Andrea Underwood Photography: Blog en-us (C) Andrea Underwood Photography (Andrea Underwood Photography) Fri, 10 Nov 2017 04:01:00 GMT Fri, 10 Nov 2017 04:01:00 GMT Andrea Underwood Photography: Blog 120 102 New York City New York City. She charms me, she amuses me and she beckons me back the minute I leave.

I love the pace.

The kitsch.

The old.

And the new.

The streets above.

And the tracks below.

I soak up her history.

Including the parts that make me cry.

And I love how she shines.

]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Fri, 10 Nov 2017 04:00:33 GMT
Reconnecting The older I get, the more important it becomes for me to reconnect with the places and traditions of my childhood.  Perhaps, it's a way of better understanding myself or maybe it's a way to pump the brakes on the stresses of middle age by reaching back to the days when I didn't have to worry about bills or taking care of elderly parents.

Picking fruit always reminds me of gathering, canning and freezing produce with mama when I was growing up.  It seemed like such a chore back then. All of that washing, blanching and slicing.  The heat of the kitchen when those jars were boiling on the stove and the endless bean snapping was miserable to a kid who would rather be roaming the countryside on a bicycle or playing in the shade.  The year mama made enough homemade kraut to feed all of Massac County was almost my breaking point.  My actual breaking point was passing out from the heat in the midst of some blackberry bushes and getting eaten up by chiggers while sitting in the grass waiting to feel well enough to walk back to the house.  I stomped back into the house declaring that I would NEVER EVER pick blackberries again.  

I'm glad for those experiences, now, and for the knowlege that I can make jellies and relishes and store garden tomatoes for chili and soups.  Picking berries today is a way of remembering where I come from and reconnecting with those memories, and that's what I was thinking about yesterday morning while picking blackberries at Quint's in Massac County.  The smell of the produce in my hands, the sweat on my neck and the sounds of nature brought back lots of childhood summer memories.  

And Mr. Quint?  He was one of my elementary school teachers.  Reconnecting is good for the soul.

Thanks to the Quints for being so gracious and letting me take photos. 



]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Fri, 07 Jul 2017 15:59:55 GMT
Nashvegas 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. 


]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Fri, 06 Jan 2017 01:50:53 GMT
Back to School 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.

]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Sun, 17 Jul 2016 22:47:27 GMT
Every Soldier Has A Story 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?

]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Mon, 28 Mar 2016 01:02:34 GMT
Snow Birds 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".












]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Sun, 24 Jan 2016 01:45:27 GMT
Vegas, Baby 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.  


]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Wed, 14 Oct 2015 00:48:34 GMT
The Goal is to Not Burn Down the House “In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.”  Friedrich Nietzsche


Sometimes I just like to play. Although, I tend to get strange looks when I ask my family, “Hey, come in the kitchen and set this marshmallow on fire when I tell you to!”


]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Sun, 26 Jul 2015 23:18:40 GMT
Population 348 The heart of a small rural town beats in the gathering places that supply its essential needs.  Churches.  The grocery store.  A gas station.  The courthouse.  The post office, if it’s still there.  And the Laundromat.  Dotted throughout southern Illinois are several tiny towns and villages whose pulse is slowing to a crawl, causing them to wither, one business at a time.  Their history is rich, stretching back to the days of Lewis and Clark.  On this day though, it was the ghosts of the 20th century that intrigued me.     

Standing in the middle of the quiet street with sweat from the 97 degree day trickling down my back, I couldn’t help but wonder about Charles and Eula Mae, the feet that passed over the threshold of Ralph’s Laundry and the gossip that swirled on the bench out front between swigs from bottles of Coca-Cola on sweltering summer days.

]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Sun, 19 Jul 2015 23:52:28 GMT
The Brookport Water Tower Since I hate to miss an opportunity to photograph something old and rusty, I made a point to stop in Brookport Sunday night to photograph the old water tower before its Monday demolition.  I played the Mother's Day card, and my family waited patiently in the car while I snapped several shots.  And then, as I drove through Brookport Monday morning on my way to a funeral, I stumbled upon all of the demolition action.  Fortunately, I had a little extra time, so I pulled over and stayed as long as I could.  Dotted on the street corners, close to the barricades, were several people watching the action. 

When you grow up in a small town, you often complain that nothing changes, but the truth is there is comfort in the sameness of your surroundings.  The buildings, the people, your schools.  All of those things that are a part of the structure of your childhood days.  To the residents of a town that lost so much in a recent tornado, it must be sad to watch one of their community icons come down, as evidenced by the crowd and the poem recently written on one leg of the tower.

]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Thu, 14 May 2015 03:13:00 GMT
Going Home He accommodated the strange lady with the camera, content that the boat zipping across the river was taking him home for a long break from his job on the towboat.  I spoke only with the camera, and he spoke only with a tepid smile.  It was a pleasant conversation.

