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When I die there should be no sad songs for me…

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In September of 2017, on the cusp of my fortieth birthday, I set a new decade resolution to spend more time with my ninety-three year old grandfather. As a documentary photographer, with an interest in communities, I asked my grandfather if he’d like to do a portrait and interview project in his retirement community. My grandfather said, “yes.”

My goals for this project were simple. I wanted to have quality time with my grandfather, I wanted to honor and appreciate this last chapter of his life and the community that he chose to spend it with. When I asked him who he wanted to focus on for the project, my grandfather chose the coffee group that he religiously meets with every morning except for Sunday.

The result of that project was a book of portraits and interview excerpts called The Coffee Group that I shared with my grandfather’s community in summer of 2018.

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On March 19th, 2019, my grandfather, Robert Harper, passed away at 5:30am. He was the foundation of our family and he will be greatly missed. I will be forever grateful for the time I had working with him on this project, and his words are a comfort as we figure out how to recalibrate our family without our navigator. Here is my grandfather’s portrait and interview from the book:

Robert Harper, Geography Professor/ Author

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Sally and I met working on the high school paper. Working on the paper was really the first time that boys and girls had a chance to work together. Everything was separated, so none of us had any experience with the other sex in a social way. At Christmas that first semester Sally and I were working together, she invited me to go on a hayride sponsored by her club. Well, we went on the hayride and I was thrilled with her. But I was shy around girls, and really, adults too.

Afterward I was afraid if I called to ask her out she might say, “no,” or I might have to talk to her parents, and I didn’t want to do that. So I put it off and put it off. That’s when my best friend, George McCoy, locked me in the basement and said he wouldn’t let me out until I called her. But once that happened the dam broke and we were dating all the time.

I thought she was great. She was prickly, but we got along and I just liked being with her. She was my best friend. I was really thrilled when she put on a card one time, “The best thing I ever did was say, ‘I do.'”

My life was serendipity. It all just bubbled along. A wartime wedding and the GI Bill changed my life path. I enjoyed writing the textbooks. I enjoyed teaching. I enjoyed some of the work with organizations. I didn’t always succeed at stuff when I tried, but generally I did. I didn’t plan my life, but my life couldn’t have come out better, except that I wish Sally had lived longer, and I had lived not so long.

I was always kidding her, saying that I’d die and she’d marry some other guy. She pooh-poohed that. I certainly didn’t expect to be the one to live the longest. I don’t want to share my life anymore with anybody except her. I’m a one-woman man.

I don’t dream much, but when I dream I have almost never seen her in a dream. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss her, but I’m a pragmatist. My feeling is that when something happens, it happens. And when it’s over, it’s over, and there’s nothing you can do about it. So there’s no sense mourning about it all. You just have to go onto the next chapter.

I always was afraid of death because I didn’t think there was life after death, but now I’m to a point where it really doesn’t matter to me. When I die there should be no sad songs for me. I have had a good life. But I don’t want anybody trying to extend my life. There’s a difference between living and existing, and I don’t want to just exist.

I grew up in a religious, Republican family. Very traditional. Very conservative. Sally did too. But I think the University of Chicago changed our perspective. There was a lot of social concern and discussion of issues like that. Sally always was afraid she’d become a communist going to that school. But it changed our perspective on life. So once we rejected that old system, it was a matter of learning a new system.

I certainly have shifted from traditional Christianity to feeling that some kind of world religion will ultimately come out of this, and that a lot of religion is just superstition. When you think about how poorly most of the people have lived on the Earth, they were certainly looking for a world that was better than their lot. The poorer you were, the more you wanted.

I don’t really think that there’s life after death, but if there is, I hope they let us look down to see what’s going on in the world, because I think we’re at the beginning of a revolution that is going to change life as much as the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution. I think this information data revolution is going to revolutionize your lives and the lives of your kids. It’s going to be a whole different ballgame.

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For more about my grandfather and how much he meant to our family:

https://paigegreenblog.com/2007/08/15/traditions/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2008/08/26/bathing-beauties/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2009/09/21/apple-dumplings-root-beer-saloon-my-grandparents-and-me/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2009/08/17/65-years-photos-for-my-blob-part-i/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2010/01/12/my-grandpa-will-always-be-my-favorite-santa/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2011/09/26/you-made-my-life/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2012/01/01/why-am-i-doing-this-again-best-of-2011/

https://paigegreenblog.com/2016/01/04/i-want-to-learn-how-to-drive-a-monster-truck-in-2016/

 

Banh Mi editing…

banhmi-cookbookI just submitted the final edits for the Banh Mi Handbook, a lovely book project I photographed last September for the wonderful folks at 10 Speed Press. As Andrea Nguyen, the animated author and chef extraordinaire, said in this fun blog post about our photo shoot (which includes behind the scenes photos,) photographing a cook book is truly a collaborative effort.

These photos could not have been created without the incredibly talented people we had on our team: superb editors Betsy Stromberg and Melissa Moore; Karen Shinto, the food magician; super stylish Tessa Watson; handy Morgan Bellinger and Elysa Weitala, the creative light mover.

