Area 51 Cuztomz is a body shop that rebuilds and restores vintage cars in Marshall, Mo. The shop was opened in 2008 by Mick Howard and is managed by his son, Ryan Teel, 26 and James Harden, 34. While there was some head butting when Harden started working at the shop in May 2014, Teel and Harden now have an almost brotherly relationship and often hangout outside of work.
When starting this project, I was overly optimistic and wanted to do several women. I quickly realized this was unrealistic for a 30 day project. The biggest obstacle for me since I’m soft-spoken, was communication. Martha, I had no problems talking to, but RuBenia could barely hear me and didn’t quite understand what my project was about, which is completely understandable since she’s 96. I scheduled with RuBenia to come see her one day and I drove an hour from Columbia to Slater for her to pretty much tell me she was busy and asked me to come again another day. It sucked. But after thinking about it, I wrote her a letter telling her what my project was and gave it to her the next time I saw her and from then on she was very accepting and cooperative.
While things went smoothly while I spent time with Martha, I still hadn’t gotten enough photos of RuBenia. I called her everyday during Thanksgiving break and couldn’t get her to answer and ended up missing her therapy, which was what I had been trying so hard to get. But all was not lost, I ended up getting pictures of her nurse which I felt were better than nothing and I woke up at six in the morning to take the picture outside her window. And just this week I’ve gotten even closer to RuBenia so hopefully once she gets a little bit better and the weather gets warmer I can go to church with her since its such an important part of her life.
Something I definitely need to work on is making sure I’m not taking shots from the same distance and to remember to change it up. Sometimes I don’t pay attention, and then I get back and look at my take and see most of the pictures were all from the same distance. For some reason, I usually tend to neglect wide shots, which I why I made sure I went back and got the photo of RuBenia through her window.
Martha was extremely helpful and seemed to light up every time I took her picture. She really enjoyed having the company. Both women were beautiful human beings and I felt lucky to get to spend time with them. It’s funny how they’ve lived in my hometown my entire life but I had never actually met them before. For the most part, I was pleased with my final result. I like making things that make people smile and I think I accomplished that.
Women on average live five to ten years longer than men and 85 percent of people over the age of 100 are women, according to a study by Boston University. Aside from health reasons, women tend to live longer because they’re usually more emotionally open and socially active than men.
Slater, Mo., is a rural community of about 1,800 people. The local senior center closed a few years ago due to lack of funds, but that hasn’t stopped Martha Garnett, 86 and RuBenia White, 96, from having a strong support system and having an abundance of friends in a small community. Faith plays a strong role in both of their lives.
Conquering Fear Through Faith
Martha Garnett lives by herself on a farm a couple miles outside of Slater, Mo. She’s been widowed twice, by Harry Venable, who died of a massive heart attack, and Bob Garnett, who died of lung cancer. She’s been living by herself for almost 18 years and keeps herself busy visiting friends and family, playing bridge and going to the Methodist church where she’s been a member for over 20 years. Throughout her life, Garnett has found happiness helping others.
Living With Faith
RuBenia White has lived at Sullivan Hall apartments in Slater, Mo., for over thirty years. She was constantly on the move until she fell and broke her hip and underwent a complete hip replacement. Since, she has completed all of her physical therapy and looks forward to regaining her mobility. With the pain still too much for her to go out, White stays in her apartment and receives company from her numerous friends and family. White’s strong devotion to God keeps her upbeat.
I enjoyed the winning pieces in the solo journalist multimedia story or essay this year at CPOY as I always do, however, I didn’t think they were quite as strong as those from previous years. One of the ones I enjoyed the most was the story about the man and the ostriches, but it didn’t end up winning. I enjoyed it because I thought it was intriguing and unique, but I agreed with the judges that it didn’t have enough focus. As for the pieces that did win I really liked how relevant they are to current events that are going on right now most especially “Burning House”.
Out of the top four the judges picked I thought “Sensei” definitely deserved its gold medal. I loved the footage of the ink in the water and then the rewind, along with the quick sort of violent and jarring shots in the beginning. The subject couldn’t have been greater. Rape is such a hard subject for people to speak openly about, especially when it was by a police officer. The journalist had to have gained this woman’s trust to talk about something so sensitive. Also, I liked how it was a story about a woman taking a traumatic experience and turning it into something positive, which in this case is teaching martial arts. When she talks about being strong for her son, I found it incredibly powerful. Another thing I liked was the transitions from one place to the other, such as the leaving the martial arts place and driving in the car, something we’re often told to do in class.
