Monday, February 11, 2008


Late last week several tornadoes tore through the south and northern Tennessee/ southern Kentucky were hit pretty hard. Being that it was basically in our back yard, myself and a group of students set out to cover the destruction. I have to admit i have never been involved with anything of this magnitude before, or seen anything quite so powerful and i wasn't quite sure what to expect. I wasn't sure if we would be able to get access or if we would be kicked out. And even if we did get access, what would the community think of us showing up with cameras and audio equipment? Were we telling peoples stories, or just shooting for ourselves? I wrestled with this for a long time and decided to go anyway. We went to Lafayette, Tenn since it was said to be hit the hardest, and it looked more like a scene from Iraq than it did a quite rural town. Houses were wiped off their foundations and forests were bent over like hay, i had never seen anything like it and as i saw this i realized that no television broadcast could possible do it justice, it actually looked like Hell. As i got out of the car and walked down the street with my camera i had no idea what the people cleaning up the debris of their destroyed homes would think of me. As i walked past the first house, i waived to a man cleaning up some children's toys, and made the decision to keep walking. But then he yelled up to the road "Looks like it just polished her right off." He was referring to the fact that his home had been completely removed from its foundation as it God took a giant pencil eraser and wiped it clean. I took this as my opportunity to listen to his story and introduce myself. Without asking any questions or explaining anything he told me to take pictures of anything i wanted. I did. And I listened to him tell me about how he and his wife narrowly missed being crushed by the floor of their home. He told my he was waiting on his family to some over and bring some things. Figuring there would be some good moments, i asked if i could wait too, he said i could. The whole time i was there the family asked questions about me and school and photography. They offered me water and when a FEMA truck brought pizza by they practically tried to make us eat some saying that " you boys are working hard and need some food." After all they had been through, they thought WE were the ones working hard. Overall i stayed with his family for a couple of hours until it got dark, and the town was put on curfew. After it all was over i felt as though we were completely right about going down there. And even though i spent more time talking and listening than i did taking pictures i learned that not even a tornado can destroy southern hospitality.


Tim Hussin said...

That's a great story. It seems like as long as you're human about things like this and show that you care, people can be very open and friendly.

kim said...

I agree 100% with Tim...i think the fact that you een gave the idea of going as much consideration as you did shows that you're approaching the work with the right spirit - not the "maybe I'll get cool story for my portfolio, but a genuine concern for showing the human impact of these tragedies - and with that, one can never go wrong. great images, too - i especially like the first 2 - good job -- and the comment about southern hospitality was very funny - keep postin - i love to see what you're all up to.

William DeShazer said...

It amazes me that you can find a moment like that in such a bad situation. I think the first picture is awesome. Well done my friend.

Britney said...

These are beautiful kohl. it was my first time photographing damage like this too, and I was surprised with just how much the human spirit can withstand without loosing a smile.