A Father At 60: The Outtakes
Outtakes and background from my story on Faron Cox, a father facing the reality of time as he raises his two young boys, Skylor, 3 and Faron Jr., 7.
Check out the final story here: http://www.brittanygreeson.com/a-father-at-60
I wanted to share the images that had yet to be published. These images, though not apart of the final edit of the story, still speak volumes to me.
There’s this unique feeling that comes with first meeting a subject. When it happens by accident or chance, you feel that sense of luck. I remember that sense of nervousness when I first called Faron to ask if I could tell his story. When he said I could live on the property for a few days, I realized this was going to be something different than any of my previous work.
There was a sense of amazement I felt as I watched Faron open up to me and that sparked the curiosity that spanned over the course of documenting his life.
I like to go about my career with the hope that I am helping others. As much as he likes to pretend he’s fine, I can always sense the loneliness in Faron’s voice. We had gotten close enough where I could read the pain in his face, and the hopelessness in his voice. It was a story I felt connected to. A story that other’s needed to see.
However, as I reflect back, I want to note what I took away from this. I want to believe that doing this story was some sort of selfless act. That I was acting as a servant of the community but interactions don’t work that way.
This story sparked my passion for visual journalism, for stories, during a period of time where I was questioning my purpose. My fire was slowly burning out as I missed really connecting with people. Those late nights Faron and I had where we would just eat beans and talk about life, those were more valuable to me than the moments behind the viewfinder. In helping someone, you often help yourself.
I may receive criticism for the fact that I become so attached to my subjects, but I do. I cannot view people as just subjects. I like to know their hopes and dreams, their faults and regrets. I like to know what motivates people and what forces keep them going. I care what happens to them. This is what keeps me from burning out.
As I move forward, I hope, not only that I can somehow touch a life, but that I will continue to grow as a person from doing work that satisfies the heart. On the same note, I hope that these images capture the beauty that I saw in Faron. A man, who despite his circumstances, still finds moments to laugh or share a pot of beans with a perfect stranger.
Overdue Updates: It’s been a long time no blogging but I’m feeling positive about works in progress and goals, long term and short I am setting for myself. Each week, I’m making a portrait in the studio and I have a story in progress. Then there are the frames in between.
Week 1: Finishing out winter break and the first week of school with portraits and a swim meet.
So it’s that time of year and I’m back on campus. My focus has switched from winter break mode to my advanced lighting and picture stories class. Both of which I know will be a challenge to balance but I’m at a point where all I want to do is push myself out of my comfort zone. Now that I’ve started playing around in the studio again, have a story locked down and have access to more assignments, I’m more than excited about the semester to come. The nerves are slowly melting away.
Now, it’s just a balancing act for the next four months.
A Month of Instagram: personal favorites from January.
Natural Beauty: Creating a series of fashion portraits in the forest.
I absolutely loved this shoot because it allowed me to take risks and get creative. The model, Melissa Patterson, had a favorite dress from a local antique shop, Labold & Son’s Salvage, and we saw it as a perfect opportunity to play around with texture, lights and shapes in a local forested park. My goal was to create a mood that would translate when the photos were set together.
It’s work like this that I would like to take and reference in my documentary portraits.
Across The Tracks
In my current city of Bowling Green, KY, there is locally known barrier of train tracks that acts as a border for diverse neighborhoods.
A close friend suggested I go follow the tracks and create some photos, however, I ended up becoming more drawn to the people and the places that lay across.
Along the way I journeyed into a laundromat, met an 11 year old boy who works in his parents Taqueria, and a barber who has owned his shop for 49 years.
The result was a series of images that hopefully reflect the colorful aesthetic of neighborhoods that often go unnoticed.
Adventures in Photo:
This winter break I’m taking the time to just shoot without thinking. You could say I’m going where the wind takes me. This a wide edit of a photo adventure I had with my high school friend Brandyn Atherton as we explored the Kentucky countryside.
Love through photographs:
“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
― Ansel Adams
As the semester ends I reflect back on all the memories I’ve made. There have been so many rough patches and difficult moments, but more importantly have been the moments I’ve had the privilege of sharing with the people I love. Photography is the way I express how I see the world. My friends and family are my home.
