Howard Marshall is a treasure of rural Missouri history and culture. The drafts of this history however, are not written down on paper. You cannot access them on the internet. You can only catch them strumming off his old fiddle. Howard plays traditional Missouri fiddle tunes that have been passed down from generation to generation of Missouri fiddlers. Not once have these songs been written down. They have just been learned and repeated. A comforting thought in this age of digitally documenting anything and everything we see and here. In ears and muscle memory Howard trusts. And I do, too.
A study was done by Mizzou nursing faculty member Tina Bloom showing that young mothers in rural areas experience excess stress due to their lack of transportation, un-employment and social isolation. The study showed that this added level of stress had a more negative affect on the overall health of both mother and child than health providers originally thought. You can read the research story here: http://bit.ly/1dxZkYO It was disappointing that the family I visually told the story through is just a small part of the written piece, but the freelance writer had already finished her story before we were able to identify subjects who would give me the access I needed to tell the story visually.
I spent over three weeks documenting this young family in Moberly Missouri dealing with the stressors that Bloom identified in her study.
Pretty often I meet photo subjects who inspire me, but Jim Harig, a small animal farmer in southern Missouri, made we want to be a better person. Here are a couple select photos from my time with Jim. Please watch the video to learn more about him and why he had such a positive impact on me and read more about the program that helps aging and disabled farmers over at MIZZOU magazine
I like interacting with people. I like taking pictures of people. I like looking at pictures of people. So when I get an assignment that doesn't involve me photographing people, I usually cringe. This was the case when I got an assignment from Illumination magazine to illustrate a story about munitions pollution remediation. The Department of Defense has identified 2,307 contaminated sites (more than 15 million acres) across the country, for which they have no viable plan to clean up. The story was about two researchers at Mizzou who have invented a new cost effective remediation process to clean up TNT and DNT pollution. I had two main obstacles with this assignment. The first was to find a site that was visually appealing. The second and most difficult was to actually gain access to the site. As you can imagine, the DOD was not real receptive to any publicity about these polluted sites. After weeks of dead ends, I finally had a break through and gained access to a site in Weldon Springs, MO.
The Weldon Springs Ordinance Works was the largest manufacturer of TNT and DNT during WWII. Over the course of the war Weldon Springs employed 5,000 people and manufactured millions of tons of explosives. Explosives manufacturing ended shortly after the war, but the site was then used to enrich weapons grade uranium up until the end of The Cold War. In the early 2000's the DOD worked with the EPA to clean up the contaminated site. Everything was burned, leveled and buried, which was the accepted remediation techniques used at the time. Everything except 1,600 acres that remained an Army ROTC training center. The below photographs came from this section of land.
I still don't like getting assignments where I'm not photographing people, but if I do, I hope they are all as visually stimulating as this place was.
I visited a hidden gem in Southern Indiana this past weekend. Hemlock Cliffs. A box canyon, nestled in the rolling hills of the Hoosier National Forrest. As I began down the snowy path into the canyon, on what was the last day of 2012, I asked myself what I had been doing the past 12 months. What were my accomplishments? What were my failures? Where was I headed? Where had I been? And as I looked up at the 200 ft. sandstone cliffs, I began to ask them the same questions? When did they reflect on their accomplishments? How did they measure their successes? Climbing on the backs of these gentle giants, as they gracefully dangled the cold, rigid fingers of icicles, I couldn't help but start to feel pretty insignificant. I realized that my expected lifetime isn't even a blip on the map of these gigantic cliffs and trees and streams. I in fact, had more in common with the quickly melting icicles. Here one day and gone the next. A depressing thought, no doubt, but then I began to notice how beautifully unique each icicle was. How brilliantly structured its fragile connection to the cliff side was. Then, I took several steps back and could see hundreds of them at once. At that point I started to understand the silent beauty of these crystal sculptures. Even though they are not here forever, like the cliffside, they majestically hydrate the forrest below during the cold harsh winter. And they do so in such glorious fashion. I then began to realize it was okay to be the icicle and not the cliff. It was okay to be here only a short time, as long as we spend that time doing something beautiful, and meaningful. Something that benefits others. So here's to 2013. The year of the icicle.