About My Golden Girl of Summertime and Old Carolina:
As somewhat of a precursor to my BFA thesis project, I made a zine of photographs and text to explore some ideas. By shooting instant film, I became enamored with getting the picture “right” the first time, as it is an expensive process. I quickly learned that it took a certain amount of coddling to get the exposure correct (as my mind’s eye saw it), I had to constantly be aware of ambient temperatures, time, technique, a new piece of camera equipment and most of all the Southern heat and humidity’s affect on chemistry in the field. But most of all, I began to consider missed opportunities in relationship to photography: that moment when the light is just right, when your heart feels it right to set up the 4×5 camera under a dark cloth despite 100-degree weather. Each exposure meant one chance to get it right, to get it perfect. I thought about this idea somehow spilling over into my relationships, missed opportunities to tell those I care about how I care for them and with each meeting, a missed exposure and one less chance to talk.
Through this I began reading The Last Gentleman by Walker Percy whose main character Will Barrett battles many internal and external conflicts, one of which includes the possibility of love with a girl and fellow Southerner, Kitty. I explore my own writing and thoughts about missed opportunities with women as well as Percy’s voice through Barrett’s encounters with Kitty.
It’s $4 and comes with a 5×7 inkjet print.
I set out with a lofty goal this summer in North Carolina of shooting 100 sheets of film and 100 rolls during my time here. I leave tomorrow morning and I ended up with around 121 rolls and exactly 100 sheets. I read a lot, not just from Walker Percy and my usual Flannery O’Connor, etc. dates, but about my own Southern culture and identity in the form of The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture from the UNC-Chapel Hill Press. I collected a lot of rejection slips too from photography exhibitions in North Carolina and the South saying my images just wouldn’t fit in their show under the concepts I mentioned. But of course I continued to shoot like always.
I visited where my people come from: a small community called Cat’s Square in Lincolnton, NC where everyone knows everyone. And another small town called Iva in Anderson County, South Carolina where of course, everyone knows everyone. Don’t you know all these places are like a never-ending episode of Cheers. I’m not sure how much I learned by visiting everyone, but I think my mind’s eye has become more in-tune with what my heart and mind wants in a picture. Frankly, I don’t know how much more my head needs to know, only that it hits the heart.
Yesterday I found myself hiding under the entrance door awning of the post office in Newton, NC. The flood gates opened up from the sky and from my vantage point I could see two churches, the library, the auto shop, a few lawyers offices and the dentist all getting pelted with rain. It was the Old Soldier’s Reunion parade: a tradition of honoring the veterans of Catawba County, NC that’s been going on each year since 1889. See it was raining, and I had always been told in driver’s education class in high school that the roads were the most slippery just after it starts raining and coupled with the low visibility and lighting, it makes for accidents. I hear fire trucks and ambulances honking and sounding their sirens to get through the deluge of parade-goers and vehicles. There were already fire trucks in the parade so it was a little confusing to tell which trucks were there for the parade or the emergency across town.
Through the sounds in the street, the honkings, the sirens, I was instantly reminded of life in Washington, DC which I have to return to tomorrow morning. So where my life ended before summer, comes back as a reminder of what I have to put up with come fall. Earlier I began by walking to the mouth of the parade before it spilled its long line down the street, somewhere between the cheerleaders and Civil War re-enactors. I walked with the Confederate actors down the street, and like with just about everything, it was faster than me. I saw the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam and other heros of war pass before me on my right. It was like tracing my family’s history in just a few seconds, something I had been trying to learn all summer. Like in my research for my thesis project, the past caught up with me, literally and figuratively. Eventually I was left only with myself walking on the street with my camera, a sight I’m familiar with, but it caused me to think. To think about how my memories don’t lie too far in the past or in far-distant relatives or events, but within only the past couple decades, years, days, minutes, things that were apart of an experience uniquely mine.
Maybe I was thinking too much into this simple parade and the act of pressing a button on a camera. Yet on the last full day of summer in North Carolina, a small, dim light was cast upon this vast expanse of future that lay before me in photography or even my life. Of course that light swings like a wind chime in a Southern, baptismal-like rain, like what I was hiding from under the awing of the post office. But it was there for an instant and went away.
Here’s to a senior year full of discovery.