Welcome to my photography blog, a place where I share not only portraits but other aspects of my photography.
While Nashville has several diverse neighborhoods, lower Broadway reminds me of Las Vegas. It's a rich soup of the hopeful and the hopeless; those chasing dreams and those chasing the next drink. It's bright and shiny and fun to visit, but if you hang around long enough and look closely enough, you start to see both sides. Underneath the exterior of optimism and wild success is a layer of people living in disappointment. It fascinates me, and I can spend hours slipping among the crowds, in and out of bars, with a camera.
When wandering around in old buildings, there is always a story forming in my head about the people who used to inhabit those buildings. In fact, a photographer friend of mine jokes that I ALWAYS have a story for each location we visit and photograph. Old buildings give me inspiration and fuel my imagination, but as it turns out, that imagination wasn’t necessary on my last outing. That’s because I visited a school that my husband attended for a couple of years as a child. He loved that school, and when I told him where I had been, he started telling stories about his time there. He described every corner in great detail, bringing to life for me the building that now sits in disrepair. As he talked of lunch in the basement cafeteria, and Cousin Mary Lee’s loving role as head cook there, and playing in the upstairs gym, it was like turning black and white pages in my mind into colorful stories that jumped out of a book. It helped to soften the sadness I felt for a building that will eventually be torn down or lost to the elements of Mother Nature. Thankfully, it will live on in the memories of its former students and teachers.
I’m a firm believer that every person has a story. All you have to do is ask and most people will tell you their story. Humans of New York is an outstanding example of that. But I also believe that every place has stories to tell and that it’s the job of artists to find those stories. Every time I explore an old home site, my imagination wants to bring to life the people who used to be there. Who were they? Why did they leave?
I can stand inside of an abandoned school and hear the sounds of chalk on a board and the laughter of children. If I close my eyes I can smell the chalk. Standing inside of an old building in Hopkinsville that used to be a brothel, brought to mind imaginary tales of dingy bedrooms and the women who kept the town’s secrets.
Another place with stories to tell is the cemetery. While driving around the countryside to find photo opportunities, I often stop in cemeteries. You can tell a lot about people by the way they treat their dead. In fact, I almost always visit an old cemetery when traveling overseas or in the southern states. The dates on the head stones leave me wondering about children who died young, women widowed at an early age and old soldiers. But it’s not just the old graves that tell stories. Sometimes, the fresher graves have stories to tell, too, especially at the veterans’ cemeteries. Stories that stop you in your tracks when you stumble upon them shortly after Christmas.
Like the 31 year old soldier whose marker was covered in lipstick. Lip prints that accumulated over time.
Or the soldier whose stone held a cupcake and a card addressed to “Daddy” in the large printed scrawl of a young child.
The cupcake was in good shape, the container tinged with the frost of a chilly day.
How long before I stopped there had the child been there? Is Christmas without “Daddy” as painful as I think it is? And how many years will pass before this soldier’s story will sadly seem as common as those who have served decades before him?
I took a few minutes out of my snow day to shoot some pictures of birds outside of my window. Dozens of them hopped and dove around the feeder, rapidly draining it of seed. I'd never given much thought to what it's like for them to brave the winter elements until I watched them bracing themselves against the wind, hanging tightly onto small branches and shaking snow flakes off of their backs.
Some didn't seem to care about the big lens sitting on the other side of the window, while others, especially the cardinals, were incredibly skittish. All of them displayed a bit of personality, even the little guy that stared at me with a gaze that seemed to say, "Let me in where it's warm".
When I travel I always find the locals very interesting, especially if I’m in a well known tourist destination. I can wander for hours, taking pictures and talking to people. I’ve been known to grill a cab driver like he was a candidate for public office. Call me odd, call me nosey. It’s what I do, and I love seeing how much information I can learn from a complete stranger and trying to figure out if they’re telling the truth or just making up stuff for me. They usually play along, probably because, like me, they figure we won’t ever meet again.
When we were in Vegas a couple of weeks ago, I twice left my husband ogling over the cars at the Barrett Jackson Auction and made my way to the older part of town to wander around and take pictures. Vegas is one big mirage. Just a lot of smoke and mirrors creating this fantasy playground for adults. And if you look closely, there are people everywhere who succumbed to the fantasy and got lost in gambling or alcohol.
I guess you could say I went looking for the show behind the show. Without any judgment, I just started tipping locals who were either begging for money or trying to earn tips in weird ways and documented the people I ran into that day. Mercy, I could spend weeks in the older part of Vegas just taking pictures of old motels and the people around them.
Here are some folks I met along the way, and let me warn you right now, there is an elderly gentleman in a slingshot of a mankini in the mix. It leaves little to the imagination. Very. Little. The whole stroll around town and a public bus ride from one end of The Strip to the other was more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Only one person declined to have her picture taken, and that was a sweet lady beside me on the bus who had worked a really difficult early shift at one of the casinos and was on her way home. She shared a Steve Harvey video on her phone with me, and we laughed for blocks.
The award for best heart went to Ejigu, my cab driver, who is originally from Ethiopia and lives in Vegas with his brother.
He thought I was a little crazy when I asked him to drive me to a closed, graffiti covered hotel in a really bad part of town and wait about five or so minutes while I hopped out and photographed it. “We don’t drop people off there,” he said, not understanding how a photographer’s mind sometimes works. He obliged though when he realized I wasn’t staying, and he kindly watched out for me so I could get my pictures and then took me on to Fremont Street. He says summer in Vegas is hotter than Ethiopia.
Here are some of the rest of the bunch. By the way, the mostly naked guy? He was obviously well educated and very well spoken. We spoke about Europe, specifically France and Paris. He claims to spend some time there each year, and I kind of believe him. If that’s true, there’s more money to be made standing around in a pink and yellow slingshot than I realized, but after all, it IS Vegas.