Friday, November 2, 2012

I LOVE the C.V.F.D. ... and so should you!

This has been a week to think about first responders.  We've all seen the images on television of Hurricane Sandy's destruction and were probably inwardly thankful that, this time, it wasn't our little corner of the world in the headlines.  We've seen what vitally important work has been performed by those fire, police and rescue professionals and volunteers who put themselves in harm's way to help their neighbors.  I needed to bring my thoughts to a more personal level and tell why I love the Conway Volunteer Fire Department!

We are so lucky to live in a community where we take care of each other.  I wanted to take a minute to thank the men and women who volunteer their time, energy and efforts on behalf of the Conway Volunteer Fire Department.  I'm afraid they are a vital community resource that we don't fully appreciate until we need them and then  . . . there they are, willing to help us out.  One of my earliest childhood memories is being awakened frantically in the middle of the night to a blaze outside the window of our house.  The building we now call "the old darkroom" that my father first built to house part of his growing photography business had been burglarized and then set on fire to cover the crime.  That building still stands and is used today thanks to the efforts of our local heroes.  And, I very clearly remember the afternoon in the summer of 1996 when an electrical fire sparked by equipment in the darkroom of the studio started a very serious fire in the building I'm now sitting in.  I was amazed at the rapid response of our local fire department and feel blessed that they were once again there when we needed them.
I hope we are still teaching our children in school about how important these brave, committed, generous men are to our community.  My first school field trip in the first grade was to the Conway Fire Department.  We were all so proud to be sitting up on the truck so our teacher must have done an excellent job of preparing us for the trip.  I also know by the number of my clients who bring their children for photos in fireman's gear how proud they are of the firemen in their lives.

Some of these thoughts came up because tomorrow night, November 3, is the annual dinner and auction at the fire house in Conway.  I'd like to encourage everyone to show their support.  You'll have a good time, eat a good meal, see friends you haven't seen in a long time and you'll have a chance to show your appreciation to these dedicated men and the women's auxiliary.  I hope I get to see you there!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I thought I was in a science fiction movie . . .

We had a great time taking Jessie Storey's bridal portraits back in July at the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo.  We had a few bug issues at the gardens and were scratching our bites a bit but Jessie, her mom, her sister and I were going to finish up taking photos down on the waterfront in historic Manteo.  Always something fun to do in the summer, by the way, because you've got to wade through all the tourists especially the Northerners who do not understand what bridal portraits are and who assumed that Jessie had just gotten married and had already ditched her groom. 

We worked our way out to the dock and I was snapping away while Jessie looked lovely and tried not to sweat (95 degrees and easily 90% humidity).  Suddenly, out on the water this "creature" sort of rose straight up out of the water and hovered, churning up waves and making a whole lot of noise.  I had visions of the Creature from the Black Lagoon and those bad sci-fi movies of  my childhood.  I don't know what these contraptions are actually called but it looked like a whole lot of fun to me on a hot day.  The man attached to this sea creature saw us and realized we were taking photos.  Rather than getting out of the way, he seemed pretty intent on being sure he was IN the photos.  He hovered, he posed, he smiled.  He did everything except don a tux and offer to be the groom.  As you can see, Jessie couldn't help but laugh.

He finally got tired of entertaining us and headed back to sea.  I'm sure he would have come back for the wedding if invited.

Friday, April 6, 2012


I've said many times before that people are always bringing me treasures to work with and the ex-history major in me really enjoys seeing what comes along. I don't think I've ever seen a treasure more meaningful or sweet or filled with history than this little booklet that Nancy Revelle recently brought in to the studio. I hope I'm remembering correctly but I think she said she found it when she was cleaning out some items that belonged to her mother-in-law. Each page of this little book (about 25 pages in all) has a child's photo on it along with some handwritten words. Sometimes it's a little description of something this child liked or his or her favorite Bible verse followed by a poem written by (we think) Sarah Gilliam, their Sunday School teacher at Ashleys Grove Baptist Church. When I first looked through the book, I recognized the names of some of the children even though some times it's only their first name. I spotted children who would grow up to become the parent of some of my friends so I know this treasure must be over 75 years old. I remember hearing from my father that not that many people had cameras so I am amazed that someone produced this wonderful record of children in the church. Nancy wasn't quite sure what to do with the book but I suggested that we, first of all, scan and save each page so that we could preserve it since the original is in a pretty fragile state. I've attached a few pages to this post for those who enjoy history as much as I do. If there's a lot of interest, I'll put all the pages up on Facebook and everyone can enjoy it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

White Way Cafe

My daddy had his own personal filing system for many of his early negatives. It's not unusual to find an envelope labeled "man in uniform" as the description from his pre-1950 files. He got his system more perfected from 1950 on and I love looking back through his ledgers to see the lists of his customers and the photography he did for them.

