Tailwaters to Smoot. An Epic Easter Shoot

THIS IS HOW YOU MAKE LEMONADE

0% chance of rain and nothing on the radar, despite looking at ominous dark cloud in the distance at the put in.

No dry bags. because you know, 0% chance of rain. The first sprinkles were kind of refreshing.

Then Mother Nature let loose all her glory.

So, maybe I didn't get a bucket full of usable images for this project.. but I got a memories I'll always think of every Easter Sunday. I've worked with UNCSA kids many times and I always come away with a sense of amazement of what they are capable of... and now this one may be at the top of my list!

I hope all these kids adventures end as epic! They are amazing!

Narrows Dam

For 90 years, Alcoa owned and operated an aluminum smelter along the banks the Yadkin River, specifically Badin Lake. During that time, cyanide, fluoride, PCB’s, PAH’s and other toxins, including arsenic, were generated and disposed of through Alcoa’s 13 outfall pipes into Badin Lake and outfalls into Little Mountain Creek. Hazardous materials were also buried throughout the community of Badin at 44 identified locations, without liners. Buried waste continues to contaminate ground and surface water around the old Badin smelter.

Now under new stewardship, with Cube Hydro Carolinas LLC, the river has a newpurpose, but Badin and High Rock lake still have a long way to go to heal it's waters from decades of pollution.

My shoot last month with two dancers from Helen Simoneau Danse was a stark contrast to earlier shoots I've done on the Yadkin where water flows freely.

I felt a sense of blocking, but I was also listening to what the space once was before so much pollution and non-organic activity was there. It was as if I was trying to listen to the memory of that kind of spirit. Hoping it was still underneath, hoping it will come back in the future. So I think I was mostly focused on the little heartbeat that I heard there.
— Jasmine Hearn
I felt very small in that space. The energy felt very sickly and I didn’t feel a lot of life coming out of that water. The water seemed to only be moving when humans flipped a switch to turn the movement on. So, today I did feel somewhat stifled in my movement.
— Burr Johnson

The good, the bad and the beautiful. 2016

Life really is made up of little moments, and those little moments can create a beautiful tapestry of community. I took a step back in 2016 and followed stories that had weight to things I felt were important, as well as stories that just made my heart sing. I've realized that we are sometimes removed from people or cultures we don't understand. Black, white, brown and everything in between, we are all part of the melting pot called 'Merica. And my hope this year was to do my best to reflect that through my camera and capture all the little moments that make us a community and connect us.

A traditional river baptism on Hilton Head Island, SC. The Gullah, a civilization living on the Sea Islands of South Carolina have upheld its West African legacy for more than 100 years through cherished traditions in spirituality, music, food and language.

 

A cooking class taught by refugee families, summer concerts, bike racing, explorations in the woods, water fights , a wedding , family gatherings, music, dance, the fair,-Using my camera to reflect all the little moments that connect us helped to created my 2016 tapestry of community photojournalism.

I also launched a new project called "Dance for the River" , which is a collaboration with UNCSA, the Yadkin Riverkeeper and other local dance groups to create an environmental message about our river through the art of dance. 

The Dixie Classic Fair

Women from Syria and Somalia donate their time during a luncheon and cooking class in a West End home in WS, NC

A hug goes a long way when you can't get out of your home very often. Senior Services provides hugs, meals and many other services for the Elderly of Forsyth county.

I even managed to survive a mountain bike trip through the Swiss Alps and come home to find an orphaned fawn that adopted us.

A UNCSA dancers leaps, fluid and beautiful, against backdrop of a Duke Energy coal ash pond that borders the backyard of a Dukeville, NC home. Unlined ponds leaked into the groundwater contaminating many wells in this community. This is part of a bigger series called "Dance for the River"

Biking through the Swiss Alps was no joke. Made me want to take up hiking.

"Farrah", our resident fawn follows one of our guests looking for more treats.