]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Mon, 29 Dec 2014 01:17:02 GMT
Selective He mostly sat quietly in a chair, jumping up and playing with the rest of the band only during the fast songs that he liked, although, I feel certain he knew all of the songs.

]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Fri, 26 Dec 2014 22:55:17 GMT
If These Chairs Could Talk "I have always looked upon decay as being just as wonderful and rich an expression of life as growth."--Henry Miller


Stepping carefully around the old theater, I breathed in the smell of decay.  The dusty smell of a building that is dying a slow painful death at the hands of nature and neglect.  A building that, like a very old person, slowly marches to the end, inching closer with each turn of the Earth. 


Is it trespassing if no one cares you're there?  Is it wrong to wander through a door created by crumbling bricks and a wayward tree?  The curious part of me can't help but jump through the hole in the wall, a bit like Alice stepping through the looking glass, expecting a surprise on the other side.  And, oh, the surprises.  Urban decay does not disappoint.  Remnants of colorful facades, bright graffiti and a raggedy screen hanging above the stage.  And behind the screen rows of old chairs.   My heart leapt.  My eyes flickered over the possibilities, scanning for natural light and composing shots.  Snap.  Snap.  Snap.  There may have been a squeal. 


My brain rolled through the past decades, imagining the history of those seats.  Knowing that the theater originated in 1910, the possibilities seemed endless.  People discovering the wonder of the first movies.  Young men sliding their arm around a date.  Teenagers necking on the back row.  Does anyone say "necking" anymore?  Kids riding the range with Roy and Dale.  Adults following the happenings on far away shores during World Wars in MovieTone shorts, and hippies riding high with Easy Rider.   Imaginary images clicking through my head like pages flipping in a book. 


Who sat there?  What happened to those people?  What stories do those seats hold?  Truth, as they say, is always stranger than fiction, so the tales they could tell are likely more incredible than I can imagine.  But, oh, what fun to imagine.  And how sad that those memories will fade as those seats rot.         




]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Tue, 16 Sep 2014 02:31:40 GMT
9/11 The date brings the usual "where were you when it happened" memories each year, and yes, those memories for me are vivid since I was working in the news business at the time.  But early on, I realized there are two very distinctive filters for Americans when it comes to those memories.  There are the filters of those who lived in New York and DC at the time, and then there are the shades everyone else wears.  While it was horrifying for our entire nation, it just wasn't the same for those of us who weren't THERE.  For those of us who didn't lose a friend or loved one.  And for those of us who don't live with the painful personal loss of someone who literally disappeared from the face of the earth that day.  The terrorist attacks that September day affected us all, but most of us are a step removed from it.  We can shelve those memories for months and pull them out for examination on Patriots Day.  But others deal every day with loss.  They walk past visual reminders of what happened, and they live and work in the midst of ghosts.  I see glimpses of that rawness in my friends who were there.  I want to know what that's like in order to understand, and yet, I'm so thankful I can't fully understand. 

When we visited New York a few years ago, I was so moved by some of the displays inside St. Paul's Chapel at the site, a refuge for recovery workers after the attacks.  The items were so personal.  The sample of photos of the missing brought back those gut wrenching images on TV each night of people trying vainly to find loved ones, and while it makes me look closer, I know others turn away because it hurts to look.

The memorial panels on the side of NYFD Ten House were beautiful.  I wanted to capture the texture of them because I wanted to remember the cool roughness of them and the visual cue to "feel" the sorrow and recovery they represented. 

I understand why the 9/11 museum is controversial.  For those close by, it's too much.  For those of us at a distance, it's not enough to truly know the devastation dealt to thousands of Americans.  We can watch specials on TV.  We can read pictures.  We can look at pictures, but it's never really enough.   

]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Fri, 12 Sep 2014 01:03:50 GMT
The Ledbetter Bridge For a while now, many of us have expected the old Ledbetter Bridge to go tumbling into the Tennessee River, but the results were still shocking to see when portions of it finally gave way this past weekend.  And I think most folks who used to drive over it on a regular basis stopped with a “Whew, that was close” attitude to marvel at just how close we came to the end of its life before getting traffic off of it.  I think we pushed it about as far as we could.

Earlier this year, I kept telling myself to get by there and get a few pictures before they demolished it.  I finally stopped one April morning at sunrise to snap off a few shots on my way to work.  It was very quiet and breezy out in the middle of that empty bridge on a crisp Saturday morning.  What a view!  I didn’t have but a few minutes, so I didn’t stay long.  Today, these shots seem as serene to me as it felt standing out there that morning, but that feels very odd given that a large chuck of the bridge is now sitting in a twisted pile of rubble on the ground.



]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Mon, 23 Jun 2014 15:48:59 GMT
Howdy! Our last stop before leaving Pope County last weekend was some private property tucked into the edge of the Shawnee National Forest.  For several years now, the owner, a master gardener, has used that as a getaway from city life and as his playground for flower gardening.  It’s beautiful, peaceful and very private.  He calls it the Howdy Farm, and in the spring, it comes alive with thousands of daffodils.  He estimates he has about 40,000 daffodil and narcissus bulbs in the ground, and they spring forth in various shades of yellow, white and gold this time of year, trumpeting spring’s arrival in waves of cheery color.  When you add in the trickle of the running water from the nearby creek and the sound of the occasional owl and woodpecker, it’s a feast for the senses. 

