Why I Couldn’t Do My Project

My final project for documentary photography class is complete.

My assignment was to document my perception of my home town based on a five-minute written brainstorming session we did in class.  Here is an excerpt of what I wrote:

Carrollton has a small-town feel with a college scene- strong nightlife.  Friends there vary from high school grads to PhD’s.  It has beautiful countrysides.  The square is the “place to be” for people of all ages.  Strong cultural center.

Again, my assignment was to document these phrases in pictures.

I couldn’t do it.  I tried, but I couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t do it because that’s not really my perception of Carrollton.  That’s the picture I wanted to draw for strangers in this class because the whole story is mixed with pain.  My perceptions of this dear town are much more complex than those short phrases.  What I wrote in class is true, but it’s only half of the story.

I’ve had to revise my written statement because there’s so much more to Carrollton than being a conservative, fairly religious cultural center of West Georgia.  I know it because I’ve lived around it for the better part of 20 years.  All my life, I’ve had my foot in two different worlds of this town.

Growing up, I lived in what has become probably one of the lowest-income neighborhoods in this county.   And yet, because of my Dad’s job and my parents’ love of the arts, I got to experience and be influenced by the arts community of Carrollton in a way that was probably completely foreign to many of our neighbors.  But still, these neighbors were my friends and I knew nothing different because I’d lived in that neighborhood my whole life.  We moved when I was 16, when the neighborhood became a fairly dangerous place:  there was a murder just a few houses down the street.

I moved away from Carrollton, my parents moved to another city as well, and I experienced life elsewhere for 10 years.

When Jared and I chose to move back to the Carrollton area, I insisted on living in the exact polar opposite neighborhood from the one in which I’d grown up.   Where we live now we have 24-hour security guards, a country club, three lakes…the amenities go on and on.   I think subconsciously I thought anywhere else in Carrollton was just too dangerous.  The murder years before made that big an impression on me.  My boys and I live a really sheltered life right now and I know it.  What’s more, I like it that way.

I worked in social services for a while when we moved back.  Though to my knowledge my family never relied on public assistance until I myself had to go on disability, I related to the people I served because of my experience growing up in my childhood neighborhood.  I experienced the fact that such an incredibly large percentage of citizens in this county are struggling in ways I’ve never had to, yet my compassion for them made me empathize in a way that was not healthy for me.  That’s why I didn’t last in the job.  I got angry at the system that was designed to help the people of this community because that same system helps perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

So, I couldn’t paint a pretty picture of Carrollton the way I thought I could.  I got some good shots of some town landmarks, but my pictures are much more personal than I anticipated.

It’s funny, I bare my soul on this blog in words just about every day.  Yet, when it comes to documenting my thoughts in pictures, I feel incredibly vulnerable.

You won’t see this project online.  Not now, at least.

 


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