Happy New Year from the Cabin!

Rose is helping me with a little work, but the family is enjoying a wonderful vacation in the mountains of Georgia. We are looking forward to catching up with everyone once we return from our vacation on January 9th. Happy New Year!!!

Looking back over 2011 and beyond…thinking forward to 2012.

Have you sat back and thought about what has truly defined you both personally and professionally? Can you think about one point in time that has truly changed who you are and how you approach life and your career? There is not a better time to do so than at the end of calendar year…a time of reflection. I have numerous moments in time that have defined me, and a few have pop-up in my mind.

1) Defining moment in 2011 as a person.
It was January 1, 2011 and we were driving back from the Christmas cabin in Georgia. We had just finished enjoying a week of vacation in the Georgia mountains and it was time to make the treck back to civilization. As we were coming through Atlanta, Sarah asked me if we could stop to get a drink. I was sitting in the car waiting for her and she opened the door and hopped back in with tears rolling down her face.

I began to think of the many reasons why a female would come back from a restaurant crying. She looked at me and said…”I am pregnant and I am scared!” The past three years we experienced three miscarriages, not making it past 10 weeks. She was happy that once again she was pregnant, but upset and scared she would loose another pregnancy to miscarriage.

What I did not realize is that Sarah had been carrying pregnancy tests around with her for the last six months…testing on a regular basis. For those of you that do not realize…those pregnancy tests are expensive and she was carrying around a bunch. I would be willing to bet she had a half dozen in her pocketbook…we invested in a lot of those little things.

We immediately called our reproductive endocrinologist (RE)…we had made an appointment to talk about what were the next steps in getting pregnant again. We left a message that we were pregnant and we were wondering if we could reschedule the appointment. They immediately called back and wanted us in the office to run tests ASAP. January 1, 2011 was the day that we began thinking about Rose Frances…that little miracle was born on September 6, 2011. What a way to start 2011.

2) Defining moment in 2011 as a professional.
Have you ever had that one project that defined you as a person and professional. That one project that made you think harder and deeper…pushed you to work harder and see life through a different lens. Well, that happened to me in 2011. I received a phone call in January about a project The Duke Endowment was pulling together, one that was still on the drawing board.

They had the vision of telling stories surrounding individuals who are making a tremendous impact in their communities. These individuals are special people who lead organizations/initiatives that are supported by grants from The Duke Endowment. This project is called Profiles of Service…one that would allow me to practice all my journalistic skills of documentary storytelling. Over the next 8 months, I was able to work alongside The Duke Endowment, capturing stories of four individuals in both North and South Carolina. People that were and still are making a tremendous impact in their communities, leading initiatives that bring change.

Each story was located in a different part of North and South Carolina, allowing me to travel from the mountains of Western North Carolina to the low-country of South Carolina.  Four individuals, four stories of dedication and service, and hours of interviews captured and shaped into a final product for people to enjoy.

3) What I am looking forward to in 2012.
I am really excited about 2012…two projects that I am working on for this upcoming year. The first is a project with Greenville Hospital System, telling stories from inside the walls of this healthcare organization. There will be more to come over the next year…but I am really excite about this project!

I am also excited to be partnering with Safe Harbor in Greenville, SC. Six months ago, they came to me in the hopes to produce one video as a multi-purpose tool from fundraising to sharing their story online. After spending a few days with them, I realized that one video is just not enough to really share their story. Over the course of 2012, we will be sharing some amazing stories, from those who been impacted by domestic violence to those who are trying to create change in the community. We have already been working together for the last 6 months and we are looking forward to sharing some amazing perspectives.

It is my belief to look back and reflect and to look forward to something amazing! I am excited to be embarking in my third year of business!


What fatherhood has taught me about the social space?

Rose is a month old, yes! Today, she is now a month old…she was born on September 6th and from the very moment she came into our lives, I have seen life through a new set of eyes. Now I am starting to  understand the statement my mother has preached to me over the years…a parent’s love is like no other.

One of the things that Sarah and I agreed upon when Rose was born, we wanted to document the whole experience. Yes, we believe in photography and we also believe in sharing our joy with our close friends and family. Sarah and I actually spent the good portion of our wedding budget on photography, hiring a wonderful portrait photographer and photojournalist. So when Rose was on the way, we knew we had to capture the event.

Given this statement, our family members are social creatures as well and they all are aspiring shutterbugs. The first moment we knew we had a social media situation on our hands…when the family met Rose for the first time and they were taking pictures with their smart-phones. Sarah and I had been up all night…Rose was no more than an hour old. We had to put the kibosh on uploading pictures to Facebook. Now this seems weird, but we did not want someone else, other than Rose’s parents, sharing the first pictures of Rose with the world.

