One of my friends teaches art at a small university in rural Iowa. Recently, she and a group of her students completed an outdoor mural as a public art project.
In some ways, it’s a study in community – not only because it was created through the cooperative efforts of a group of talented students (and their professor) but also because it celebrates the history of the community in which it was created. It also acts as a very visible – and very literal – connection between “town” and “gown.”
In some ways, it’s a study in contrast – the vintage, photo-realistic, and primarily monochromatic service station and automobile contrasted with the modern, abstract, and unabashedly colorful background. You might not even expect those things to work together. The results, though, speak for themselves, with each quality complementing and highlighting the other – and the piece wouldn’t be nearly as striking without those contrasts.
In some ways, it’s a study in (perhaps entirely unintentional) metaphor – a reminder that our differences don’t have to divide us. Despite our differences (or maybe even because of them), each of us has the power to contribute something essential, unique, and beautiful to our own community.
While I was in Wheeling over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to watch The Rustic Mechanicals perform Romeo and Juliet four different times, including three performances presented exclusively for public school students and teachers. During the third student performance, I took about four hundred pictures, half of which I deleted and half of which I kept, cropped, and edited, including the ten I’m including in today’s post.
(Yes, I know they’re all of Romeo and Juliet, but that was the only way that I was ever going to keep from going completely overboard sharing snapshots of the performance.)
The pictures aren’t my best work as a photographer (mainly because I couldn’t use a flash during the show). Despite their imperfections, though, I think they still capture the emotion and energy of the entire performance – and I am incredibly blessed not only to have helped make it happen but also to have been there, sitting in the audience and watching it as it happened.
In May 2011, this portrait of Valerie George, taken by Michele Coleman, won first place in the University of Kentucky Appalachian Center’s “Re-Imaging Appalachia” photo contest. According to its official website, the center held the contest, which attracted more than 150 entries from eleven different states, in order to “give exposure to interesting photographs that challenge the negative stereotypical notions of what it means to be Appalachian.”
On her own website, Coleman describes the photo as an “image … of a senior … from Marietta, Ohio … taken on a hillside along Route 68, outside of Parkersburg. … She is holding her beloved cello, and I felt the image was a perfect match for this contest … It really captures the spirit of Appalachia in a different light. The stereotypical images of hillbillies playing banjos and drinking moonshine are just not a good depiction of our region. We are talented, educated, creative people who live in a beautiful terrain of mountains, valleys, and river cities.”
I first discovered art photographer Joel Robison’s work several years ago on Etsy, when I “favorited” several of his literature-inspired (and often whimsical) self-portraits, and I continue to be a fan of his work. When I was looking at his website for an example to share here on the blog, this one stood out to me (especially in light of recent events in London), even though it doesn’t have the same literary aesthetic that first drew me to his photos.
You can read more about Joel – and explore more examples of his work – here.