2016 ended with the loss of so many great people and new political challenges to try and understand and navigate. My hope for 2017 is to create stories that give voice to our fears and to communities that we may not understand. I live in East Bend. It's about as rural America as you can get- My hope is to bring some of the stories from here to life as well as continue to explore the lives of recent refugees as they try to make this country home. You don't always have to travel far to try and create change in understanding.

Yea. Tree climbing was one of my favorite past times as a kid too. I still love it, although it's tricky getting back down sometimes.

Preparation for baptism of teenagers at Hilton Head Island, SC

Backstage at UNCSA

So, here's my 2016 in a nutshell. I hope you enjoy and find a little inspiration!

 

 

Hannah and Gus. A wedding story.

When I was in photography school, the first thing we were taught about photo stories is: fewer images are more powerful. In fact, we had find photo stories and tell a complete story in no more than 5 images. That's kinda hard when in the wedding industry "more is better".  When covering a wedding, there are the detail photos,  group photos, wide shots that give you a sense of the venue and of course the candid photos.. which I feel are the heart of every wedding story.  Gus and Hannah were the perfect wedding clients in so many ways, and .. I cannot tell their story is 5 images-  Here are 5 reasons why:

1. As you see, they are adorable.

 

2. Hannah had an amazing sense of humor.

 

3. They were extremely adventurous! with every "melt your heart" image, there's a complimentary image that shows the friendship that seemed to be the foundation of their love.

 

4. They kept their wedding intimate, which gave me more opportunities to photograph genuine connections.

5. They never stopped dancing!! so I cannot pick just one or two of them on the dance floor!

Here's the rest of the story:

 

 

Dance for the River, Shoals to Donnaha.

 

In the second shoot of Dance for the River project, my focus on what this project means to me and how it will relate to the Yadkin River gets more fine tuned. This past Sunday, I worked with Helen Simoneau and two of her dancers, and while it was amazing to see what these dancers were capable of in such a new and challenging environment , it was also their first experience on the river. Will Scott, the Yadkin River Keeper, was along to help paddle canoes and experience one of the first shoots for the project.

Will Scott, Center is surrounded by Helen Simoneau, on right and her dancers Jule and Julianne. Will's dogs dash and new addition, Dobbs were along for the ride as well as his girlfriend Ashley (in background)

 

I see this project as fine art meets environmentalism. My intention is to not only create images that reflect the beauty of the river and the human form, but to also bring attention to the fragility and environmental threats to our drinking source.

Helen, Jule and Julianne. Shoals.

Helen and Jule, Shoals.

Words are not my medium, images are. I think Will encompassed the project best in his statement: " "Even though over 700,000 people get their drinking water from the Yadkin River, few realize the threats-from agricultural pollution to Stormwater runoff to millions of tons of toxic coal ash-that face North Carolina's second largest river basin. This project will give human scale to the enormous problems that face the river today."

Helen and Jule, Little Yadkin near Donnaha.

Julianne Harper, Shoals. " It was my first time on the Yadkin, and my first time paddling a canoe--I was able to check a few things off my "never have I ever" list. I enjoyed all of the locations, but I guess my favorite was the tree growing out of the rock. I liked having the goal of trying to match the tree's lines/shape, and exploring the other parts of the rock on that mini island. I was just thinking about being another tree, but there were moments when I felt like a mermaid too." 

Helen: "It was an exciting and overwhelming day to shoot in so many locations while trying to soak in the beauty and majestic landscape of the river. I had never been to the river in all my time living in Winston-Salem. It was powerful and made me feel like the sky and the earth were connected in a way I had never considered.”

 

This will be a challenging but important project that will blend our Arts community and local River community together. I can't wait until the next shoot! Here are a few out takes from Sunday, enjoy!

 

This is how we do bike racing

Winston-Salem had a full week of bike racing. Starting with the National Championship road races, time trial, criteriums, paracyclist, tandem races and ending with a weekend full of exciting pro races. The WS Cycling Classic. I was only able to photograph the pro criterium this weekend, but it made me proud of our little town. The community came out in force to embrace this event.