Monday, October 20, 2014

The Atlanta Daily World Renovation Continues!!! This Isn’t Kansas: Gene Kansas get’s It!

I had a chance to meet and talk with Gene Kansas last week about the Atlanta Daily World building.  First let me say he is a super guy so my opinion may be  bit biased here but I was looking and listening as we talked.  One of the issues I have been wrestling with is how we remember?  What does it mean for Auburn Avenue to be the “New Sweet Auburn Avenue”? It will not be what it was and it shouldn’t be.  This street has to evolve. As it evolves one of my many questions has been how it remembers?  I’ve especially been asking how will African American history be remembered? 

The work Gene Kansas is doing and the building he owns is a central part of this story I am telling.  We are talking about The Atlanta Daily World Building.  This is the place where the oldest African American owned and ran newspaper resided.  The days of the Atlanta Daily World’s heyday is history but we can’t forget what it was and what it did for our people.  The world has changed and this building has changed owners and it is being changed, in the process of change will we forget to remember? 

The thing that amazed me most about my time with Gene was his keen sense of and respect for history in general and African American history in particular.  He ins’t some fly by night developer and overseer of gentrification.  He is a compassionate soul who is connecting this building with it’s history.  Everything that is going into the building harkens back to a time in past of that very building.  There is this neat integration of the past with the present that breathes from outside to the inside of the building.  Gene get’s it and this is a relief for me.  I think memory is important and the question is how do we remember?  What does it mean and look like to celebrate the past as we live into the future?   Gene has taken questions like thes very seriously and I am happy to see what he is doing.  

Gene is allowing me to walk with him and his team as they do the historical restoration and renovation and I plan to do just that.  I invite you to journey with us on this ride down Sweet Auburn Avenue as it becomes sweet again.  How does a street that has gone through several failed revitalization efforts come out of this one?   We will see?  What is it in your life that needs revitalizing?  Are you getting your construction project started?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

You Can’t Pick Your Family but You Can Pick Your Mentors: Who are you picking?

Eugene Richards and Ralph Basui Watkins
October 9, 2014 - Atlanta, GA
Some of us are lucky enough to have families that we enjoy being around because we share a common set of values, goals and dreams.  There are others who have families that don’t embrace your worldview and as a result you don’t feel close to them.  They can’t nurture your dreams or celebrate your desire to constantly remake yourself.  In the case when our family members can’t be the supportive nurturing network we need it is up to us to find that network we need for support.

It is idealistic and unrealistic to expect our family to be this totally supportive network.  When it comes to family, it is what it is.  Don’t hate your family for what they are not.  Define your familial relationship in ways that are healthy for you and then move on.  I have found it necessary to draw close to people who see the world as I choose to see it.  I know that I am “different” and I don’t expect certain folk to get me so I get with folk I get and want to be like.

I think it is important to establish reference groups.  Reference groups are those people who represent what you want to become.  For example in my area of photography there are certain photographers I admire.  One such photographer is Eugene Richards.  I admire both his work and the person that he is.  Eugene is a person of integrity, moral character and he is transparent.  His work is about relationships.  He cares for the people he photographs.  He doesn’t tell their story but rather he becomes a part of their story.  

I had the chance to meet Eugene last week and talk with him.  While I have everyone of his books and I have followed his career that meeting was more than what I expected it to be.  He was humble, kind, gentle and patient.  He took time to talk with me, answer my questions and give me advice.  Everything I thought he was he turned out to be.  When I heard Eugene was coming to town I made it my business to be at the lecture, front row and to stand inline as long as I needed to talk to him.  I was going to press my way to make a connection that I was hoping would confirm who I thought he was and affirm who I am becoming.  It HAPPENED!  Who are the members of your reference group? Are you seeking them out?  Are you trying to meet them and connect with them?  Do they know you exist?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Past and the Future in Tension: The Streetcar Comes to Life!

On the eve of October 1, 2014 The Atlanta Streetcar passed the test.  The Streetcar performed under its own power.  The night was filled with excitement as onlookers and those who have worked on the project rejoiced.  It was exhilarating to be on the street that night as the Streetcar pulled out of the station and started down Fort Street, made a left turn and made its way down Auburn Avenue.

I didn’t know how I would feel about this night.  When I began this project I was a bit ambivalent about the revitalization of Auburn Avenue. I struggled with how the history would be remembered and preserved.  While I still wonder about how Sweet Auburn will remember I am yet hopeful of the life the new streetcar will bring.  What I know is that life must be brought to this street if the history is to remembered and celebrated.  The bringing of people and activity opens up the opportunity for a conversation.

Sharon Gavin, Communications Director for Atlanta Streetcar is awesome.  She is such a gracious person who is working with the community.  You can tell that she cares about the legacy of Auburn Avenue and she is passionate about the connection of the past with the present.  To talk to her gives me hope. I have been literally moved by the coming of the Streetcar.  I think the potential for memory is here.  This isn’t an either or proposition but rather a both and proposition. How do we have urban renewal and redevelopment while simultaneously preserving the rich history of our city?  We can do both?  What are those things you are trying to build and trying to preserve?  Can you walk in the tension of yesterday while moving into the promise of tomorrow?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Who are you looking at? Looking at Euguene Richards

One of the many things I have learned in school at Savannah College of Art and Design is the importance of finding artist who you admire and can also inform your work.  To look at their work and to follow their careers has away of influencing your work.  Your eyes are trained to see in new and different ways as you engage their work.  You are not inclined to copy them but rather to see your work in new ways as your work engages their work in the process of your creating work.

Eugene Richards inspires me in so many ways.  One of the things I really enjoy about his work is his sharing his journey as he creates his work.  He allows you to walk with him as he creates because he so transparent.  His images are paired with his writings and his writings are a combination of diary, commentary on his pictures and his engagement with his subjects.  

Richards takes time with his projects and builds relationship with his subjects.  One thing I have learned from him is to take your time.  I am always in hurry, trying to accomplish as much as I can in the time that I have. Richards has taught me to slow down.  Take time to see the light; be conscious about your composition; think about what you are seeing and what you want to show via the image you create. I hear Richards as I seek to see what I hope to capture as I make photos. Who are you listening to?  Who is guiding you?  Whose in your head and eye?  Whose is inspiring you not to recreate them but to become you? 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Considering Jeremiah: Rev. Wright is Right

I don’t claim to know Rev. Jeremiah Wright well.  What I do know is the times I have bee in his presence I have been mesmerized by his brilliance, his love for a liberative God in Jesus and his love for people. He is so accessible.  Anyone can walk up to him, talk to him and you can see how he cares for them.  He gives them his full attention.  He listens and looks with a pastors heart.

Rev. Wright isn’t into celebrity he is into to people.  This image represents how I see him.  As I was taking pictures last Wednesday night at Ebenezer Baptist Church Rev. Wright took time to greet and talk to everyone in line.  He gave special attention to each kid that came through the line to shake his hand.  He bent down and talked to them and he asked, “Do you want a picture?”  The kids would smile, because they had felt the genuine love Rev. Wright had for them.  He would take time to pose with them and take the picture.  

Above all Rev. Wright is a pastor with a pastor’s heart. He cares for people and it shows.  You can feel the love when you are around him.  I thank God for pastors like Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright.  When we love God by definition we are called to love people.  How do you know what know about Rev. Wright?