I was looking through a ledger from the 1950s and found a notation that said "White Way Cafe." I was intrigued because this sounded like it should have been the place to be. I scanned the four old negatives in the envelope and, indeed, this does look like it was quite the hangout. I asked Peggy if she knew the White Way and she did. She told me it was in Boykins but that she had never been inside. Her memory was that it was a place your "date" might go in to for cigarettes or refreshments but that girls in her group didn't think it was quite proper.

I hope there are some more folks out there of a certain age who will share their memories of the White Way Cafe. I could actually go for one of those 10 cent cherry cokes right about now.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


"My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue . . ."

You may have clicked on the title of this blog post out of curiosity but, if you can sing along with the opening line above, I can identify you as a teenager from the 1970s -- like me. Carole King's album "Tapestry" permeated my teen years and I'm fairly certain today that I could put it on and know every lyric and take every breath with Carole. I believe that all of us who came of age "post-Elvis" have songs or albums (yes, I'm old and say "albums" rather than "CDs") that rocket us back to a place in our personal histories. And, isn't that just the greatest way to remember and look back though periods of your life -- through music?

"Tapestry" was MY album all through high school. I KNEW Carole King wrote those songs just for me. Of course, I ended up at Meredith College where every other 18-year old girl brought her copy of the album but it was till MINE. I love that, even today, I can hear songs from certain albums and immediately go back in my mind to the campus at Meredith. Back when I was a student, we hadn't heard anything about sunscreen or skin cancer so many of the girls waited for the first sign of spring and the first rays of sun so they could start on their summer tans. The four oldest dorms surrounded a quad where bathing suit-clad girls would sizzle like rotisserie chicken as soon as the weather allowed. And, since the dorms were not air conditioned and the windows were always open, we would put our stereo speakers in the dorm windows and blast the music out so it could be enjoyed while we baked. I can tell you the years that certain albums were released because I can remember walking back to the dorm hearing them playing. Freshman year was the Beach Boys "Endless Summer", sophomore year was Boz Scagg's "Silk Degrees", and my junior/senior year was "Rumours" by Fleetwood Mac.

I needed to ramble and talk about music for a few minutes because I was thrown back in the past by a phone call I had from a woman near Ahoskie who wanted me to come to her house and take a photo of a "tapestry." I was intrigued, of course, and delighted to drive over and find this wall-size hanging of needlepoint panels that this woman's aunt had done of their family history. It was being passed down in the family from the Ahoskie home where it had lived for many years to another member of the family many states away and my photo was to be a remembrance for its current owner. The historian, the photographer, the "needlepointer" and the Carole King fan in me all combined to make this a completely enjoyable job. By the way, I have a take a moment here to savor another wonderful memory. I learned to needlepoint when I was about 12 years old at Camp Rainbow in the NC mountains and coincidentally my teacher/counselor was the talented Cheryl Martin from Conway.

So, the tapestry has traveled from his old home to its new one and the photos I took remain in Ahoskie. It also comes to mind what is always wonderful about being a photographer in a small town. You can specialize if you're a photographer in a city somewhere. You can choose to do only weddings or babies or fashion or commercial. In a rural area and around the small towns of NC and VA where I work, it's a surprise every week to see what calls I'll get. Some weeks I may have lots of babies or brides to photograph or it may be a week of framing and matting followed by a wedding or a commercial shoot. It keeps me on my toes and I like it that way. Because, you see . . .

"My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue . . ."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

For the Long Haul

You've all heard me go on and on (probably too much) about history and how seriously I take the fact that I'm preserving a family's history when I photograph them. I take it as an equally serious responsibility to preserve the photographs that we've taken here at Conway Photo as carefully as I can. I was reminded of this responsibility this week when one of my customers picked up a photo she had ordered from a sitting that had been done several years ago. This lady told me that her son didn't think it would be possible to replace this missing photo because surely we didn't keep our negatives and files that long. She told him that she knew Mr. Hedspeth and she knew better and, sure enough, we replaced her photo. In fact, this week alone I've had photos printed from negatives from a wedding in 1989 as well as this photo of Murfreesboro Baptist Church that was taken in 1991. You can tell a little about the age of this photo by just driving by the church now and seeing how the crepe myrtle trees have grown.

I felt like writing about this simply to say that it is important to me and everyone who has ever worked here to safeguard your past. We have negatives files back to 1947 and I've kept triple backups of all digital files since I switched to digital several years ago. I'm also devoting a great degree of serious consideration to what will happen to these hundreds of thousands of negatives and files when I one day close my doors. I'm not ready by any means to retire yet but I want to plan ahead for that event because I want to find some way to make this treasure trove of local history available to my customers who might want them. Figuring out how to do this is in my 10 year plan right now.

All this being said, I hope you'll let my inner, lecturing schoolteacher come out and share a lesson here. Whether your old negatives and digital files are with a photographer somewhere or in your home, pay attention to how they are being safeguarded. You never know what you or future generations in your family will want from them. We try to be careful here and (knock wood) have survived two fires in the studio through the years and have lost very few negatives. And, if you take lots of photos yourself as many of you do now, do two things for me. Store your negatives carefully and, if you are digital -- BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP your files and store at least one copy of your backup files somewhere else. And, for the sake of future generations who will be faced with a cardboard box of photos and have no idea who that bald baby is in the photo, write on the back of the photo a name and year to identify it.

