Sing & Tug
Recent work from Western Kentucky University’s Greek Week activities. The week began with Spring Sing, an annual dance competition where Greek organizations create choreography set to a theme and finished with Tug, a traditional tug of war competition.
Wildcats feel the burn
High wind and rain set the stage as University of Kentucky basketball fans nervously cheered for their team. Fans ran out into State Street following the 6-point NCAA Championship loss to the University of Connecticut. “Fuck U-Conn!,” crowds cheered as they burned t-shirts and trash.
Police forces proceeded to break up the crowd around 3 a.m. There were 19 couch fires, 31 arrests and 23 injuries as reported by the Lexington Herald-Leader.
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.
The Latest: Story and Studio work from recent weeks.
The last few weeks have gone by so quickly. I finished up one story, started a new, photographed some characters in the studio, and had the unpleasant task of documenting a memorial service.
Photo 1 - Donald Cartwell, 61, of Richardsville, Ky. sits in his bedroom smoking one of his hand rolled cigarettes. Over time, Cartwell has lost his ability to walk due to a battle with spine and bone cancer. He relies on his wife, Ruth for care on a daily basis. “Sometimes I sit here and think and I just wish God would give me my legs back,” Cartwell said.
Photo 2 - Ruth Cartwell, 71, helps her husband Donald up from his chair so she can walk him to his bedroom. The pair have been married for 42 years.
Photos 3-4 - Charlie Gilbert, 22, of Louisville, Ky. is a Fashion Merchandising major at WKU and finds pride in her fashion choices.
"I wear very bold, interesting, and out of the "normal" things. I’m very uninhibited about my stylistic choices of dress. I’m unique because I don’t wear outfits, I create ensembles," Gilbert said.
Photo 5 - Heath Ray, an Immigration Worker with Community Action of Southern Kentucky.
Photo 6 - Skylor Cox plays with his toy guitar in the kitchen of his father’s trailer in Fordsville, Ky.
Photo 7- Mei Du takes a moment to herself as a family friend gives a eulogy for her late husband, Dr. Lindsey Powell. The memorial service took place at the Western Kentucky University Memorial Chapel and drew more attendees than the building could fit. Dr. Powell, an Anthropology professor and new father, passed at the age of 47.
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 always have the hope that I am truly 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.