Nine-year-old Keyvon Johnson (right) does push-ups with Specialist Marlon Woods (left) after asking for a challenge while Johnson waited for his fifty meter dash to begin during the Special Olympics on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 on post at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia. (Sara Caldwell/staff)
When will I have all of my Pictures with Purpose images up? Short answer: “Um.” Long answer: “I don’t know.”
I’m reworking them as I sift through folders and edits, and it’s also nothing timely (obviously). So, without the threat of a deadline, I’m probably working slower on these images than I should be. So in case I haven’t bored you with my inconsistencies, here are a few frames of a sweet, wonderful woman named Jeanne Crawford. Jeanne’s relatives discovered Ruby Falls, and her family is buried in the Forest Hills Cemetery (where the majority of my images from the workshop come from). Jeanne owns a little souvenir shop, filled with trinkets and gagets all about Rock City and Ruby Falls. I’ll have a post with some frames made at the shop, but I was way more interested in her careful eyes than any kitschy doodad for sale. We spent some time together, and I asked all about her life. The conversation was kind, but I could tell she was holding back. Keeping me at arm’s length. She was nice to me, yeah, but she wasn’t all that sure of the loud blond girl talking a mile a minute, who also happened to have two cameras slung over her shoulders and a notepad tucked into a shorts pocket. First meeting, I learned a lot about her. I asked the easy questions. I met her a few days later at the cemetery for a makeshift family portrait, setting her up near the graves. I still felt her holding back, so I boldly asked if I could go to church with her on my last day in Chattanooga. She was very open about her faith, and I wanted to capture that side of her, so I asked to tag along. This time I was fully prepared to ask the hard questions. I showed up at her doorstep at 8am with coffee. She made me breakfast, and while the woman I had met earlier in the week was hesitant to have me around, the woman laughing with me over cinnamon buns was different. She held my hand when I told her about my life, my struggles. I was moved to tears when she handed me a Bible with a handwritten note, telling me how my smile had helped her find her joy again. And for all that I was personally dealing with in the moments as I sat with her, I kept crying as I shared about my own heartbreak. I didn’t photograph these moments, these tears. I knew so much of my workshop was about making honest connections with the people I meet while I have a camera in hand. And I knew that if I had clicked, I would’ve lost her. She was trusting me. She needed me more than I needed to make a picture. I knew this instantly, but the reward in our connection shows in the images I make of her at church. I was her friend in tow, and she didn’t flinch at my shutter anymore.
We email sometimes. She checks in to see how I am. I do the same. I’m so happy to have met her.
As I post images made from my 2012 Pictures with Purpose workshop, I can’t help but chuckle as I remember the silliness of our awesome group. The below frames were made during a good ol’ fashioned shoot-out. We were given an hour and told to make our best feature images, competing with our coaches as well. I, being a deadline-driven newspaper photog, had all all of my edits fully toned and cutlined long before anyone else. Of the six students, I won 2nd place for the picture of the girl leaning over the wall. My prize was a large Kent State Basketball Championship t-shirt.
Oh, and bragging rights.
Six-year-old Ava Fisher (center), from Springfield, TN, crosses a rope bridge with her father Neal Fisher close behind her at Rock City in Lookout Mountain, Georgia on Friday, August 3, 2012. (photo/Sara Caldwell, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lisa Speakman (right) leans over to look down over rocks as her father Dan Speakman (center) walks away toward friend Rosalie Sorg (back left) at Rock City in Lookout Mountain, Georgia on Friday, August 3, 2012. (photo/Sara Caldwell, email@example.com)
Emily Cozart (center) waits for customers in the gift shop at Rock City in Lookout Mountain, Georgia on Friday, August 3, 2012. (photo/Sara Caldwell, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Five-year-old Kole Kusek (center) plays a game he called “Photo Fight” as he peeks around a sign at Rock City in Lookout Mountain, Georgia on Friday, August 3, 2012. (photo/Sara Caldwell, email@example.com)
People stop for the view at Rock City in Lookout Mountain, Georgia on Friday, August 3, 2012. (photo/Sara Caldwell, firstname.lastname@example.org)
This is from a Saturday I spent driving around a cemetery. After a few turns down windy paths, I parked my car and chose to walk throughout the grounds. I looked up to see my Pictures with Purpose Workshop coach standing with a woman, who was by a grave. LaBelle motioned me over ever so subtly with a careful wave of his hand, which (in body language terms) was screaming “GET OVER HERE NOW.” And that was how I met Karien.
She stood out for many reasons –her laugh was boisterous to say the least– but when I approached her I realized she was trimming the grass near her son’s headstone with a pair of scissors. She told me she trims the grass here almost every weekend, but not usually with anything like that. The battery died in her hand-held clippers.
She has such a powerful story, one of severe loss and sadness. But the woman I met was happy. She’s at peace with the loss of her son; she’s even willing to see the girl who murdered him. She wants to hold her, comfort her, and tell her she’s forgiven.
Yes, I made these frames almost 8 months ago. It’s terrible how long it’s taken me to publish them here, but maybe I wasn’t ready yet. In the time that’s passed since meeting Karien, I know I’m at peace with everything I was coping with at the time she and I shared a few moments in St. Elmo. Of course, I realize the sadness I was struggling with compared very poorly, side by side, to this strong woman’s losses, but sharing her story with me helped punch me in the face with perspective.
I just chatted with a college friend of mine, doing the back and forth you do when you catch up on each other’s lives. Here’s a blurb from our gchat:
me: … it’s hard to really explain, but I’ve got a feeling about this year.I kinda love Augusta now?And I’ve finally realized just how much potential I have here. I’ve got a boss who helps me, who lets me try new ways to tell storiesSo I’m running with it, really trying to be more thoughtful with my images
Sent at 4:28 PM on Monday…Marlyncia: From what I can see, I think you’re doing an amazing job.me: Thank you! I feel good. I like life. I love my friends. I have good days, and bad, but that’s just I think it all goes.I say we plan a girls weekend.And go see Josh GrobanSent at 4:38 PM on Monday
Marlyncia: I dig that. Same for me. Only up from here, right?
Right. Only up from here. And here’s still pretty good.
More to come.
Tauren Wells, the lead vocalist of Royal Tailor, pauses during a song on stage after he walked to a portion that stretches into the crowd during Winter Jam, a Christian Rock Concert, at The James Brown Arena in Augusta, Georgia on Thursday, February 14, 2013. Sara Caldwell/staff
Fifteen-year-old Lindsay Wallace floats after treading water for a portrait at the deep end in a pool at the Augusta Aquatics Center on Thursday, February 7, 2013 in Augusta, Georgia. Wallace is a freshman at Davidson Fine Arts and qualified in eight individual swimming events at the Georgia High School Association State Swimming and Diving Championship in Atlanta, Georgia, where Wallace swam in the 200 yard freestyle and the 500 yard freestyle.