Down by the Riverside with Beth Dickerson, Auntie Bellum’s Latest Southern Cover Girl

There are many reasons to go down to the river. Ours might be the best. We were following our muse, Beth Dickerson, to document the sixth video in Auntie Bellum Magazine’s Southern Cover Girl series.

Beth1

A man sat on an upturned bucket, fishing from the Congaree. It was early summer evening and the sun was still high. I set to cleaning my camera lens which had become clouded in the humidity. The Gervais Street Bridge stretched out above us while Beth sang from the riverbank. A chorus of cicadas joined her.

Beth2

I was secretly cursing the names of our videographers, Stephen Maluck and Jeff Driggers, (sorry, guys!) while I was stomping down the swampy path to the shore, but felt really grateful for their instincts when I was rewarded with a vision of Beth, surrounded by a golden halo of sunlight tossed from the moving stream.

BD2

Crew

Filming with Maluck, Driggers and helpful assistant, Graham Duncan.

Southern Cover Girl is an ongoing series of music videos created by Auntie Bellum Magazine to showcase the talents of female musicians and create community, in partnership with local musicians and artists.

Other artists featured in the series so far: Kate Pyritz, Kelley Douglas, Stefanie Santana, Perrin Skinner, Mollie Williamson. Check them out at the link!

Aren’t you dying to know what song she covered?! Keep an eye out for the video premiere in the next few days!!

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Sisterhood is powerful

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

There are a lot of stunned ladies in Columbia today.

The last time we looked at a Monday morning, the eyes of almost forty young girls were on us. We were singing, dancing, screaming at the top of our lungs to the sounds of our sisters in rock, with instruments in a constant state of being moved and played. We were crowd surfing a wave of positive activity and now that we are on our feet…things seem a little…still.

And we are taking it in.

I didn’t expect to be encouraged to pick up a bass guitar and learn five cords in an hour. I didn’t expect to ever ever be singing Cher at a karaoke bar in 5 Points. I didn’t expect this experience to change my life.

If Girls Rock Columbia taught me anything, it is how amazing it feels to dive into the unknown and come out better for it. I couldn’t have been as brave without my Girls Rock Columbia sisters.I know we all felt it.

We all took on tough challenges. We all tried new things. At the end, we were all responsible for our success. We gained new skills, new friends and new experiences just like our campers did.

That’s power. That’s sisterhood.

I taught a “Girls Rock Photography!” workshop with Alexis Schwallier. After we viewed and discussed images, each camper was given a disposable camera and asked to document her camp experience. I couldn’t be prouder of the outcome.

Girls Rock Photography workshop/ workbook

Camp week for Girls Rock Columbia starts Monday, July 21st. Everyone involved is so ready to rock! I will be a counselor all week. I will also be returning with the Rock Photography workshop and a new partner, Alexis Schwallier. She … Continue reading

Stacey and Jenny

I was flattered to be asked to document the sweet friendship between two bohemian Americans who met in India while studying Ayurveda. Not many people can cause me to feel boring. This reunited duo had my inner goddess all revved up … Continue reading

Photobooth

We walked in to Photobooth from Valencia Street. It was a simple gallery-type setting. The clean white walls and podiums were covered in photo art and retail. On display were plastic fish-eye cameras, cameras on keychains, refurbished Polaroid Land cameras. It was a candy store and I was the proverbial kid. I wanted to supermarket sweep the whole place.

I came to see the process and I was not disappointed. To our left, there was a live portrait session going. Straight ahead, a woman was finishing some plates. “We need music,” someone said. Cue music.

Michael Schindler is keeping alive a photographic process that dates somewhere from the 1850’s. He creates wet-collodian tintypes. The photo is created from his camera right onto an aluminum plate.

But, it is more than that.

Antiquated, dead, obsolete? You only have to walk inside the shop or, better yet, take a look at one of the tintypes to see why we still value this. You are looking at a singular moment, crystallized. One unique expression of yourself. Never to be duplicated. Living like a breath. Bathed in silver. Corporeal. Spectral.

“I realized right away, ‘Ah, this is what I’ve been looking for,’ ” Shindler, 40, says. “With a tintype, there is no negative, and you can’t reproduce the image. The plate gets changed by the light coming off the person. It’s direct physical evidence that the plate and the person were in the room together, like a thumbprint.”

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/homeandgarden/article/Photobooth-shop-offers-tintype-Polaroid-shots-2439116.php#ixzz2HPJRRJ00

The tintype marked a time in history when photography was accessible to the working class. The previous Daguerreotype being affordable only to the wealthy. From the method to the storefront, Photobooth gives equitable access. Well done.

One Must Imagine Sisyphus Happy

I have spent so much time in school learning how to use equipment. That was the first really big goal. Getting to know my F-stop, shutter speed, ISO. Manual focus vs. auto. Aperture priority or program mode.

Then I was learning about chemicals in the darkroom. What to leave in and for how long varies depending on paper type, brand of film and temperature of the developer…among other things!