These images captured moments with them. Moments that I will always reflect back on as the times I was the most happy. To me, my best photographs will always be the ones I took simply because I wanted to show how I felt about the person in front of me.
Thank each and every one of you for adding something so valuable to my life.
Seeing past the technical:
Portraits from my lighting final and lessons learned.
When I began the semester I had minimal understanding on how to even use my strobes, much less create a compelling portrait with them. Looking back I can say that I’ve learned a lot, but those lessons extend past the technical.
Yesterday, as I was presenting these 8 portraits, my professor asked me what I had learned. That simple question made me reevaluate what this semester meant to me.
I had been so lost in creating something perfect and pushing myself to be the best, that I had completely forgotten that this is all a process. Often, I would go on a shoot I would come back stuck and disappointed. That attitude is counterproductive.
Photography is a journey with yourself and your subjects. At the end of the day we all have to remember, myself especially, that this career is about people. Yes, we all want to be incredible photographers, but as an important person reminded me, that comes with paying your dues. In the moment what is important is making the best from the given situation, connecting with that person, and enjoying the moment.
I have to appreciate where I’ve been to recognize where I want to go. I believe I’ve grown and although I’m no where close to where I want to be, that’s enough for right now. These portraits are no where near perfect, but they’re a step in the right direction.
Remembering My Roots: Photographs from the past and present that will always have a special value.
I’m scared of reaching the point where I shoot without feeling. Lately, I’ve been spread so thin, between work and school and projects and math homework, that I briefly lost sight of what really matters to me.
These photographs are the ones that will always have a special place in my heart. The photographs that make you forget about the technical flaws because deep down you know they’re for you. That’s what these represent to me. A sense of self. A sense of purpose. A sense of why I got into this in the first place.
Below is a brief background:
1 | Summer of 2008 | My grandfather. I took this when I was 15 but I remember it like it was yesterday. The way the house smelled and how every time I would visit him, he would always sit in that corner to watch the Houston Astro’s play as my grandmother read in her chair beside him. When my grandmother passed all I could picture was my grandfather sitting in that chair alone.
2 | Summer of 2013 | On my recent internship in Portland, Oregon, I had an assignment to go two hours south to Eugene to shoot the Oregon Country Fair. I remember seeing the beauty of the landscape on the drive back. The way the sunlight hit everything perfectly and I had this overwhelming feeling that everything was going to be okay for me. That I was on the right path. It was one of those frames you snap because you fear forgetting that moment.
3 | Spring of 2012 | A portrait of my mother taken almost two years ago for my basic photo class. At the time, I loved the photograph because she wasn’t wearing any makeup and I could see her naturally. Now, it’s a symbol representing how in this moment I could see her strength, a strength that’s carried her through constant obstacles.
4 | Summer of 2012 | Daniel Horton Jr., aka “Lil’ D”, playing in the rain outside of his father’s shop in Louisville, Ky. I took this on my first internship for This…Is Louisville and it ran as the cover of the magazine along with the story I did on his father. Lil D’s father taught me grace and joy during a time that I needed it the most. It’s the photograph I go to when I begin to feel lost.
5 | November 14, 2013 | This frame is from a story I’ve recently worked on about Sheila Legrand, a woman whose devoted 25 years of her life to the Head Start of Bowling Green Ky. The first time I called Sheila I was greeted with a blunt “Now what is it that you want?”
Of all the photographs I’ve taken of her these past couple of weeks, this one means the most. It was the moment she won a community award for her dedication to the Head Start program. I expected her to just politely go accept her award, but through my viewfinder I saw her wall come down. Something so seemingly simple, but serves as a reminder for why I do this. For those beautiful moments that you see the depth of a human being.
There are photographs that answer what. There are photographs that answer when. These reminded me why.
Making the most out of a 15 minute portrait:
For my lighting class I had to create a portrait of a small business owner. The assignment was familiar given my previous internship experience. What was even more familiar was the time constraint. I can’t remember a single business portrait I’ve taken that I was allotted more than 15 minutes. Stacy, my subject, had just that. The 15 minutes it took for two clients to receive a relaxing treatment.
I knew what I wanted, it would just come down to working fast and executing it. I set up and she finally sits in the chair. Okay, go!
