Portfolio Naples March 2017 - Page 36

Your first photograph and its significance? I think my grandmother’s blindness was the source of my visual arts pursuits. She was going blind when I was just 8 years old and by the time I was 12 she was totally blind. I loved my grandma. Her experience affected me deeply and I’m certain this eventually lead to my becoming a photographer. Grandma had an optic nerve disorder where her eyesight slowly dimmed into total blindness; nothing could stop this. At that time I drew in sketchbooks and painted with watercolors. My mother en- couraged my artwork from an even earlier age. We stayed with my grandparents often; they lived on a farm in Eastern Kentucky, with cows, pigs, horses, chickens and fields of corn and potatoes. Later, my grandma became the first person I photographed. We would walk together, strolling around the farm, gathering hen eggs and feeding the chickens, watering the cows and doing other farm chores together. When something caught my attention, we would stop and sit, I sketched and drew, grandma was very patient. When back at home, she would laydown on her bed to rest and asked to see my drawings. I would get a lamp and hold it over my sketchbook so the light was brighter. She so enjoyed my artwork and this made me feel special. I felt then as a child, if I could learn to draw better, become a great artist, if I could only become more skilled, maybe that could save my grandma’s eye sight. My mother continued buying me art books and art supplies, I remember copying Michelangelo’s angels and everyone complimented me upon seeing those drawings, but grandma still went totally blind. My focused childhood attention on making art for healing a loved one and touching others to see with compassion, stayed with me. When I attended art school at age 19 I discovered photography. Returning home, my first photo essay was about my grandparents and their life on the farm. I’ve always believed photography serves a purpose beyond just recording or documenting. 34 PORTFOLIO MAGAZINE