Once I felt pretty confident about all that, I turned my attention toward other details. What is the best way to photoshop out an “exit” sign? How on earth do you pose a model? Where did I put my lens cap this time!?

Then, I was searching for the light…

Golden Hour
golden

Blue Hour

Blue Hour

Happy Hour
Happy Hour

A hallmark of photography is that you are constantly learning. If you think you have plateaued, it is really just your brain taking a break from the Sisyphean pursuit of achievement.  You have probably just produced something really great looking, something you are really proud of. Congratulations, my erudite friend, but get back under that boulder because there is always more work to do!

I am constantly thinking about my work. When I am not shooting, I am often planning. Lately, I have been thinking more about what I am saying and, more importantly, what I want to say with my work. When I am more in control of the message I feel I will have accomplished the next big thing.

Recognizing that you have a long way to go can be a very frustrating thing.  It also means you have come pretty far.  Mastering all those other skills gives you the freedom to be an artist. At least, this is what I tell myself every time I look at someone else’s wonderful photo and know I am not quite there…yet.

I have spent some time pondering a sneaky collaborator: the influence.  Sometimes I seek it out and sometimes it pops up on me in ways I never expected.  More insidious than the artists you admire are the pieces of popular culture that actually creep into your aesthetic. I grew up in America in the 80’s. Popular culture was the aesthetic. Try as I might, I can’t “take the mall out of the girl.”

As an homage to my precarious perch on the next great foothold on this dang mountain (…to belabor the metaphor, a.k.a., The Myth of Sisyphus), I am linking you to a youtube video that is an amusing amalgamation of my influences. Before he was spit-shined into a reality star, Ozzy was just a simple Rock God in a leopard-print robe, serving up breakfast for his family and a documentary film maker. At the intersection of rock-and-roll and domesticity. Suburban artist. Complete failure at normal. Scrambling eggs.

I’ll hush up my mug if you fill up my jug

I moved to Columbia from a small town mere minutes from San Francisco.

I am a military brat whose family tree is deeply rooted in rural Southern soil.

My father grew up in a house at the end of a dirt road where our people lived for so long the street took our family name.  A city sign today legitimizes the spot where a handcrafted, wooden sign displayed our surname my whole childhood.

As kids, my step-sister, Jen, and I visited from the west coast during summers. The humidity would wrap around me like a familiar sweater, getting tighter with each step toward the airplane door. A strangling hello, welcome back to South Carolina.  We would disembark in Columbia. Jen would head off to Sumter to stay with her maternal grandparents. We would meet in the parking lot of a Shoney’s or Red Lobster to say goodbye or reunite.

My mother would claim me for four weeks. Under her supervision, I could wear make-up and watch rated-R movies. I dined on pizzas made from english muffins, Ragu, and slices of American cheese.

My mom wouldn’t leave the house without heels.  Her bathroom smelled like aerosol hairspray and Halston. I listened to records from her wicker archives for hours; Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Rod Stewart, Europe.

On one visit, she gave me my first camera.

It looked a lot like this

Fisher Price Kodak Camera

Image from The People History at http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1985toys.html

I entertained myself shooting pool, visiting cousins and listening to my dad’s brothers play banjo and sing, “Mountain Dew.”

Every summer, I spent a weekend with my maternal grandmother, Viola. She would warm up a can of corned beef hash because I always requested it on my visits. I would combine the salty hash with slices of white bread and drink from a plastic pitcher stained ombre from years and years as a vessel for her homemade sweet tea. In the afternoons, I played with her braille books and her reed organ.

Blackberries grew wild in her backyard. I would eat them without rinsing them off.

In California, we were a family of four. In Swansea, there was a tribe, a history, a story.

The more time I have lived here in the South, the closer I feel to that story even though I know I will always be an outsider.

I allowed myself the opportunity to explore this relationship when I took some classes this fall semester with Eliot Dudik. His course on southern photography was most influential.  I am as Southern as I am not; A duality that has always sort of haunted me.

With his encouragement, I went to Swansea, South Carolina with my camera.

Here are some of the images.

(I think that toy camera is going into the slideshow. This is a wordpress quirk that I haven’t figured out a way around.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I learned a couple things. Foremost, dress appropriately. It is easier to meet people that way. Never, ever wear flip flops out into a horse pasture. Just don’t wear them on location at all unless you are going to be shooting on the beach and, even then, I recommend keeping a more athletic pair of shoes with your gear.

My Day in Pictures

I am a light junkie. Sunlight. Studio light. Neon light. Direct and indirect light. The light in your eyes. Light, of course, is essential to photography. I seek it out in the sun flares and the overexposed subject. The golden … Continue reading

Discovering Columbia

Freelancing for our local parent’s magazine, Palmetto Parent, has been such a great opportunity for me. I’m in print and I’m getting amazing on-the-job experience. I get to meet and photograph all different kinds of people. I’m really getting to … Continue reading