For my Picture Stories class we were assigned to complete a six degrees of separation portrait series. My interpretation of this was a bit abstract but I knew I wanted to push myself to think quickly and build relationships with people of very different backgrounds.
When I pursued this I set four rules for myself.
1. I decided it would just be me, my camera, and a 50mm. No fancy lights.
2. I was not allowed to have any previous planning, I had to go find these people on the street and build a relationship with them where I could photograph them in their homes on the spot.
3. I would find each person within the square mile radius I set for myself.
4. With each person I would ask them about moments in their life that defined them.
Originally, the theme for the series was based on the neighborhood they all lived in. However, as I listened to each person open up I noticed a theme of transition. Each person had a transitional phase in their past, present, or future that they felt defined them.
There are still technical aspects I think needed improvement, but the most rewarding part of this was being able to sit down and watch someone divulge the most intimate aspects of their life.
1. Isac Duron, 11, of Bowling Green, Ky. is a first generation english speaker in his family. While balancing school and church, Duron works the front counter of his parents shop and Taquiera.
"I hope to be a professional soccer player. If you play really good you can get a scholarship," Duron said.
2. Marcus McCathren, 31, of Bowling Green, Ky. is a proud father to his two young daughters. He often thinks about their future and hopes to instill him them the lessons he learned from his time spent in the penitentiary for the murder of the man who raped his sister.
"I had to become a man before I even knew what a man was. I went to the penitentiary at the age of 18 and didn’t get out until I was 24. Everyday now I feel like god blessed me to be able to share what happened to me with other people. If it wasn’t for my kids I’ld probably be back in the penitentiary," McCathren said.
3. Regina Gipson, 38, recently moved from Alton, Illinois to Bowling Green, Ky. Having moved in with her daughter and granddaughter, Gipson is in pursuit of a fresh start.
"I did experience some jail time for having a gun. I’m just trying to start a new transition up here. I have had some problems with drinking in the past so that had a lot to do with holdin’ me down. I just thank god everyday and pray that everything will work out for the better these days," Gipson said.
4. Freedom Mahoney, 38, recently moved to Bowling Green, Ky., to escape violence and poverty in his hometown of Flint, Mich. As he tries to form a new life through working, going to church, and repairing a relationship with his girlfriend Melissa, Mahoney often has nightmares about his past.
"One day, they came to my house and he tied my twin brother and I to a chair and they raped my mother and slit her neck. It was supposed to be a drug deal. They shot my twin brother in the temple and shot me in the back of the head. From getting shot in the back of the head I was in a wheel chair for 2 years. After I got out of the wheel chair, I started playing sports and then I got a scholarship from my high school and I went to Tulsa University. When I was at TU, I had a 12 year old sister who was walking to school and a couple of guys drug her in the house and sodomized her and raped her. At 2:45 in the morning she called me and at 3:15 I was on my way back to Michigan. Probably after about 2 hours after I was there I got caught a double homicide. Then I went to prison. That’s when I started believing in God," Mahoney said.
5. Cindy Bedwell, 46, a native of Bowling Green, Ky., now lives in an apartment a few yards from the home she spent her childhood in. Before her lunch break, on the day her employer laid off over 15 people, Bedwell told her husband he could quit the job he despised. When she returned she learned she was one of 15. Her husband had already followed her instructions. From financial security to sharing a 2 bedroom apartment with her husband and oldest sons, she now questions her future.
"I had the odds stacked against me being a single mom at a very young age and I overcame that and worked hard and raised them. It feels like I came full circle now because I lost that job. Now I don’t have that education that it takes to get another one. I’m now 46 and I’m trying to figure out how to start over at 46 and that’s somewhat difficult," Bedwell said.
6. J’Quan Wallace, 19, of Bowling Green, Ky., wants to move away from the neighborhood he’s lived in since he was born. Although he has close friends, he says he just wants to escape the drama that others add to his daily life. At an early age, Wallace battled with his sexuality. Now, he says he feels at peace as he continues finding himself.