Sunday, June 26, 2011

a remembrance and a tragedy

post #41

   On July 2, in 2005, almost exactly eight years after I took this photo, the child seen here died.  This year, with this post, I want to share a bit of his story, and some of the photos I had taken of him.
       Counting on the Woods, the picture book by George Ella Lyon which I have mentioned in earlier posts, doesn't have a child in the words, but, as the illustrator, I felt a child was at the heart of the story.  So I asked my neighbor, Kyle, if he would want to be photographed for my book.  No pay involved.  Four photos of him ended up in the book, and one on the dust jacket.  For three of these, he and I went out into the woods, and, for the sycamore (see above), I went to his house. 
       Kyle was ten at that time; he was 18 when he died from abusing prescription drugs with friends.  He had graduated from high school a month earlier.  
      His family lost a son, a grandson, a nephew, a brother.  His death is part of an epidemic that has had enormous impact in Appalachia as well as across our nation.  We Americans have not yet been resolute enough to insist on finding life-saving solutions to stop this needless devastation.

       After the funeral, at their home, family members drove the coffin to the hillside family cemetery which overlooks their home.  I took only two pictures of them leaving, the end of a roll of film.  I felt since they were used to my taking photos of Kyle that they would understand I was taking this last one as a tribute to him, and as my way of showing my appreciation and affection for their child, a fine human being who had become my friend.

        In this last photo, taken a week ago, Kyle's family's home is visible to the right of the pine tree.  I was trying to show the lay of this land and a family's connection to it and to each other.  I am writing this post today with their full support. They miss Kyle a great deal.
     I am reminded that the importance of a book is in all the stories it can tell.  So thanks again, Kyle, for how at home you were in the woods and for understanding what it was we were creating together.  It means a lot to me that you were always proud of the book you helped to make. 
     Margaret Mead reminds us: "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed it is the only thing that ever has."  I'm sorry and sad that a young person's life ended way too soon, and I write all this in hopes we get our butts in gear in time to halt this senseless destruction.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

through a fogged-up lens, lightly

post #40
      Last week's post showed early morning light with a barn.  Today I'll share flowers in our yard, taken with a camera brought out of an air-conditioned house.  In June.  After a cool, wet spring.
      Every year I forget there needs to be enough time for the camera to make the transition from house to hot.  I even have an article -- saved but not yet filed so I can't find it -- about best practices for protecting the camera.  A very sensible article.  When and if it surfaces, I will tell more in a later post.  The main thing, in any case, is to remember that fog happens.
      I decided this time to take advantage of the transition by shooting a few photos while I was waiting for clarity.  How bad could it be?  Doesn't it just look like I'm simply relying on some Photoshop filter?  Further, to draw from writing wisdom, which is stranger, truth or fiction?  (Anyway, in any case, I invariably enjoy being curious.)
first fog

slowly clearing

almost dry, almost 3 minutes later than the roses photo

     But nothing makes for clarity like using a tripod, at dusk when there is no wind.   I visited these rusty implements of ours recently during the week the daisies were eager and bright.    

      This hay rake is waiting to be removed and sold for scrap.  In the meantime the shapes it has fascinate me.  I find this piece of equipment very picturesque as well as poignant -- an honored way of life going by the wayside.

hard worked hay rake

Sunday, June 12, 2011

barns post

post #39
      How sweet when a simple photo assignment provides an artistic thrill.  And what an amazing moment when it dawns on me that, hey, I have my very own weekly blog where I could show and tell about it! The subject matter was a barn, so the s in today's title is not a typo.  (Whew)
        The assignment was in 2008, and the blog awareness moment was last week. Yes, it took me awhile to put the work and the awareness together.  What can I say.  So, with thanks to the Kentucky Arts Council for doing a book of 40 pages featuring examples of painted quilt squares hung on the outside of barns, many of which are in eastern Kentucky counties, here is a bit of the story.
earliest - 6:42 a.m.
       In my small county there are over 70 barns where a quilt square design has been installed.  They are first painted on plywood and then need a small crane to be lifted into place once they are brought to the barn. I looked on line for the locations of all our county's barns showing quilt art.  (I guess this gives a new meaning for having quilts out on the line!)
      Anyway, I was told to choose any barn from my county to photograph and then email the KAC some photos to chose from.  They'd even pay for this, but they needed it soon.
         The barn I ended up using was one I already knew about since it is nearby and I've known its owner, Gene Binion, for over forty years.  I also realized it faced the rising sun to make a more interesting light to work with.  So, early the next morning, there I was, all by myself, trying out views.  

7:02 a.m.
       The barn is on a ridge, and what I loved most was to discover what happened when the sun rose high enough over the hills to the east to create its own brief and unexpected pattern through the gate.  I imagined it writing out good morning, in sun language.  I still treasure that discovery.

spider web quilt square, my personal favorite of these photos, 7:03 a.m.
      The KAC decided to use the earliest photo in their booklet, which I am assuming provided a balance of landscape with other photos from other counties.  I loved the excuse to be out there that beautiful morning and now to share these moments in Sideway Views. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

new neighbors and new views of Appalachia

post #38
     The finalists for the Re-Imaging Appalachia contest are decided, and posted on-line. (Go to See the Finalists.)  So, for this week's THIS IS APPALACHIA NOW photo, look for the one of mine that made their collection.   My only public comment about their results is that I wasn't the only one struggling with how to communicate the essence of a whole region in single images. 
     Next, here's to new colorful neighbors, who come in many varieties.
This photo is meant to set the scene.
        A week ago I happened to stop by my favorite neighborhood barnyard with my camera -- in case there was something interesting happening.  I had no idea some peacocks had moved in!  There is a ridge between our places, so I haven't been hearing them carry on.  I know they can be very loud.  My keen feminist reaction to recent news-catching examples of preening male behaviors leads me to share some of what might be going on any day in any local barn anywhere in America.  Or in any local luxury hotel. 

what she saw
Why isn't this what he wishes she'd see? Quite a lot of shaking going on!

a dispassionate observer, with his own ego issues
Of course, in the barnyard, this is what it's all about.

    Then there are the quieter neighbors who move right into our front steps.  I like to think this Fowler's toad is a descendent of the one that was in the same location in 1997 when I took the photo that ended up in the book I illustrated, Counting on the Woods. He didn't mind at all posing for me after Maleigh, age 8, noticed him there.  (Thanks, M., for the alert!)

       Note:  We are expecting some thunderstorms soon, so I am going to post this a bit early, in case we have to shut down our internet for the evening.  I hope to change this last paragraph eventually to say something insightful, and timely -- or even instructive -- though of course that may be setting the bar higher than it wants to go....  
     Part 2 of this note, on 6/20/11: I've decided to continue thinking about my reactions to gender behaviors currently in the news and deal with sharing my ideas when I can do it with more understanding.  So stay tuned for some future post.  Thanks!