Sorry for the sermon. I know everyone takes their own job seriously and has a cautionary tale and this is mine.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

PPA Imaging in New Orleans

Lots of you already know that Joe and I are recently back from a trip that was a combination conference and vacation. We are both fearful fliers so it takes a lot to get us on a plane, but I really wanted to attend the Professional Photographers of America's Imaging conference in New Orleans. We went two years ago to PPA Imaging in Nashville and, while I am a dedicated and enthusiastic supporter of our state organization (PPNC), my first trip to a national conference really blew my socks off. The New Orleans conference was just as fun and educational as Nashville. The wealth of information at classes from some of the best photographers in the world -- simply overwhelming. And a trade show of exhibitors with all of the newest products. WOW! I'm back with a bag full of goodies and a brain full of ideas so I'm ready to go for whatever comes along.

Of course, we also enjoyed New Orleans as a city. We arrived a couple of days early so we could see the sights before the conference began. Loved the architecture of the city, enjoyed the food and was encouraged to see some of the rebuilding efforts following Katrina. Joe was in "hog heaven" with all the live music. He's someone who actually does hit the bars for the music, not the drinks, and he found plenty in New Orleans.

Since we were braving ourselves to fly anyway, we decided to go to Memphis while we were traveling -- a city we had both wanted to visit for years. This part was strictly vacation so we hit all the sights together. You can't go to Memphis without having a touch of Elvis-mania so we definitely visited Graceland and my music-loving husband had to be pulled kicking and screaming at closing time from the Sun Records studio, the Museum of Rock and Soul and, most especially the Stax Music Museum. I was really surprised by the depth of emotion that our visit to the National Civil Rights Museum brought out in me. It is built into the old Lorraine Motel which was the site of Dr. King's assassination and it actually left me speechless for a few seconds to walk around the corner and find myself looking up at that hotel balcony which was the scene of that famous photograph we've all seen a thousand times. A very emotional and sobering visit.

I took lots of photos, of course, but won't bore you with all of them. I'm sharing a sample which include a a little New Orleans architecture and above-ground cemetery, the house at Chalmette Battlefied (the Battle of New Orleans), the exterior of Graceland and the famous pink Cadillac Elvis bought his mother, and a happy husband on both Beale Street and at the microphone in Sun Studios.

We obviously survived the flights so maybe we'll brave ourselves to do this again. It will be easier for PPA Imaging next year; it's in Atlanta so we can drive if we want to.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Many people assume that I majored in photography or art or business in college which would probably have made more sense considering what I have ended up doing. But, I actually majored in history (go Meredith Angels!) and have loved the subject from an early age.

I don't know that I ever got a change to USE my history degree much except that I can play a mean game of Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit but, as I get older, I appreciate the place that photography allows me to play in the history of my clients. I heard a speaker at the PPA Imaging conference in New Orleans who reminded all of us photographers that what we produce becomes the tangible history of a family. We probably have all heard about family events or long-dead relatives and the stories are wonderful, but it's when we're able to hold in our hands a photograph of that person or event that we can better appreciate and understand it.

I am blessed that Conway Photo has been around as long as it has and that my father was a pretty careful keeper of records when he started the business. I have a bulging warehouse with over 50 years of carefully filed negatives and I am now adding to that stacks of back-up disk drives with digital images. When I have free time, it's a pleasure to look through some of these files and delight at the treasures there. And, it's really a pleasure that I can now scan a negative, bring it into Photoshop and many times produce an even better photograph from these files than were originally printed. Through the years we've replaced wedding albums and treasured family photos that were lost in fires and floods and connected people with photos that they didn't know even existed.

Others that appreciate history call in all the time with their requests and it's a great feeling when we can help. I'm called many times during the year for copies of the peanut harvest photos my father made in 1947. So many people who grew up in this area have an appreciation for our agricultural history and it's wonderful that my father had the foresight to create this series of photos.

When my mother died this past year, it was the nicest discovery I could make to find this vacation photo of her and my brother at the Wright Memorial. Though there is no one who can verify it now, I can tell by my brother's age that this must have been the famous trip my parents made to the Outer Banks when my father returned home from Japan after WWII.

Every year I'm asked to work on projects for gifts. This past year I pulled negatives from a 1955 wedding my father photographed to replace the original wedding album which has been lost. I know that was a special package under the Christmas tree.

And, I've already written earlier on Facebook about the special gift that Melissa Meyer asked me to create for her parent's Christmas gift using the negatives from her wedding in 2003 and her parent's wedding in 1976 along with the digital files of her brother's wedding in 2011. The final composite shows four generations of her family and I was as excited to work on it as, hopefully, Debbie and George were to receive it.

You'll excuse me a minute today for reflecting on all this. I have had Melissa and Kevin Meyer much on my mind this weekend, and I know I am joining all of her family and friends in prayers for Hinton's recovery.