Wednesday, September 22, 2010

While You Were Gone: First Anniversary

Blogging has been slow for the past few weeks, as I've been starting out a photo column for the Pilot, which explores the lives of military families with their loved ones deployed. Working on this column has been one of my favorite tasks so far this year-- every week I get to sneak away from daily work for a few hours, and get to a place where my heart is really open and the people I'm photographing truly care to have their stories told. I also write an extended caption, which takes me back to my days before I was a photojournalist. I appreciate writers every day, and even more on the days when I'm sitting with a blank screen in front of me and no idea where to begin. So often writers write about the process of writing-- the struggle and the uncertainty. I understand. Four down. Eight to go.

Last year, Samantha Hill would not have imagined that her date for her first wedding anniversary would not sit across from her, but fall asleep in her arms just after the appetizer was served.

Riley James, 5 months old, with his father’s face and a calm personality, is a stand-in for Samantha’s high school sweetheart and new husband Justin, a boatswain's mate handler on the Truman. From rival schools and FFA clubs in California, the two have know each other since they were freshmen in high school.

“He was washing his heifer, and decided I needed a shower and he drenched me with the hose. This was at the Kern County Fair in California. It was meant to be.”

“He’s always the one who remembers of anniversaries. For our first anniversary when we dated in high school, he had a dozen long stemmed roses delivered to my 7th period English class with a card that read “Sorry I couldn’t be there. Happy Anniversary. I love you.” Ever since then, he’s always done something romantic.

“I’m not thinking about what he’s missing, but about all the things he will be here for; Riley’s first steps, his first words. When he asked me to marry him he told me ‘you’re not just marrying me, you’re marrying the Navy, and there’s no knowing where and when they’ll ask me to deploy.’ I said, ‘no problem.’ This doesn’t feel like my anniversary. I just feels like another day that he’s gone, another day closer to when he comes home.”

School Stories

The tallest, loveliest, kindergarten teacher in the world. Just my kind of story.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hurricane Earl

As Hurricane Earl approached coastal Virginia a few weeks ago, our entire photo staff was called to arms, in case the storm ended up being devastating. We're really, really serious about storm coverage here. The waders were in the trunk, the food to last for days, the batteries, the changes of clothes, the canned coffee, the chicken salad sandwiches-- all packed. I sat in my truck at 3 am out in Virginia Beach, waiting for the rain to begin, and by 6 am as the light rose, there was some rain and a little wind, but not much to photograph but the waves and the branches moving. When that's what you see, that's what you shoot. Pretty, pretty colors.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Blue Ridge Parkway

Days spent driving a nearly empty road, looking for pictures, finally culminates in this four-part series in the paper on the 75th Anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was my first go at a story that was largely driven by landscape, and while it was challenging, I have to say I loved the slow, deliberate pace of shooting sense of place pictures, mostly at dawn and at dusk. People at the Pilot are amazing: Olivia Hubert-Allen designed the interactive, Sam Hundley rocked the print side, and Diane Tennant, the writer, made a beautiful narrative of history and imagined culture. I'll post more outtakes in the coming days. The road, the light, the strange motels and hot dog stands: I fell in love with all of it.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

While You Were Gone

I've started work on my very first photo column, called "While You Were Gone: Stories of Military Families with Loved Ones Deployed." I'm looking for the events-- mundane to monumental-- that military personnel miss. To see the first installment, of a family that meets their grandchild for the first time, before her father even meets her, check out the blog on the Pilot website. I'm following in the footsteps of Preston Gannaway and Ross Taylor (who toned the above image), and it's is worth looking through the archive to see what they did with the space. It's going to be a heartbreaker of a few months, but I'm already deeply in love with it.