Friday, February 29, 2008


On Wednesday after POY I felt crazy, with the constant web updating and coding and generally feeling like a machine, so I got in my car to drive to Sturgeon to drop in on Dacota and his aunt. The house was chaos, filled with kids and fighting and after school energy. Because I hadn’t called first, I didn’t bring my camera in, and ended up just sitting at the kitchen table, talking and listening. Listening, mostly. To the story of how the eldest son’s girlfriend, kicked out of her house, lives in a kind of foster home in Columbia. The story of the grandfather, now in the last weeks of his life, dying on the farm he spent his life working on. The caretaking of the kids and the grandfather. The exhaustion at the rise in food prices, and how the refrigerator is on its last legs because ten people open it all day long. The need to set up the chicken coop again, because it’s cheaper to feed hens and get eggs than it is to buy them at the grocery store. The secret things you don’t share with the stranger with the camera, but you do share with the guest at the table. And then, at the end, to learn that the photos I took last fall that were published in the Missourian are laminated and hung in the living room, and in the classroom at the kids’ school. I’ll return on Tuesday to photograph some more. How valuable, though, to sit and listen. Sometimes I feel that if I’m not making pictures all the time, I’m failing at this last semester of graduate school. But it is days like the one I had on Wednesday, where the really valuable (and kind of difficult) lessons come. Learning the real story by listening. At dinner with Brenda Ann Kenneally the other night, I talked a little about the Dacota story, and had to say that I don’t know what the story is about, yet. She said that’s the best way to be a good journalist; to feel out the story as it happens, rather than know it from the beginning. Here’s to not knowing, yet.

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