Happy Memorial Day!

May 28, 2012

I’d like to take a quick moment to wish everyone a Happy Memorial Day. I spent last night at a cookout at the house of one of my good friends, Brian – a Marine I met while studying abroad in Argentina.  A house full of Marines and their families – talk about a perfect way to remind yourself what Memorial Day is all about.

For my senior thesis, I had the pleasure of spending a year following the lives of the Cashion Family. Joe Cashion is a Sergeant in the Army and volunteered for a six-month deployment to Afghanistan. I followed the family before, during and after Joe’s deployment. I learned so much from them and will always treasure the way they opened their lives to me.

In honor of Memorial Day, I wanted to re-post the multimedia project I created.

Advertisements

Ta-Da! My New Website!

April 26, 2011

I’ve officially been working on this website for the past few weeks but the material within this online portfolio represents four years of hard work.  It took many mistakes and frustrations to get to this point but I’m proud of how far I’ve come in the past four years.  I’m excited to see what comes in the next four.

This experience also taught me how much I love web design – yet another field to consider! Please browse the website and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

NOTE: This page is best viewed in Safari, Mozilla Firefox, SeaMonkey or similar browsers. Internet Explorer will work but it tends to run slower and distorts some of the pages.

sarahmlangdon.com

A Year of Changes

April 21, 2011

This past Tuesday I defended my thesis for the University of South Carolina Honors College.  I’ve worked on this project for over a year now and I feel both sad and incredibly accomplished to see it finally complete.  Although, as my director Denise McGill wisely said, “Photo projects are never truly complete, just abandoned upon deadline”.  That pretty much sums up how I feel about this project.  It feels complete, yet there are many things I would love to go back and re-shoot or explore further.  But, I am incredibly proud of how far I’ve come in the past year and incredibly grateful to the Cashion family for letting me into their lives.

Below is the gist of what I presented on Tuesday.  If you have any questions, feel free to email me or post a comment below.

"When Emilee ran up to me in the airport, I thought 'Wow, she has gotten bigger'. I wasn’t gone that long, it was only about six months that I was away from the house," Joe Cashion said about his homecoming from a six-month deployment in Afghanistan.

Intro to Project

I first met Joe and Lindy Cashion on April 13 of last year.  They graciously allowed me into their lives to document their experiences with military deployment.  I doubt they knew what they were getting themselves into because I proceeded to spend nearly a year photographing and videotaping their everyday lives and sitting down with them for interviews.

Joe Cashion, a Public Affairs Officer for the Army National Guard, volunteered for a six-month deployment to Afghanistan. I wanted to document the struggles a soldier’s family faces during his deployment, to share the story of the Cashion family and their experience, and to give viewers a better understanding of the life of a soldier’s family.  Throughout the course of the project, I followed Lindy and her family through their daily lives, photographing both the simple moments and the big events all families experience, ultimately producing a fifteen-minute audio slideshow to tell their story

What I Learned/How I Changed

As a result of this project my photography skills, my interview skills, and my ability to connect with a subject all improved.  This project was very challenging, yet incredibly rewarding, in many ways.  One of the first issues I ran into was Joe and Lindy’s oldest daughter, Sarah’s resistance to being photographed.  While this was extremely normal behavior for a 13-year-old girl, it made it difficult for me to get to know her and to learn about her.  I finally realized that if I put the camera down and simply sat and talked to her, she was much more open with me.  I helped her with her math homework, I talked to her about school, what it’s like to be in college, I showed her my Facebook profile, we talked about boys.  All of this interaction helped me to get to know who Sarah is without needing to formally ask.  Once I started building that rapport with her, I noticed that she was much more receptive to being photographed.  That was a huge lesson for me – learning when to put the camera down.

I also became much more comfortable in my “photographer’s skin”.  Like many beginning photographers, I always felt uncomfortable getting inside people’s “bubbles”.  This project forced me to get over that in many ways.  First, at the airport when Joe left for deployment, I knew I only had one shot to get some good photos.  Therefore, I forced my apprehensions aside in pursuit of that goal.  Also, after a couple of visits to the Cashion house, I began to get very bored taking photos from the same perspectives.  To challenge myself and to enhance the quality of the photos for this project, I forced myself to try new angles and positions. I also learned to be more patient.  Rather than bouncing around from place to place, chasing a moment, I learned to wait for one to happen where I was.

Another challenge I encountered with this project came in the form of interviewing.  I repeatedly struggled with finding the right questions to ask.  But, I was very conscious of doing everything in an ethical way – I did not want to lead them to give me the answers I wanted.  But, there were times when I understood what the Cashions were trying to say, but they said it in a way that made it either difficult to understand or gave an impression I was sure they were not intending.  I learned that there are many implicit things about human communication that cannot be portrayed through a video camera or a tape recorder.  So, it’s up to the interviewer to ask questions that draw out the most articulate and thought out answers. 

Speaking of ethics, I was very conscious of ethical standards throughout this process.  I wanted to be sure that this story was told by Joe and Lindy and their family.  I didn’t want to narrate it.  I wanted it to be their story.  To me, the politics of the situation didn’t matter, any personal feelings or beliefs, positive or negative, that I held toward the military didn’t matter.  It was about what this family experienced during a military deployment and how that experience was indicative of other American families.  Because of this decision, I was very careful during my editing to remain true to what really happened.  While the story is not told in chronological order, I believe that it is not misleading either.  Throughout the editing process, I learned that what material you leave out is just as important as what material you leave in.

