As Hurricane Sandy made landfall near Atlantic City, NJ, this Monday evening, Atlanta was eerily quiet, blanketed under a waxing gibbous moon. I shivered as I stepped out my front door to create this image. The air was crisp and the temperature, unseasonably cold. Yet, it wasn’t so much the chill of the night that ran through to my bones but the circumstances of this strange day. In our small community of Decatur, we heard the sad news that one of our beloved middle school teachers had passed away suddenly. She was young, vibrant and cherished by the students and faculty. She had taken my son under her wing last year when he was having a difficult time adjusting to our move from Florida. My husband is stranded in Boston after his two flights back home had been cancelled. He had flown up to deliver a talk at Harvard this morning but did not have the opportunity to do so since the university shut down. Lastly, as I am writing this entry in the deceptive calm, as captured out my front door, millions of people up north are fretting about what awaits them in the morning, in the wake of this monstrous storm.
Atlanta is in the throes of Atlanta Celebrates Photography, a yearly festival that is dedicated to cultivation of the photographic arts. For those of us who are passionate photographers it is an opportunity to show our work. Along with the honor of showing our art comes the cost of framing. Since I moved to Atlanta a year ago I have been purchasing my framing supplies from Tom and Carol Blackman at Warehouse Framers. Tom, now 86, got into the picture framing business in 1968. Although Tom is not an artist he has appreciated art all his life. “I never fancied to be one, I just liked it.”
In September, when I picked up my supplies for framing I took time to create a portrait of Tom in his workshop where he cuts frames. Afterwards, we wandered to his office to chat. When I walked into Tom’s office I immediately realized the office was the place to photograph Tom. There were a vast assortment of artifacts and personal items sitting on shelves, tables and hanging on the walls. This small space revealed much about this delightful person. In the image above, a young Tom in his Navy uniform, is seen in the three photographs hanging above his desk on the right. A wooden leg, which is heavier than any modern prosthesis I have ever lifted, is propped up in the corner . The nude portrait was painted by an old girlfriend which is situated next to the “Repent” sign. Tom had persuaded a friend to nab the sign from the other side of a fence in a rural area here in the South.
In honor of Atlanta Celebrates Photography I thank Warehouse Framers for their support, dedication and fabulous work.
I met Joe, a delightful individual, last week in Decatur as he was preparing to perform his monthly maintenance check on the railway signal at the corner of College and Chandler. Joe has been working for the CSX railroad for 36 years. It is his responsibility to maintain the railroad signals along the stretch of tracks between Clarkston and downtown Atlanta. Because the railroad passes through the middle of Decatur, I am frequently stopped by the flashing red lights and gate arm to wait for a train to pass and find myself perturbed. The trains pass at a snail’s pace and appear to stretch on for miles. I have noticed that these signals engage as an approaching train’s whistle is heard but before it can be seen; ample time to safely clear the tracks. I asked Joe whether accidents occur on the tracks at crossings with these signals. I was surprised to hear that on occasion a driver will accelerate in the attempt to cross the tracks before the gate arm lowers. Sometimes the driver is not successful and becomes stranded on the tracks with an approaching train. I then inquired whether people got out of their cars when they found themselves in this dangerous situation and he replied that drivers often panick and remain in their vehicles. I am sure to remember Joe’s words the next time I feel peeved about being stopped by a railroad signal. A ten minute interruption in my daily routine is certainly preferable to the alternative.
Two weeks ago I was honored to be invited to the Teej Festival at the Hindu Buddhist Spiritual Center in Clarkston, GA. Clarkston is a small town in the metropolitan Atlanta region which has become home to refugees from 40 different countries. The first refugees from Bhutan arrived in 1991 and today there is a vibrant Bhutanese community living in Clarkston and the surrounding area.
The Teej Festival is a three-day women’s festival of fasting and feasting that celebrates marital happiness and the health of the family. Single women pray for good husbands. The women come together in their finest attire to honor and pray to their deities and to sing and dance. In the center of the circle in the above image are the offerings of food, money, fabric, flowers and other symbolic objects that are given to please and thank the gods. The priest is a central figure during this ceremony and the colored rice on his forehead has been placed there by all the women to offer their thanks.
I was not sure how I would be received when I walked into the Spiritual Center for I did not know most of the people present and I did not speak their language. I was welcomed very warmly and to my surprise they all wanted me to photograph and asked me to take their portraits. I photographed to my heart’s content. It was a privilege to meet such beautiful people and witness such a moving celebration.