Turning Stories Around
I recently got to see a friend who's a brilliant visual artist that - even though she can produce just about anything she wants - simply uses pens now with a particular, unique, Southern-gothic theme and style. We hadn't seen each other in nearly six months; it seems that happens more and more now the farther out I get from college with most people.
In college, everything was so laid out and easy for lives to blend together seamlessly. Regardless of what we studied, our communities had a central-point, and we each experienced similar things, had common goals and complications. And especially in Charleston, social circles were incestuous, and it was impossible to really go anonymously on the street for more than a few days.
So I met my friend up at this restaurant and started talking art and photography and found myself exploring questions about why I shoot and - as importantly - why I shoot what I shoot.
The person I consider my mentor recently contacted me to see if I'd maybe be interested in starting to shoot more professionally, doing events and weddings. I think that before I actually started taking photographs - and especially before I shot my best friend's wedding this Spring in PA - I would never have considered it as something I'd be interested in. But because of that wedding, I realized that there are so many more scenes to capture photographically than I'd previously given credit in the events and rituals of our lives.
For instance, at Jeff's wedding, I could work behind the scenes, not doing the standard wedding thing but trying to eye it more from a photojournalist's perspective, seeing the communal dynamics playing out around this one event. People come together, in celebration, typically (though there are those few that want to make it about them). And that's the story, seeing the reaction of this event on the faces of people who matter to the couple.
And in some ways, these events aren't completely about the couple themselves; the couple is what brings together the array of family-quarrels, the lover's hanging up their spurs, the friends they haven't seen in years and the ones they saw last week. The couple is the conduit for stories to be brought to light in a forum that never would have happened without them. They're mirrors, reflecting the people they love, the ones they feel complicated about, and those they felt obligated to invite.
What it takes then, is for the photographer to turn around and find these stories coming out. We can find a story in everything. I was telling my artist friend about a small tool-shed that I pass everyday on the way to work. It's sheltered into the side of a hill that's being overrun with kudzu vines, and they've also started taking over the exterior of the shed. This shed's probably been there 20, 30, 40 years maybe, and in that single image, there's a story about Appalachian America that needs to be told. So maybe next time I post, I'll stop doing the Torres del Paine pictures and have that one instead.