True/False Film Fest — a time in Columbia, Mo. that I like to call “hipster homecoming.” So, I returned home last weekend for the best time of the year — filled with inspirational documentaries, liquor-laden conversations with old college buddies and the wonderful weirdness of Columbia.
I know a lot of us feel documentation-weary sometimes — that people today, with the accessibility of camera phones, document every mundane aspect of their lives. But as someone whose job it is to document everyday, I realized recently that I was doing a pretty poor job of documenting my personal life and the things I love.It’s really easy to take certain things for granted — the beautiful town we live in, the fun moments we have with our friends, even just curling up on the couch with our pets. And I think the wonderful thing about photography is that, even though it’s amazing that we’re able to remember things like that, the camera can — for the most part — capture just how we’re feeling about the things we love, because it can be present in the moments that we’re happy. On Wednesday night, before the big bulk of the snowstorm blew through — just as the snow was quietly settling on the streets, muffling all the sounds around — I ventured out with my good friend Pat Jarrett to just photograph Staunton. Because even though I work for a paper whose job it is to document Staunton, sometimes it’s hard to get across how absolutely beautiful this place is for people who don’t live here. And guess what — everything looks pretty in the snow at night. And it made me really happy. Read the rest of this entry »
Well, while we’re on the subject of controversial topics, why don’t I jump into Virginia’s Lee-Jackson Day. No longer Lee-Jackson-King Day for seemingly obvious reasons, this day celebrates the January birthdays of Confederate heroes Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.Here in Virginia, one of the biggest towns to celebrate the day is Lexington, where Stonewall Jackson is buried. People gather to celebrate his life around his grave, and then march in a parade while singing “Dixie,” holding their Confederate flags on the way to the Washington and Lee campus for a service at Lee Chapel. The night is culminated in a traditional Civil War-era ball with traditional dress. I was really glad I was able to attend Lee-Jackson Day — another event that I would’ve never seen in Missouri! Read the rest of this entry »
Photographs and articles on Facebook have been re-circulating recently about the “inhumane” and “sickening” Faroe Islands whale hunts. After re-posting my original blog post written the day after my own experience in the Faroe Islands, I started thinking about my time in those small islands and realized I hadn’t revisited my photos in a long time.I visited the Faroe Islands in May of 2011 for a photo story I planned to do about the whale hunt. Because hunts are not planned, I decided to do a larger focus on the culture of the Faroe Islands. The thesis of my project was centered around a nickname for the Faroes, “The Land of Maybe.” The nickname comes from the difficulty of traveling and planning between the islands, as weather conditions are often harsh — the Faroes are located between Ireland and Iceland — and can leave plans a little up in the air, as you’ll never get anywhere quite on time. When I went to the Faroes, I stayed in two places — Torshavn, the largest city in the Faroe Islands, and Klasvik, the second-largest city. “Largest” is a generous term — Torshavn is made up of 13,000 people and Klasvik is home to less than 5,000. This is not surprising, as the entire country, a nation under the kingdom of Denmark, houses around 50,000 people total across its 18 major islands. And the Faroe Islands are a magical place and perhaps one of the most beautiful places on earth. The islands — massive, lush green mounds — jut out of the North Atlantic Ocean, hidden under constant fog. The houses that dot the seaside are colorful and simple — similar to Cape Cod style houses, in bright reds, yellows and greens. And even though the Faroe Islands are beautiful, its weather is not for the faint of heart. It is cold there almost year-round and sees constant misty rain, leading to a lack of tenable livestock and not much room for agriculture. Sheep are the only livestock that can manage the climate, and rhubarb and potatoes are about the only plants hearty enough for the country. One of the biggest industries in the Faroe Islands is salmon farming.
It’s usually a tradition for photographers to compile a collection of their best photographs from the past year. You look at your collection of work for an entire year and a lot of thoughts and memories dawn on you. Did you document it well enough? Did you do your job to the best of your abilities?I usually hate looking at my own work. Photographers are inundated with hundreds of photographs every day, from other photojournalists in their newsfeeds doing amazing work, to beautiful photos on their Instagram feeds, to the photos flowing in on the AP wire. It’s hard not to compare yourself to others and often it can be a process of self-loathing. But looking at my work from 2013 just reminds me of how much I’ve grown this year: how much I’ve grown to love Staunton, how I’ve grown as an adult (hey, I’m 23 now), how I’ve progressed in my career as a photojournalist, and how I’ve learned so much about this area’s culture. It hasn’t been so much a process of self-loathing, but a flood of memories as each photograph takes me back to the moment in which they were taken, and how I felt documenting that moment. And, hey, I guess that’s what great photos are supposed to do, right? Document moments. Read the rest of this entry »
Last year, I worked on a project about foxhunting in Virginia — something that was really new to me, culturally, as I had never seen anything like it in the Midwest.The season lasts from October until around March. I began my project last year sometime deeper into the winter, so I missed the opening hunt, which is also the “blessing of the hounds.” It’s a tradition dating back to the 8th century, and is tied to St. Hubert, the patron saint of hunters. A local clergyman comes out to the hunting stables, blesses the hounds, the land, the hunters and all the surrounding animals. Then, the hunters take a drink — wine was offered to the Middlebrook Hunt Club, though some also had grape juice. I don’t know how often I’ll be able to make it out to the hunts this season, but it was nice to be there on a Saturday this year — I wasn’t often able to see Middlebrook’s formal attire, pink coats and all. Read the rest of this entry »