There are so many blooms you cannot capture them in one wide image.   You really have to see the farm for yourself to fully appreciate it.  I’ve been lucky enough to be invited there on several occasions to take pictures, and I just love it.  I love daffodils as much as I love sunflowers, and I could spend hours and hours among those blooms, taking in their beauty and celebrating the departure of winter.  These images are just a fraction of the ones I shot this past weekend.  Imagine that.



]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:27:21 GMT
The Back Roads The itch to shoot pictures and to constantly make better images is always in my being, like a restless rash, begging to be scratched.  Those of you who harbor that kind of creative urge understand how strong that itch can be.  Those who don’t, struggle to understand why some of us must always be making that thing that fulfills us, whether it’s art, music or the written word.  My husband falls into that category.  God bless him, he’s a good sport, dragging along while I take 200 pictures of the same flower, but he’s truly puzzled by the joy I get from spending hours photographing people, nature and things.

I had a raging itch to shoot this past Saturday morning, and I was in the mood for some small town atmosphere and character.  I proposed a little road trip to Golconda, Illinois, which was met with a groan, because he saw HOURS of photo taking ahead, but he relented.  I think he was afraid I’d get the car stuck in some backwoods mud, and that‘s a real possibility this time of year in Pope County.  We’ve had a lot of rain lately.  I gave him my usual, “You never know what kind of adventure we’ll find” speech, and off we went.

We swung by Dixon Springs Park because I had a hunch the waterfall there was running pretty good, and much to my delight it was.  A waterfall makes a nature loving photography buff’s heart sing.  Sing loudly, I tell ya’.

Afterward, we headed to Golconda and arrived in town to find an antique tractor show and parade.  As in they lined up their polished, shiny old tractors and paraded them around the town square.  Young and old alike were there, celebrating a part of their heritage and the simplicity of rural living. 

It was just delightful.  Hubby loves old tractors, so he had a fine time examining them, and I got to roam around the streets of Golconda, searching for anything interesting to shoot. 

Strangers nodded and waved as I passed them, and no one batted an eye at my mud boots and ratty yard sale sweater, my usual attire on a back roads shoot.  What a wonderful little slice of Americana, in the backyard of where I grew up.  No matter where you live, the roots of your youth run deep, I think.


]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Tue, 08 Apr 2014 21:56:02 GMT
A Little More Winter I am over winter.  Really.  Honestly, I was over it before it started, but now this summer baby is holding on by a thread.  Come on, spring!  The one good thing about the unusual amount of snow and ice we’ve had this year is the photography opportunities it brings.  I do enjoy the way ice transforms things.  That extra layer of liquid adds something dynamic to each element of nature. 


I think of ice as nature’s jewelry.  It’s as if the landscape is dripping in diamonds, making everything nice and sparkly in the right light.

I especially like the way it transforms outdoor sculpture, turning a piece of art into a completely different piece.

Fascinating, yes.  But come on, spring!

]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Thu, 06 Mar 2014 20:28:22 GMT
Sneak Peek for Joelle and Ryan While we typically don't get much snow here, this winter has certainly been unusual.  The white stuff that fell Friday night was perfect for this couple who didn't mind braving the chilly air for part of their maternity shoot.



]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Sun, 09 Feb 2014 23:21:54 GMT
Reelfoot Lake Last Saturday, I went to Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee for a little eagle viewing with photography friends.  We saw some eagles, but they were so far away it was pretty tough to get a decent shot of them without a much longer lens.  It was still a great day though.  We hit the jackpot with the weather.  The rain stayed away and the temperatures were warmer than they had been in a while.  Perhaps the wildlife was as happy as we were about the weather because the critters were very active around the cold blue waters of the lake. 

It was fun to spend the day shooting with fellow photogs, but it was equally as fun just enjoying the blessing of nature’s beauty.  I have definitely become my mother because driving around the countryside all day looking at trees, animals and old houses and barns has become a favorite pastime.  And the trip to Reelfoot was a great reminder of the diversity of the landscape in this part of the country.  The fried fish I had at Boyette’s at lunch was pretty good, too. 

We saw a blue heron devour a snake (no photo for me, I was on the wrong side of the car), a mass of green headed mallards, a batch of bashful coots and the best moment of the day, hundreds, maybe thousands of snow geese taking flight.  Even if I hadn’t gotten a picture of that, it was something special to see. 

Here are some shots from the day.  Oh, and be forewarned.  Apparently, I have a fascination with the bottoms of cypress trees.  Get out and see the world.  It’s pretty cool, even in the winter.

]]> (Andrea Underwood Photography) Wed, 05 Feb 2014 22:46:24 GMT