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.