As I was standing behind a glass wall giving Rose her first bath, my sister-in-law was snapping pictures with her iPhone. As I looked up, I could see the reflection of Facebook. I had to stop the nurse, hand Rose over, walk over and bang on the window. I had to tell Sarah’s sister…no uploading pictures to Facebook until Sarah and I could hold Rose together and share our own pictures. Sounds a bit selfish, but I am sure you understand.

But this was only the beginning, friends and family visited the hospital room over the next few days. Sarah was recovering and I was trying to enjoy the moments. People taking pictures with Blackberry’s, iPhones, and Droids. Before we knew it…photos of Rose were being uploaded. Sarah and I were all over Facebook after a long night in the hospital. Sarah was still recovering from just giving birth…she was tired and probably not happy with her appearance.

Over the last month, we have been trying to filter through the wonderful images uploaded and some that just did not needed to be shared online. The tremendous reach of Facebook’s Photo Albums are tremendous. Many large and small organizations have built tremendous followings with just sharing images including Children’s Hospital Boston with over 650K “Likes”. We have become a part of a public newsfeed. This former journalist who was not afraid to plaster someone’s daily rituals on the six o’clock news now had his most private, yet exciting moment shared all over Facebook…and did not even realize it.

If you are like me…your Facebook account might be a combination of personal friends and professional acquaintances. You might even have clients and business relationships inside your Facebook account. Each person might have the ability to see each picture uploaded each time your name is tagged on an image. The reach of a photo is tremendous.

How have we succumb to this point in our social space. We want to share so fast we do not even think about the potential ramifications of an image. Someone’s excitement might be someone else’s most private moment. Are we even prepared to write social media policies for our friends and families…I thought that was for the corporate world.

As I look back over the past month with my new little girl…there is an upside to the Facebook sharing madness. The whole event has been well documented. It has also been well shared. Believe me…I have had people I did not even know walk up to me in a restaurant congratulating me on my beautiful girl.  Thank you Facebook for providing the platform.

But here is food for thought…when you share, are you sharing with the best intentions. Have you sat back and considered what you are sharing might be a private moment for another? Or has the expectation of privacy been long thrown out the door with this social sharing revolution?

*** Images by Tiffiney Addis of TiffineyPhotography.com. She is wonderful and we are blessed to be working with her over the next year!

A little girl in Andrews, NC….

Last Thursday was one of those days that once again, I was touched.

If you look at this face above, this little girl. I am not sure her name…we never met formally. Thursday, I was working on a project…telling the story of “The Welcome Table”. This is a program put together by the Andrews United Methodist Church in Andrews, NC. Each Thursday, Andrews UMC partners with other churches to provide a meal to the community. From 5 to 6pm every Thursday, anyone from the community can come to have a meal, free of charge.

As leaders from Andrews UMC told me, unemployment in this rural area of Western North Carolina is high. Many of the manufacturing companies and other large businesses either closed or moved out of town. Many families left to figure out what next. The project was to document the day, find the story, and tell the mission of the Rural Church Initiative for the Duke Divinity School. I literally had one hour to capture the story, find the right people, interview them, and capture the essence of this day for others to see.

I was working the room, trying to capture the moments from a far with my video camera and digital camera…I began to gain the trust of those who were there for diner or maybe some fellowship. The pastor says that between 50 and 100 people from the community come to the Welcome Table on Thursdays. They come for many reasons, whether they do not want to eat supper alone, they have friends who attend, or they need a hot meal. Whatever the reason, Andrews UMC wants to provide the opportunity for the community to share with one another.

Some of the people thought I was a journalist with my big cameras. They have experience with “these types.” You see, I used to be one of “those” people. I have been to Andrews twice before. Once in 1998 when they thought that Eric Robert Rudolf had appeared in Andrews. I was there working, with my big cameras, trying to find a story. Then again in 2006 when they actually caught Eric Robert Rudolf. I was there covering that story…once again coming to this town in search of the big story.

On Thursday, As I made small talk with many of the volunteers, they asked me where I was from…I shared with them that I was from South Carolina. I also shared with them that I had been here before…twice. They knew it was for the reasons I just described…and they were glad I was here capturing a great story.

But I was struck…by the face of this little girl. As I sat across the room, capturing her face as she was eating her watermelon…I was struck, humbled, embarrassed, and scared. I am not sure why this little girl and her family were here today. I could only speculate that her little tummy was hungry. Here I am, I have had my share of meals. I almost felt a sense of sadness and doubt coming across her face.

She has no stake in this game. She has no fight in this political madness. She is just eating a meal. I thought about all the many children across our America…hungry, mothers and fathers unemployed, no insurance, no healthcare…who are we? Who are we to squabble about numbers, political discourse that leads to nothing but chest pounding resolve…this little girl. She is our future…

Andrews UMC has a big heart. They are reaching out to this community with one mission, to give. This Thursday…they are providing a good meal to close to 75 people; young, old, black, white, males, females, believers, and non-believers. They believe in their community.

This little face struck me and made me think all the way home. Think about my little girl, Rose Frances who will be here in September.