Look for it this spring at a bookstore near you, or buy it here.

I photograph people…

When I was working on photo shoot yesterday, for an exciting new book with Lila B, I met another photographer who asked me what I photograph.

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My quick reply, as I was standing behind my tripod with my camera pointing at an arrangement of flowers,”I photograph people.”

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Photographer man: look of awkward confusion.

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My addendum, “And lately, flowers.”

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While I do love, and probably prefer photographing people, I am willing to photograph almost anything if the people I get to work with are amazing.

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And as I start work on my second flower/plant arranging book, I can confidently say I have nothing but love for flower people and I will happily work with them any time.

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Here are behind the scenes look from my first flower book, with the incredible Studio Choo, that will be on the bookshelves, in a book store near you, this spring.

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Huge thanks to Morgan Bellinger for being an incredible assistant and shanty town builder.

I like to flip through books from back to front…

When I pick up a book or a magazine with lots of photos, I usually open it up at the end and flip the pages backwards until I end up at the beginning of the book. While not conducive for reading novels, this dyslexic behavior is a handy tool to have because that is how my blog posts may be shared from now on.

This summer, work exploded for me.

I have seen and done so many fun things, but I haven’t had time to share any of it because I can barely keep up with the editing.

I am not complaining. Instead I feel very lucky and very grateful to be so busy.

But because I am so far behind, I don’t know where to start with my blog posting…. so I will resort to my backwards book flipping habit and start at the end of the book, which means tonight’s photo shoot, and we’ll see how far I can get.

Tonight Arann and I went to San Francisco on a working date.

I have finally started photographing for the Town Hall cook book, which is actually a cook book about all three of their restaurants, and it is actually a cook book about cooking with platters, pots and pans, but they want to include some photos of the restaurants as well.

And because I had never been to the other two restaurants, tonight we went to Anchor and Hope and to the Salt House to get a feel for the restaurants.

My goal for tonight was simply to try and capture the feeling of these two very different restaurants for the book.

So that was it… it was just a start, but it was a fun start. And the perks of photographing in restaurants for cook books… the food, drinks and service are so amazing. I had the best salad of my life tonight at the Salt House. I highly recommend both restaurants for any kind of date.

Gathering Color… and Portraits of Fiber Artists…

I attended a natural dye workshop in Missouri with Rebecca Burgess, for her book on natural dyes. While the landscape and the plants were definitely pretty…

…I often found myself distracted by the other people in the workshop.

I know that these portraits will not make it in this book, but maybe the next book can be about Natural Dyers… because I have found them to be a pretty visually unique group of people.

This is how we do it, and you can do it too…

Nature created amazing plants.

Rebecca Burgess dyed wool into cool colors… with the amazing plants that nature created.

Heidi Iverson designed patterns and knit fun gloves and a blanket… with the wool that Rebecca Burgess dyed into cool colors… from the amazing plants that nature created.

Beautiful ladies and cute children modeled the fun gloves and blanket that Heidi Iverson designed and knit… with the wool that Rebecca Burgess dyed into cool colors… from the amazing plants that nature created.

I took photos of the beautiful ladies and cute children… who modeled the fun gloves and blanket that Heidi Iverson designed and knit… with the wool that Rebecca Burgess dyed into cool colors… from the amazing plants that nature created.

All of this teamwork is for Rebecca Burgess’s book about creating dyes with native plants from the different regions in the United States. Her ultimate goal is to help people become more aware about their fiber-shed, which means thinking about wearing clothes that are made locally, just like the food we eat. Through her book, Rebecca hopes to show people how easy it is to create vibrant colors and cool clothes from the plants that are in our own environment.

It has been a fantastic project to work on and I can’t wait to see how all this teamwork comes out in the end.

The Winner….

Here it is… the chosen one. My first photo on a book cover published by a real publishing house (unlike my self-published book.) This is the rough draft of their design. The photo is enlarged and the rest of it wraps around the book jacket… with some of my other photos on the back.

I think it looks good. I am happy. Yay, for working with a team of good designers and a writer who believes in having good photos. Thank you UC Press and Jonah.

Town Hall in Reidville, SC

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This is Sandra Gowan, the town clerk, and Mayor Gene Snow. And in Reidville, the fight is on and they are begrudgingly leading the fight because the fight involves the “Z” word…..zoning.

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Reidville as it has been known for over 200 years is on the brink of being swallowed by subdivisions. Countryside lost. People are upset. No one wants change but no one wants zoning laws. In this county people want to be left alone. Do not try and tell someone what to do with their land…..but don’t put a subdivision next to my house either…..we want to keep the cows……but we want the right to claim the money that we can get for selling our land. The nation is in a housing crisis, but not in Spartanburg County. Developments are popping up on every corner. The old people are dying and the kids are selling.

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It is a common story but in Reidville, the fight is on.

The Brady Family Off Work

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Tim Brady is the Assistant Chief of the Reidville Fire Department. His wife Dolly makes missiles for the military. The lab Buddy retrieves doves when Tim takes him hunting and the chihuahua Hunter barks, at everything.

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