I assisted on an amazing video shoot last week with a friend. He was taping a spot for the Historic Charleston Foundation who are doing a series of videos of local Charleston residents and recording their histories - stories that are pivotal to the community and the history of this lovely city. This was my first experience assisting on a video shoot, so I had a lot to learn and juggle. Luckily, I had a patient teacher in Arnie and a fascinating topic with long time resident of Upper King Street, Mr. Ravenel. His stories were so captivating, I think I got a little lost in my job as PA. He shared his stories about growing up in a segregated city, what the neighborhood used to look like (complete with a downtown peanut farm!), and the changes he has seen in his lifetime. His story was humbling in the best sort of way.
My experience with Mr. Ravenel got me thinking about telling stories - both visually and verbally. He was so humbled and nice and kind. He grew up in a time in history that was very different to what we see now. As he answered the questions posed by his interviewer, he never mentioned any of the really uncomfortable parts I imagine he has seen in his time. He just spoke with kindness and gratitude.
His stories were so sugary at times, I felt like I was looking inside a Norman Rockwell painting. Picking up gum at the corner store. Listening to the "piccolo" (otherwise known as the jukebox). Walking to school. Working his part time job at the market. In my mind, all I could picture was happiness and joy. But I felt like there was more. Something bigger. Perhaps there were stories he couldn't bear to remember. Or maybe he knows we live in a very different world now. But he accounted growing up in a segregated city much like most average childhoods. One where fear was squashed by love and light.
As Mr. Ravenel told more stories, I realized that my photography is much like his anecdotes - brightly colored, well lit, pretty, and somewhat art directed. My work rarely shows the behind-the-scenes events taking place - the chaos of misbehaving children, the waiting in the cold for clouds to pass, or the living room studio I set up. My pictures don't show you the people I had to crop out or the wrinkles I may have softened on a mom's tired face. They show the parts we want to remember - a sort of altered reality in a way. Sort of like the stories Mr. Ravenel was telling us.
Maybe that's what life is at the end...a series of pleasant snapshots when you look back on the overall picture. I have a few more years to catch up to his wise soul, but in the meantime, I hope I keep remembering the album of snapshots filled with the best moments. I hope I keep believing in the power of the pretty parts.