I also struggled with feeling like I constantly “took” from the Cashions yet gave them nothing in return.  I came into their home, was witness to intimate moments of their lives and made pictures of them.  I could not understand why they were so willing to let me in while receiving little in return.  I began to understand that they wanted their story told and they wanted this important moment in their lives documented.  I also realized that the best gift I could give them was to tell their story honestly and fairly.

Finally, I learned a lot about U.S. military.  I have little experience with the military and other than a few distant cousins, I know no one currently serving.  Honestly, I could go days without feeling like the current war even effects me.  I think that is partly what drove me to this project.  I wanted to know more about the current war and who it was affecting.  I knew there were people making huge, daily sacrifices for my safety and I wanted to learn about them.  I think the American public is very distanced from this war.   This story gave me a way to feel more connected to it.

In many ways, the Cashions were not at all what I expected.  First, I thought they would live on the base.  Second, I expected I would be paired with a young 20-something, newly married couple.  Instead, I met Joe and Lindy, married for more than a decade with two kids who lived in rural Ridgeway, SC on land formerly owned by Lindy’s parents.  In retrospect, it was the perfect family for this project.  I got to witness and document how a 13-year-old and a three-year-old reacted to their father’s absence – fascinating in both the similarities and differences.  I got to speak with Joe’s parents about their disagreements with his decision.  I got to witness life in rural South Carolina – something I was missing out on while I lived in Columbia.

I look back at the photos I was making a year ago and am shocked at the progress I’ve made.  This story gave me both the time and motivation to make mistakes and learn from them, to try new techniques and take new risks – all of which greatly benefited my photography. 

In order the fulfill the South Carolina Honors College Senior Thesis requirement, I spent nearly a year documenting the lives of the Cashion family of Ridgeway, South Carolina through photography, audio and video, ultimately producing an audio slideshow to tell their story.

Sergeant Joe Cashion, an Army Public Affairs Officer, was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, a deployment for which he volunteered. Before, during and after his deployment, I followed the lives of his wife, Lindy, and their two daughters, Sarah (13) and Emilee (3).  I wanted to document the struggles a soldier’s family faces during his deployment, to share the story of the Cashion family and their unique experience, and to give viewers a better understanding of the life of a soldier’s family.  Throughout the course of the project, I followed Lindy and her family through their daily lives, photographing both the simple moments and the big events all families experience.

After working on this for a year, I feel both relieved and sad to see this end.  This has been a wonderful experience – I have grown so much as a photographer and I had the privilege of being a witness to this family’s life.

 

Anna Walton, 21, a senior at the University of South Carolina explains the purpose and necessity of the Good Samaritan Clinic in Columbia, South Carolina.  The clinic was founded 11 years ago and specializes in providing “culturally competent, linguistically competent services” for the Hispanic community.  Walton explains that the clinic offers Hispanics “a place to feel secure” in a world where they are constantly faced with language barriers.  While the clinic specializes in Hispanic-related services, it treats patients of all races and backgrounds.  The Good Samaritan Clinic treats 13 patients every Tuesday and Thursday night in Columbia.

*This is a multimedia video, so make sure you push the play button below.*

This is a project I just finished.  I had a great time learning about the Good Samaritan Clinic. The learn more, visit their website.

Special thanks to Anna Walton, Clinic Director, Lidia [last name withheld], and the Good Samaritan Clinic.

All photos and audio copyright © 2010 Sarah Langdon.

In my previous post, I talked about my new job at World Child Relief, a non-profit to give direct aid to the children of the Tree of Knowledge School in Port Au Prince, Haiti.  This video is my most recent project.  My boss and one other man traveled to Haiti to negotiate food for these children.  Even though the Damien neighborhood (where the school is located) is less than 4 miles from the main food distribution centers, the over 7,000 people of this neighborhood had not received any aid, even 60 days after the earthquake.  My boss saw these distribution problems during his first trip and created World Child Relief to help fill in the cracks.

He negotiated for enough food to feed over 200 children and 500 families for a month and he created a school lunch program to ensure that these children will be feed for the next month.  He hopes to continue the lunch program into the future.  To help with this project, please visit worldchildrelief.org.

I’ve had a great time working at WCR and have learned so much.  My video editing skills are constantly being challenged and I feel like I am improving already.  In addition to editing video footage, I’ve been writing press releases and content for the website.  Next, we will be working on updating the website and starting a couple of long term projects to benefit this school.  I’m very excited to continue working at World Child Relief this summer and hope to have more updates to share with you.

[I did not collect this video material, but I produced and edited it.]

If you’ve been following on Twitter, you may remember me tweeting about a new internship I started in late February.  I’ve been working for World Child Relief, a small non-profit organization formed when a group of South Carolina documentary filmmakers traveler to Haiti and realized that they needed to do more than simply film a documentary.  I’ve been working as the assistant to the editor, writing press releases and sorting through and editing video clips for the website.  Below is one of my first pieces which introduces the organization and its goals.

World Child Relief is focused on direct and long term, sustainable aid and the main belief is that if we help the children, they can one day help rebuild their country – a sort of “teach a man to fish” philosophy.  World Child Relief has adopted the Damien neighborhood in Tabarre, Port Au Prince as well as the Tree of Knowledge School there.  Recently my boss and founder of World Child Relief, Dennis Miller, traveled with a friend and producer to negotiate food for the neighborhood.  The two men negotiated with missionary groups, large-scale NGO’s, and the Haitian government to provide enough food to feed over 500 families and over 200 children for one month – the direct aid they promised.

I will be posting periodic updates of both what I’ve been working on and what World Child Relief has accomplished.  If you would like to provide direct relief to these children, please visit the website.

[link to video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48QwtMl4hKA%5D

[I did not collect this video material, but I produced and edited it.]