This month's "Dance for the River" shoot had us splashing through Peter's creek, which is one of the creeks in the Yadkin River watershed and it's health is directly tied to the health of our river. We started in a tunnel that runs past Brunson Elementary. It is lined with graffiti and the water runs around building material, clothes, toys and even a few shopping carts filled with debris. We ended beneath one of the old Hanes plants, where earlier this month an industrial dye spill turned the creek water red.
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 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
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.
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
So, here's my 2016 in a nutshell. I hope you enjoy and find a little inspiration!
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:
It's always amazing out here on the river when seasons change. And Fall is my favorite with the fog coming off the river and colors changing. It's really very magical. Add some dancers with an incredible spirit for adventure and it just raises the bar. This project is important for many reasons, but it has been my muse for the past few months, reconnecting me tomy craft and adding a much needed fuel for creativity and purpose. I hope you feel a little of the magic in a few of my favorite images this last shoot.
A couple weeks ago I got this email from my friend, Clare Fader:
"I wondered if you happen to be in town this coming Wednesday."
"I have an enormous favor to ask. I have gotten fairly involved with the refugee community in our city in the last few months. I've learned that many of them are painfully isolated. The agency bringing them here is overwhelmed and being asked to do too much with too little. They rely heavily on volunteers and simply don't have the resources to aid with integration.
I am determined to raise awareness as I think there are many people who would like to help if they knew they were here and how to get involved. "
"I am looking for a photographer who would be able to make story telling images during a special cooking class and gathering of friends in my kitchen. Shereen is an amazing woman from Egypt who is determined to use her cooking skills to create cross cultural understanding and also support recently arrived Syrian women. She wants to volunteer her time to do this type of thing as much as possible to promote dialogue and friendships across cultures"
Of course it was an automatic yes from me. I love when the opportunity arises to document community, and I am lucky to live in a community with such a big heart. Being able to be present with my camera at this event was one of my highlights for the year.
So, what’s it like to travel across the state with 13 dudes? Well, most of it would be pretty much what you expect: bodily noises, questionable jokes and impressive amounts of alcohol consumed.
Being one of two ladies along for the Solar bear ride last week (Amy Canter the other!) , I can just speak for myself, but to me, it’s like a rolling band of brothers. I grew up mostly around two brothers, my sister came around when I was a bit older, so I knew how to punch and how to roll with the punches.. and how to take a (bad) joke or two.
Fast forward (a few) years, I found myself drawn to bikes and wanted to keep up with the guys that were riding them. Any relationship I was in, had to understand that most of my friends were men and most of my weekends were spent chasing them.
I met Matt Canter when I wondered into Ken’s Bike Shop in Reynolda Village at the tender age of 22. . ( And Ken, well.. that’s another story.. I ended up marrying him)
Matt and I were instant friends and we always found ourselves together on some crazy bike adventure. Matt is not a real talkative guy, but we seemed to get each other and without many words were comfortable around each other. I was fairly naive when I first started hanging at the shop, and it wouldn’t take much to turn me a few shades of red.
But within a year or two, I figured out how to turn that around and my mind easily spiraled into the gutter. I also learned how to ride bikes faster and found riding a fun escape and a way to make life time bonds.
So last year, that life time bond talked me into riding 270 mostly flat miles to the beach with a bunch of guys for a great cause. The Solar Bear ride is a spin off from one of my husband's first charity rides for the community. The “Polar” bear was an annual New Year’s day ride that Ken’s bike shop put on to raise money for local charities.
When Cancer Services took over the Polar Bear Ride several years ago, attendance was falling and they put a lot of effort into a ride that was no longer raising much money. So a few of Ken’s customers came up with the “Solar Bear” ride , to raise more money for Cancer Services.
Scott Sexton gave it momentum and Matt took the lead for the bike shop and joined forces with a small group of guys that started growing in number over the years. I hopped on last year because.. well honestly, Matt invited me and it was something different.
While I didn’t know many of the guys in the group that well, we all shared a common bond: to cycling, to health, and to that feeling of freedom when your on a bike. And there’s also a feeling of safety when your on common ground with folks. Like a band of brothers, you know your going to be OK around them.
In the third shoot from my yearlong series "Dance for the River", I worked with students from UNCSA Dance and am never surprised by what they are capable of. While I imagined quieter images of one or two dancers, my first shoot with them was a group of six. Garrett Parker, a senior at UNCSA is coordinating all the dancers for me and he has said the response is huge at the school. Over 60 students signed up for this first shoot! Who knows, one of the next shoots could incorporate everyone that signs up!
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.
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.
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."
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!
I'm excited to show off a sample of my new project "Dance for the River". I am collaborating with local dancers, UNCSA and the Yadkin River Keeper. I'm traveling the length of the Yadkin River and using dance to interpret the variety of the river and environmental threats to the river that is our drinking source. We "tested the waters" in the East Bend of the Yadkin, which happens to be our backyard! Ashley Ramsey is one of our neighbors, a professional dancer, yogi, and an incredible person!
Here are a few words from Ashley on her experience with this project:
There was always a process of giving up control and letting the river/environment
determine what was available. I had to accept that I could not move my body here in the
river in the same way I might move it in a studio in terms of both technique and
aesthetics. First I encountered feelings of uncertainty and acceptance. Then as I
gradually became more familiar with the anatomy and qualities of the location, I began
to explore, discover and embrace the unique experience and demands the environment
offered. Eventually surprises emerged as I began to realize how much risk I could take
or a particular way of moving that was unexpected. Stories began to form – once I was
a hunting aborigine with strong legs or a shaman. Another time I relived evolution as I
slithered up onto a rock, discovered the three-dimensional mobility of my spine and
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.
I've collected some of my favorite winter photos from out on the property, hoping that by parking them here, spring will come around a little sooner. Yup, maybe with that and the good old groundhog forecast, we'll shake this crazy Carolina winter. We've seen floods, snow and ice; holding strong to the daydreams of summer waiting for us around the next bend.
We now have a "new" New Year's Day tradition. Bring your tree, your regrets, that resolution you know your not gonna keep- and ring in the new year bonfire style at the farm!
Goodbye 2015. It was another epic year. Travel, work, friends and great stories kept me rolling through 2015. Here is a tour through some of my favorite moments and jobs!