Photo Journalism

I’ve been blessed with professional opportunities in my life that were, on the whole, very satisfying. After almost thirty years doing one thing, I took on a second professional career for twenty more, but in an entirely different direction. It wasn’t long after when I realized I had certain creative skills up until then dormant. Skills such as desktop publishing, photography, graphic design, and lastly researching and writing original articles. It was the latter task I enjoyed the most, because I found it both challenging and fun to “tell a story” mainly through the use of photographs. Now that I’m fully retired, with time on my hands, I enjoy going back to those photo journalism days, using this Photoblog versus a printed magazine to share my work.

MEMORIES INSIDE

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On a whim one day, just to see what might be along a single-lane, winding road near Stuart, Virginia, I drove along looking for photo opportunities. I was quickly rewarded by finding these old farm buildings and pulled off the road to take a closer look. As luck would have it I saw a person loading items from inside one of the buildings into a truck. He saw me too and at first I thought he was going to tell me to stay away, but he didn’t. He walked toward me, spotted my camera and smiled, telling me to make as many photos as I wanted, since he was a relative of the people who once lived there. He added he was getting rid of lots of accumulated junk from inside the buildings and instructed me not to go inside or get too close because the structures weren’t safe. Being busy he didn’t say much more other than to briefly recall his joyful days as a young boy when he’d enjoyed visiting the farm, given there was a very nice swimming and fishing lake directly across the road near where I’d parked my car.

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Whenever I find places such as this, I can’t help but think of all the memories involved, hidden except to those who experienced them. I wish the man had not been so busy because I had a lot of questions. Such as how old the place was, how many had lived there, what sort of farming was performed and for how many years, and lastly when did people move away for good, and why. But the main thing on which my mind focused after the man drove away in his fully loaded truck, was an inviting open door on one part of the house. It was dark and rather mysterious inside from what I could see from where I was standing.

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I had an urge to go inside to find out more, but being the sort of person who follows instructions, and mainly fearing the moment I’d do that, the man I’d just met would suddenly return and toss me off his property for trespassing.

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There was a better solution. Since I had a telephoto lens on my camera I was able to get a closer look. The inside walls appeared to be paneled, and the ceiling had been painted green. There was an upholstered chair near the door at the left, and on the right what looked like a portion of a toilet basin. Maybe both had been temporarily stored there to be hauled away later, but it was the condition of the walls and ceiling that made me think it hadn’t been that long since it had been occupied. The metal roof supported that conclusion. I could have lingered with my camera, recording various other aspects of the buildings in front of me, but decided instead to go across the road to walk around the lake a bit … wondering as I did how many fish had been caught there over the years.

While driving home I realized how much “history” is around us in the form of structures such as this old farmstead. It might take a drive down some strange road, or a hike into the backwoods to find them, but they are there. Just waiting. With memories inside.

Addendum:

Sadly in my opinion, a question many in the publishing business today ask is whether or not photo journalism as we once knew it is still relevant. Once, popular publications such as Life Magazine and Look Magazine demonstrated the powerful effect of photos to a story. Life Magazine’s coverage of World War Two, for example, was highly regarded. In a February, 2017 article in the New York Times, Donald R. Winslow, editor of the National Press Photographers Association’s News Photographer magazine and website writes about the status of the profession today. “Photo journalism used to be incredibly prestigious and a much sought-after profession. The overall devaluation of photography that started years ago [film to digital] ran concurrent with the gradual demise of newspapers, which ran concurrent with the rise of the internet, which ran concurrent with the use of video, and it was a long, slow, critical illness for photo journalism. In history there have been professions that basically disappeared. There’s still a few chimney sweeps around, but not like there once was. The question is, what will photo journalism evolve into, and can someone earn a living doing it? Or is everybody now a photographer [using their iPhone], and like everyone thinks they are Ernest Hemingway just because they have Microsoft Word?”

 

 

A Dogwood Morning

The Dogwood trees in our yard are nearing peak. Nightly freezes have had some effect on the edges of the blooms, with burned spots. Nothing to take away their beauty however. As the sun was rising the light was good so I grabbed my camera and made these images. It’s definitely Spring, but the temperatures here in SW Virginia don’t always give evidence in that regard.

Finding and photographing our past

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I made this photo last summer. It’s a favorite, and had I not taken a dirt road I’d not have found it. Exploring can be rewarding. For a couple of reasons, I’ve been side-lined from my usual road trips seeking such photo treasures. Winter weather in April being one. So, I decided to publish some from 2017.  This cabin held many secrets, all based only on my imagination. Who lived here? When? Why is there a fireplace hearth outside on the chimney? There was evidence of a rock foundation near and perhaps it served as an enclosed cooking area. It’s fun to imagine. Here’s another example.

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This old structure appeared to have served several roles. A home and I suspect a small store based on the drive-through front. From all the junk around the place, I think it was most recently a location selling antiques. It was as you can see a dreary day and the house fit that mood perfectly. The rusty metal roof added to that. Why the cut logs? More questions remain unanswered.

I’m fortunate to live in SW Virginia where many photo opportunities such as these two are plentiful.  I just need to get out and about and find them. Summer 2018 approaches.

 

Backyard Critters

It seems most of us have them … small wild animals and a variety of birds living close to home. Year around in many locations. Here in SW Virginia we especially have lots of squirrels and wild birds flying and running about the yard. They seem comfortable with us humans and aren’t too shy. Each in their own way can make a nice photo. However, you have to be alert, because they move quickly.

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I was fortunate to see this friendly squirrel sitting on our patio fence right by the door as I peered out. He didn’t move.

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Then today on a misty, cool morning my favorite type bird flew on top of our sundial to clean up seed I’d accidentally dropped after filling the nearby bird feeders. I grabbed my camera with telephoto lens and made this photo through the window glass over the kitchen sink. It’s not as sharp as it might have been had I been outside but these guys don’t linger so I had to get what I could. Photography is fun. Just keep your eyes open and camera handy.

Yard Flowers and a Tree

Grass in our yard is thick and green (thanks to those who maintain it, I sold my John Deere years ago). Mowing has yet to begin. As a result I’m seeing a few pretty wild flowers pop up in places. I guess some experts would just write them off as undesired weeds to be eradicated. Not me. I like them. Out back of the house is another blessing for me at this time of year. Our Weeping Pussy Willow Tree.

The fuzzy looking buds will soon fall off to be replaced by leaves and then the hanging branches will begin to lengthen over the summer creating a nice addition outside our back porch. I planted the tree a few years ago and it’s been enjoyable watching it grow taller. But, it has to be maintained though careful pruning. All this is the sort of light yard work I still do. And look forward to. Another mission.