie Memphis Film Festival, Oxford Film Festival, and Macon Film Festival. It was also the winner for the Best Short Screenplay at the Ozark Foothills Filmfest.
They met in school when he wrote a screenplay and asked her to play the lead role. He had written it with her in mind. They continued to date for 9 years, engaged and excited to be married. They would soon find out that Jon developed Stage IV lung cancer. The wedding went on, the community surrounded them-- they didn't pay a cent. She said it was the most beautiful and meaningful day. The community at Serenbe gathered around them and has taken care of them everyday since. As I chatted with them in the local coffee shop, we couldn't seem to complete a sentence without someone passing by and calling them by name, asking how they were doing and how the filmmaking was going. It was truly beautiful to watch. The local news did a short clip on them, which you can read here.
They took me to the labyrinth in Serenbe-- a special place for them. I didn't have to say a word. I didn't have to pose them. They just adore each other so. It came about naturally. And they say their story is "a love story, with a little bit of cancer." It takes a lot of energy and time, but it's not their focus. They're currently working on their next film, Nirvana. Robyn is also in school and has her sights set on an MFA and being a college professor.
Jon recently found out that the cancer has since spread to his brain. They could use some loving support and kind words. If you would like to do something for them, please don't hesitate to contact me through my website. You can also keep up with their story through their blog and facebook.
To me, Atlanta screams architecture. Coming from Charleston, I've learned to both appreciate historic beauty and miss sky-scraping buildings. Atlanta has both. If I could think of 5 words to describe Atlanta I would say: traffic, front yards, architecture, suburb sprawl, and power lines. After looking back, most of my pictures are from the car, which is where I spent most of my time. It took a tank of gas to get here and a tank of gas to be here. And, I say front yards, because that's what I grew up having and which Charleston is lacking. The houses are all so narrow and close, but it's hard for me to imagine growing up without a place to run and be a kid. And power lines, because when you're trying to take pictures of houses, they're always in my way.
Windshield wipers. That's what I forgot. Those are game changers. Mine are so old they smear the water across the windshield like Vaseline. This was the weather for most of my drive from Columbia to Atlanta: rainy, foggy, and bright lights against a jet black sky.
I found my self in that old school 10-and-2 position with my shoulders to my ears, squinting to try and see the lane changes. Oddly, it was a regular switch between that and sitting back with my foot propped up on the dash in standstill traffic. Bizarre driving weather.
I was too busy thinking about the Norman Rockwell exhibit from the Columbia Museum of Art to stress about the weather. I got there 15 minutes before they closed, so they whisked me on in for free! Rockwell painted from photographs because his models (neighbors and friends) wouldn't be able to hold positions as long as he needed. So, he struggled with whether to call himself a photographer or artist. He felt-at first-he was cheating, but said "The essential ingredient in every one of my finished paintings is me--my feelings, ideas, skills. I challenge anybody to show me when I started to use photographs."
I could say something similar about photography. Anyone can take the pictures I'm taking, but each are a product of my feelings, ideas, and skills. No one can duplicate my exact frame, composition, or light.
So, with that in mind. I hope you enjoy the set I'll send tomorrow. Less words, more pictures!
And so it begins! It's here: The official city list. Below are the cities I'll be headed to and the approximate dates I'll be there. If you're in or around these cities, I would love to meet for coffee and see/hear the best of what each city has to offer. Of course, I'll have my photo gear in tow and will snap some portraits, stories, and events along the way. Feel free to comment below or contact me through email with suggestions, questions, or leave a note. Let's go!
Columbia JAN 15
Atlanta JAN 15-17
Birmingham JAN 17-18
Jackson JAN 18-19
Baton Rouge JAN 19-21
Shreveport JAN 21-23
Tyler Jan 23
Dallas JAN 23-26
Waco JAN 26
Austin JAN 26-30
El Paso JAN 31-FEB 1
Phoenix FEB 1-3
LA FEB 3-5
HWY 1 FEB 5-7
San Fran 7-11
Going through some old film and digital files and found this duo of wide shots ferrying into the Island of Ometepe. To Nicaraguans, this is the people's paradise. It's where I learned to drive stick shift (up the side of a volcano), tried dragon fruit for the first time, found myself face to face with both a scorpion and a tarantula, and kayaked the most beautiful waters I have ever seen. It's a self-sustaining paradise. There are two live volcanos on this island. The Big Mama volcano and the Maderas Volcano. From there we went to see the howler monkeys in Chaco Verde, ferried back to Rivas, and drove back across the border to Costa Rica.
Whenever you meet someone, there can be lot of pressure to impress. That first couple of minutes can be unnerving. Perhaps it's not that way for everyone. But, it's sure as hell consistent for me. I've only met a handful of people that have this ability to disarm me. You know, that effortless shrug and all-eyes smile that says "I'm all here. This is me. Tell me about you." This girl is one of them. She just wraps you up and you fall into her world of bright colors and thoughtful design. It was probably one of the calmest photo shoots I've had. Everything about her was effortless: her comfort in painting, her eye for style, and who knew-- her ability to model. A few instructions, a handful of cues and she was a natural. Teil is a calm, kind, dependable soul. Teil, you're a keeper.
Summer's not over, yet. Right? There's still plenty of heat (plenty!), sweaty shopping, lazy Sundays, small waves, humid rains, and-- most importantly-- goggle eyes. Do you remember those? The second he popped these blue eye-suckers off, I was promptly transported back to childhood: running (walking!) around the pool with sore rings around my eyes from my goggles. I permanently looked like a raccoon. All summer- eyes with red rings. That, and if I put those on today I immediately look 4 years old all over again. So here's to summer or what's still left. It was a hot one. A memorable one. And to goggle eyes. May they and their unforgiving red rings never grow old.