Several years ago, during one of the many day trips Alex and I would embark on, we drove into a small town called Fayetteville, in Lincoln County, Tennessee. Fayetteville is about an hour south of Nashville, and just north of Huntsville, Alabama. Back then, folks walking around with cameras strapped around their necks was not something you saw everyday in Fayetteville's town square. So, it should have been no surprise when a few of the locals, who took note of our picture taking, came out to see what we were about. First, it was the hairdresser from Dawn's who shouted out to us from across the street, "What ya'll doin'?" between drags on her cigarette. We met and talked with Shirley, sharing with her the project we had in mind of driving around Tennessee, capturing the little nuances that made the smaller, and some more obscure, towns so interesting. At some point in our conversation, an apparent client of Shirley's came out to see whether or not she had had any intentions of coming back to the task of getting her hair done. "I'm on a smoke break," was the answer she gave, followed by a sly grin and a wink. It was fun watching the two of them out there in front of the salon, their camaraderie apparent in the way they joked with each other, that I had to ask if they would allow me to take their photo. "Aww, well, I don't know," they said. "Oh please c'mon, this is hilarious!" Shirley says, "Okay, well hang on a second," and she rushes back into the salon only to return with a cordless phone and a bottle of hair product. She shoves the bottle into her client's hand, only for her to reply, "And what am I supposed to do with this?" The above photo was the result of their playful exchange.
Later on, we were pulled into a little antique shop just a few doors down. The owner was anxious to share some local history and gave a few suggestions as to other places to visit. It was such a pleasure to be able to converse with complete strangers who were all so willing to welcome us to their town. There were other places we visited. Some of them much less jovial, like the time we strolled into Petersburg on our way back to Nashville from Fayetteville. The sign you saw upon entering the city limits was shot so many times with bullets that it resembled a green cheese grater. The "square" was nothing more than a few buildings standing on four different sides, most of them empty. One of the buildings that was occupied belonged to a retired couple from Michigan who shared their story of how they came to Petersburg and the struggles they faced being the "Damn Yankees" in this tiny southern town. It's amazing the people you meet and the stories you'll hear.
These conversations are what I truly love about photography. It really became all about the people I met, and not so much about the landscape. My camera became a key that helped unlock doors, allowing me that chance to connect with others. And I truly miss that. We never did get to fully invest time into our Tennessee project like we had hoped as a job promotion prompted me to make a move to Kentucky. However, the desire to venture into new places, and to meet new faces still remains. This gypsy is getting restless again.