Revisiting Bartlett

I revisited Dean Doty and his wife, Carol, in Bartlett Iowa as they continue the daunting effort of sifting through the rubble left from the monumental flooding this past March.

Jimmy Martin takes a short break from loading wood in the lumberyard. Jimmy is the brother of the Town and Country Minute Mart's owner, Mike Martin. Jimmy told me he's broken every bone in his body except for his neck, saying most resulted from his time as an amateur bull rider and brawling in bar rooms. Jimmy works long days in the yard and maintains a farm during his off hours. His hands are vivid evidence of the relentless work ethic that permeates most of rural Kentucky.

Town and Country Living

A week ago today I returned from Mt. Sterling, Kentucky where I participated in the Mountain Workshops photojournalism session.

The Mountain Workshops follow a similar format to the Missouri Photo Workshop that I attended last year. Both are focused on documenting the lives of people living in small town.

Instead of pounding the pavement to procure a story, as was the case in Missouri, each participant in Kentucky literally drew a story from a hat.

The week consisted of long days shooting my story, meeting with my team and coach and attending nightly presentations. We were also assigned a writing coach to collaborate with in writing stories and captions. My coach was Erika Schultz who is a full time photographer and videographer at the Seattle Times. Erika has a refined and keen eye and gave valuable feedback on my images, as well as suggestions on how to craft the most effective visual story.

Each photographer was given shot limit of 850 frames for the week. I really forced myself to be as economical and selective with my shooting and was pleased when I finished the week having shot just 219 images. I believe this disciplined approach really does hone my eye and helps with seeing then entire scene while anticipating key moments. Out of these 219 photographs, I collaborated with my coach to select 10 that captured the essence of my story. The photos were to submitted in color, but given the timeless feel and look of my story, most of my images seemed to work better in black and white. I’ll post a monochrome edit here this week along with a series of micro stories from the week.

My story was to cover Town and Country Minute Mart in the nearby town of Camargo. I drew my story at 12:30 P.M. on Monday and I was in the mart by 1:30. My initial impression of the mart was met with discouragement. The place looked and felt like an average, run-of-the-mill convenience store. After meeting and getting the green light from Penny, the mart’s office manager, I strolled the aisles and quickly discovered Town and Country Minute Mart is no typical convenience shop.

Here’s what I wrote for my lead in to my story.

Frog legs every Friday, sheets of plywood and 2x4’s, freshly stocked bottles of Ale 8 soda on ice, a tankful of gas, farm implements, green night-crawlers, ball peen hammers, and self serve coffee for 85 cents, you can find it all at the Town and Country Minute Mart LLC in Camargo, Kentucky.
Spend some time in the mart’s deli and you’ll be hard pressed to find a cell phone anywhere. Instead you’ll see people connecting with one another the old fashioned way; face to face.

Click below to see my story posted on the Mountain Workshops site.


Shearer Determination

In November of 2017, Mike Shearer was admitted to the ICU at Methodist Hospital in Omaha with pneumonia and complications from diabetes.

The following evening, Mike suffered a significant stroke and was rushed to Nebraska Medicine where he underwent a risky and life-saving craniectomy.. This procedure involved removing a large section of Mike's skull as well as a significant amount of brain tissue. 

In addition to the complications from the stroke, Mike's heart became infected and required damaged heart valves to be removed and replaced with prosthetic ones. 

One day after open heart surgery, Mike's body became extremely septic and he nearly lost his life.

Amazingly, Mike weathered all storms.

After receiving acute rehab at Madonna hospital in Lincoln Nebraska, Mike was admitted to QLI for rehabilitation in February of 2018.

QLI capitalized on Mike's passions, values and motivators to create a highly personalized program  for Mike and his family.

On May 17th, 2018, Mike finally returned home to be with his wife and three children. 

I had the incredible honor of documenting Mike Shearer and his inspirational family for a story for QLI. With Mike's determination combined with the spirit and energy of his wife, Denise, and their children, The Shearers are charting a course for a re-defined life; one with purpose, grace, hope and faith. 

I combined my photographs with ambient sound and interviews to create the video imbedded below.