The story “People Change”, I didn’t think deserved its silver medal. Like what some of the judges said, found it to be more advocacy than journalism. The interviews with the subjects were very compelling, but when the journalist inserts the slides at the end with statistics and asked, “Why should we?” I thought was unnecessary. Like one judge said and what we often hear in class, “Show, don’t tell.” However, the topic and subjects were still good. I really sympathized with these people and I think it draws attention to an issue we don’t pay much attention to. By the end though, I was unsatisfied because I wanted to know more about these people and what they had done and what their lives were like. I also agreed with the judges because I thought the music was distracting and also unnecessary.
I thought “Kid At Heart” was a cute story. I thought there could have been a better title because obvious the boy is a kid at heart because even though he’s smart he is still a kid. Although I did like the beginning, it was confusing just because for some reason it made me assume he was autistic. I really loved the boy’s mannerisms and because of that, if this had been a picture story it wouldn’t have been so successful. While I do know kids are extremely hard to interview, I would have liked it if maybe we didn’t hear the father speak and heard more of the boy telling his own story. I liked the storyline and how the journalist follows him to college and then we see him playing dodge ball with kids his own age. Again, I think this story would have been so much better if we heard more of the boy himself talking instead of the father.
I enjoyed the Hurn and Jay reading because what I took away from it was to be mindful when shooting, and not just shooting meaningless photos. Also photographers shouldn’t waste their time taking pictures of things they know will never be of any use to them. I agree to an extent, but I feel that life is spontaneous enough that even if you’re taking silly pictures of kids at playground, you possibly come up with a bigger story that does have purpose. Or you could find possible subjects for future story. We talk a lot about getting out into the world to make connections in order to find good story ideas, so even if photos don’t end up being used then I like to think it wasn’t time wasted.
The Chapnick reading was similar, but gave more of a historical background of the picture essay. The part I liked was about the urgency of the photographic essay. “Photographic essays represent the height of photojournalistic aspirations among the photographers I have known.” I thought it was interesting when he said several photographers leave high paying jobs to pursue a photographic essay that will expose some sort of truth. This to me relates to what we talked about the first week of class about “feeding your soul.” This also circles back to being mindful when shooting. Photographers should find subjects they’re passionate about and research them exhaustedly. It seems that really compelling picture essays are what’s more rewarding to a photographer than money because it feeds the soul and our desire to inspire some sort of change in the world.
Again, I really enjoyed reading Anne Lamott. The way she told her students to just write about school lunches is kind of the same thing as going and just taking pictures of something no matter what it is. Just like how she thought of a potential story about the boy against the fence, when you get yourself out there to take pictures you could find a subject worth pursuing as a story.
As far as the chapter about polaroids, I really liked the way she compared polaroids to writing rough drafts. Just like when you start taking pictures of a story, you might have an idea of how you think it’ll go, but you really never know what will come from it. Sometimes stories work out, sometimes they fall through, and sometimes they completely exceed our expectations.
I think these chapters tied in well with Hurn and Jay’s Selecting a Subject. These quote really stood out to me.
“Let us make the point clear: when the subject takes precedence, you not only start the journey towards a personal style but also you discover the sheer joy of visually responding to the world. It solves a lot of doubts, clears away all confusion.”
Stories where the photographer is able to make some sort of connection to the subject are the most meaningful. When the photographer really cares about the subject I think it’s reflected in the photos making them stronger and more powerful.
Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life is such an enjoyable read. She’s conversational and most of all relatable. Even though she’s talking about writing throughout, everything she says pertains to my experiences in photojournalism.
I particularly liked this quote toward the very beginning, “One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around.”
This is couldn’t be more true for me. I’m very laid-back, and while I enjoy being with friends I tend to keep to myself a lot of times. I’m also a bit on the shy side. But, working first as a reporter and then a staff photographer for the Missourian I got over that real quick. I think about when I took David’s fundamentals class and how I had dreaded doing the ten shots of strangers, and now, I wouldn’t even blink.
What I like about photojournalism is it does get you out there. You meet TONS of people and hear so many different stories. You get to experience things you normally wouldn’t. I love it. This ties in with the Gross and Shapiro reading about changing things up. Every time I do an assignment I try to think of ways to approach it that are fresh and unique. I always shoot the safe shots and then see how I can get creative. Having the ability to change things up, is part of what makes a strong photographer.