From heartfelt tears wept by an elderly couple after 9-11, to the muddy adrenaline rush of big tire, off-road adventure, the creative productions of several Harlan County photographers can now be seen at the Harlan Center during the Poke Sallet Festival.
“Through The Lens” will be on display both today and Saturday and will showcase not only the people and places of Harlan County, but beyond-the-mountains artwork as well.
There's a picture of the old county courthouse hung for show, along with other local attractions like Pine Mountain Settlement School and Martins Fork Lake, but there's also a stunning portrait of Mother Teresa, a golden sunset shot at western Kentucky's Land Between The Lakes, and even some Smoky Mountain submissions.
“‘Through The Lens' is a collective exhibit comprised of some of our local photographers' favorite works,” said Jennifer McDaniels, one of the exhibit's curators and a participant. “It's not just about Harlan County, itself, but about the vast reservoir of talent we have right here within our communities. I believe anyone will see after visiting this exhibit that the work of Harlan County photographers rates right up there with the nationally known.”
McDaniels, who is a Harlan Daily Enterprise reporter, has been shooting nature photography for over five years. Some of her photographs on display include wildlife, such as deer and black bear, as well as forest and mountain landscape.
Jeremy Williams, University of Kentucky Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources, is another “Through The Lens” featured artist. While he also has wildlife pictures on display, he also has an interesting black and white photograph of a passing train, which he titled “Bottled Up In A Conductor's Dream.” It takes more than one look to discover why Williams came up with that title.
“This is a good exhibit to see,” said Williams, who's been taking pictures actively since 1999. “There's a lot of photos from Harlan County, and the exhibit has captured great scenes that are rich in not only beauty, but history and tradition as well.”
Wallins Elementary School teacher Judy Hensley has people photography on display in the exhibit. On her table, you'll see pictures of her son, renowned mountain musicians Lee Sexton and Ray Slone, and a little girl testing her wings while attired in her butterfly Halloween costume.
“Photography, to me, is seeing the world through snapshots,” Hensley said. “And that's what makes the world unique.”
Off-road photographer Brandon Goins doesn't mind getting dirty when he's behind the lens. While the Harlan Daily Enterprise reporter has been involved in photography for the past three years, the county's recent off-road explosion at Black Mountain Recreational Park has given the new photographer added excitement.
Goins has his collection of Kentucky Mountain Crawler photos on display as part of the exhibit.
“Over the past year of covering these guys, I've gained a lot of respect for them and I feel they don't get the attention they deserve,” said Goins.
Twenty-year photography veteran Debbie Caldwell has claimed numerous awards. Two award-winning shots are on display in the exhibit, along with other nature photography work of her's. Caldwell's shot of UK football player James Whalen catching a touchdown pass in 1999 won her a state Kentucky Press Association award, and her shot of an elderly couple weeping during a local 9-11 memorial service landed her a Community Newspaper Holdings Incorporated national award.
“Even though news photography has been in my blood for years, and I've been fortunate to be recognized for some of my news shots, the most pleasure I get is losing myself in the woods and taking pictures of nature,” said Caldwell, whose also the Harlan Daily Enterprise's news editor. “I wish I had more time for that. It's something that's always been enjoyable and therapeutic for me.”
Caldwell's most recent accomplishment is becoming a photo correspondent for the Associated Press.
Caldwell's not the only award-winning photographer featured in the exhibit. Archie Ridings and Chris Jones have plenty accolades of their own.
Ridings' work has been published in several newspapers and magazines, and he possesses thousands of shots ranging from nature to architecture. His submissions are hung high upon the walls in the exhibit for visitors to admire.
“Photography is a great adventure,” said Ridings, who has also been taking pictures for over 20 years. “And it's fun to collaborate with other photographers on exhibits like this. That makes the adventure a lot more fun. The people involved in this show do this type of work because it compels them. When you've crossed the bridge to where taking pictures is no longer a hobby but a passion, that's when you become a true photographer.”
Jones has numerous press association awards to his credit. His “Through The Lens” submissions reflect his ability to capture a wide variety of subjects. There's sports, traditional Appalachian compositions and portrait work featured at his table.
“Most photographers I've ever met enjoy people seeing their work and enjoy sharing what they captured through the lens of a camera,” said Jones, a former reporter and current public relations director at Southeast Kentucky and Community Technical College. “This is an outstanding showcase of Harlan County including its events and its people, which make it the intriguing and colorful place that it is.”