The biggest struggle was finding a pose for Stacy. How do I capture who this woman is while still showing what she does? Her face was exhausted and although, originally I wanted to capture her strength, I liked this new sense of vulnerability. We took 17 frames and I was done.
The second image was just because I wanted to shoot something for myself. Why not? The light hit the wall just right and as she started to doze off everything just came together nicely. I’m curious to see what would have happened if she had woken up and caught me.
Call it a miniature thrill.
Two jobs one homecoming.
This weekend I was assigned to do video of Western Kentucky University’s homecoming events. Between shooting video clips I also shot some stills.
These frames are a few of my favorites from Big Red’s Roar, a post-parade concert and award event that takes place in downtown Bowling Green and some behind the scenes stills from the homecoming step show.
It was a challenge to shoot both video and stills this weekend because each are their own separate mediums. With video I had to constantly think beyond just moments and frame things in a creative way. I was always setting up and waiting for the right moments and when they don’t happen, I just have to move on. When it came to my stills, I kept asking myself what I could show that a general audience didn’t notice or know about. That’s what drew me to watch the sides of the stage for friends of the performers or performers about to go on stage.
I learned more about how to balance my time between each medium and that it’s sometimes necessary to just commit to one.
Regardless, both events were a blast to cover and I’m working on my creativity.
Lessons from a creative blockade.
So with this blog post I’m trying to start fresh and take on the task of describing my experiences when I shoot and the lessons I am learning.
This moves forward with the hope that it will enlighten others and give me content to reflect back on.
(Sam Bouchah, 17, delayed college to dedicate himself to his music. “My guitar gives me hope. Like no matter what I’m going through, I can pick up Rita and it all melts away. Music is my whole life. People say that all the time but for me it really is everything. Everything hard I’ve ever been through or any unpleasant experience I’ve had, music has been there for me. I want to be loved and happy. Not famous or remembered,” Bouchah said.)
After about 5 minutes of self talk and speech preparation, I made my move.
The next weekend, following The Mountain Workshops, I’m photographing him. I anticipated so much creativity because of my experience at the workshops. After being inspired by the words and images of many coaches, I was anxious to go shoot.
Then it comes down to cut time and my head is blank. All the ideas of beautiful light and composition and mood have packed their bags and flown to China. Here I am with my camera up to my eye, and my lights ready to go and I have a creative blockade worse than Houston traffic on a Friday evening.
We’re on a bridge. It’s cold. Sam is smoking between shots and I have 20 minutes left before we both have to leave. I’ve taken probably around 40 frames. I’ve got nothing.
So, I decide to simplify. To me, that’s all I can do in that moment.
I take a deep breath, put the camera down, look at Sam and just start talking to him. I knew if I could just capture the same tranquility and the same presence about this person that attracted me to take his photo in the first place, then I would be doing him justice.
Long story short, I take a few more frames. We pack up, say our goodbyes and I head to my late night meeting.
The whole way home I’m kicking myself. I’m embarrassed and wondering why I couldn’t pull through what I envisioned. It wasn’t until after receiving feedback recently that I realized that this was a learning experience and not a failure.
Are there things I should have done differently? sure.
Are there things I can still improve on? You betcha.
That being said, I think the most important thing I pulled away from this photograph was that despite having a creative block, you can still pull a good image through intimacy. By talking to Sam about his love of music and by deciding to keep it simple, I was able to get him relaxed in front of the camera. I would have rather had this image, something that’s a bit standard but captures the person, rather than something creative but lacking the evocation of who this person is.
Plus, he totally made it his profile picture on Facebook.
Lighting assignment this week, a portrait of a blue collar worker.
Dustin Vittur, 22, has worked for the Archer Daniels Midland Grain Company for a little over a month. He works up to 12 hours a day dumping corn, soybeans and wheat, and loading barges. “The hardest part of my job is the long hours and anytime the weather, whether its 102 degrees, 40 degrees in the winter, or raining, I’m working. However, I honestly enjoy meeting all the different farmers and it feels good knowing I’m doing a service to them and everyone else.”
Assignment for my Lighting class was to light an athlete.
A freshman defensive end for Western Kentucky University, Kalvin Robinson loves the game for the game itself. “I have a quote from my favorite artist and I think about that every game. The quote is, ‘You can fly, no body can stop you, nobody,” Robinson said.