When I first came across the Lexicon of Sustainability project, my first thought was “Damn this is so cool! I wish I had thought of this!”. This project combines some of my biggest passions in life: photography, travel and food. I love that the photographers are using their skills to educate themselves and the public on the complicated terms used in the modern food system. I agree with their philosophy that “people can’t be expected to live more sustainable lives if they don’t even know the most basic terms and principles that define sustainability”. More information is never, ever a bad thing – although you can choose to ignore it at times (like when a funnel cake at the State Fair seems like the best idea in the world). Access to education, learning, knowledge is how change and improvement are born and I love that these photographers have found a creative way to do that.

My lovely little herb garden, on a bookcase in my apartment.

This is a subject that I have become more and more passionate about over that last few years. In many ways, it feels very natural. As a Midwestern girl, I come from a long line of farmers and “sustainable”, “local”, “real” foods are what my grandparents (and parents) grew up eating. They just called it “dinner” or “food”. I grew up eating from gardens and homemade canned items – not because of a “food philosophy” but because my brothers and I thought it was pretty cool that you could plant a carrot seed and a few months later have a carrot (and because my grandmothers lovingly kept our pantry full of home-canned tomatoes,  yummm).

The point of these ramblings are to say that I think the Lexicon of Sustainability is a wonderful project. I love that they’re educating the public. I love that they’re supporting small farmers. And I love that they’re using their photography to improve the world (in their own way).

Below are a couple videos from the Lexicon of Sustainability project. Enjoy.

What do you think of the project? What words would you like to see added?

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If you’re interested in learning more, these are a few of my favorite blogs*:

100 Days of Real Foods

Take Part – Food Blog

Deliciously Organic

Poor Girl Eats Well

Food Babe

*To be clear, I didn’t write these blogs so I don’t necessarily agree with 100% of the content. But, I think they’re all doing good things by encouraging people to know where their food comes from.

Some of you may have wondered what happened to me after my Argentina Adventures. Well, I cried a few days over Malbec and Tango withdrawal, then I spent a couple of months of quality time with my family in Ohio (which was pretty great). And this past December, I packed my things and moved to Charleston, South Carolina to start my life in the “real world”.

For the past couple of years, I’ve worked as an intern with Microburst Learning, an e-learning company based in South Carolina, and after my graduation in December, I started with them as a full-time employee. My job duties have increased in both quantity and responsibility level and I’ve spent the past five months adjusting to those changes.

So far, I love living in Charleston (who wouldn’t?!) and I have really enjoyed the new challenges my new role has offered me. When I’m not traveling to film, I work from home – which is pretty freakin’ awesome, but it also means that I don’t spend a lot of time with my fellow employees. A few months ago, I decided I wanted to organize an event that the whole Microburst team could do together. Which brings me to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

One-half of Team Microburst Learning (we split into two groups for the walk) with our fabulous sand castle.

My mom is a nurse and has worked with Cystic Fibrosis patients throughout her career. We also have a family history of the disease so my brothers and I grew up with a broad understanding of CF. And, I remember going to functions and camps run by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as a child. So, when I was looking for a group to volunteer with when I moved to Charleston, the CF Foundation came to mind.

Every year CFF does a walk called Great Strides to raise money for CF research. Luckily, I convinced my coworkers to start a corporate team with me and we just participated in the walk a week ago. So far, our team has raised $1000! And, just as importantly, we had an awesome time at the walk!

Enjoying some downtown with the daughters of two of my co-workers.

We opted to participate in the “Challenge” Course which involved ten challenges such as sand darts, charades and sand castle building. All the activities were really fun and I’m proud to say that our team WON the Challenge Course!

Team Microburst Learning working tirelessly on our sand castle. Doing this challenge with so many creative people was a lot of fun!

The husbands of two of my co-workers enthusiastically accept our Challenge Course award.

We topped off the day with some good ol’ Southern BBQ and ice cream. Yum, yum!

Moving forward, I plan to continue working with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (we’re in the middle of planning a bike race!). Have you been to any fun charity events lately?

This post first appeared on July 3 on the University of South Carolina’s study abroad blog.

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One of my main reasons for coming to Argentina for five months was to immerse myself in the Spanish language.  I’ve been studying it for years but always in a classroom.  I knew that I needed to speak it everyday before I would truly know the language.  And, for the past two weeks, I’ve noticed that my brain goes into “survival mode” when I have no options other than to speak Spanish.  Yesterday, I had such an experience.

I mentioned in a previous post that my host mom has a student from the States renting out a room in her house for the first month that I’m here.  The student’s name is Tejinder and she’s actually from India but she’s working on her PhD at Ohio University. Today she had a terrible toothache and Carmen suggested that she go to the hospital at the University of Buenos Aires. Unfortunately for Teji, our host brother Nico was unable to go with her to help translate (he speaks pretty good English) and my roommate Stephanie, who speaks much better Spanish than I, was in bed all day with an awful cold/flu. So, she asked me if I would go to the UBA Hospital to help translate for her since she only knows basic Spanish.

La Facultad de Medicina at the University of Buenos Aires

We made our way down the Subte to la Facultad de Medicina.  After wandering through a couple buildings, asking multiple people “¿Donde está la guarda de odontologia?” we managed to find the Dental Urgent Care Center.

Luckily the receptionist spoke a little English. Between my broken Spanish, her broken English and Teji and I’s limited ability to communicate with the doctor directly, we were able to get all the information we needed. In total, we spent about 4 hours on this adventure and I literally kissed the receptionist and doctor when we left, so thankful to have gotten through it (this is much more socially acceptable here than in the U.S…). And, amazingly, it left me feeling slightly more confident in my ability to survive on this foreign continent.

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. 

This is me.

January 14, 2010

Here I am hanging out with some friends in D.C.

Hi all!  My name is Sarah Langdon and I’m from Troy, Ohio.  I’m a Junior VisCom major here at the University of South Carolina.  I spent last semester in Washington, D.C. interning for National Geographic Traveler. There I, among other things, watched editors discuss photo choices.  I found it extremely helpful in improving my own photography skills.  I miss D.C. incredibly and hope to one day return, although I am glad to be back in the sunshine of South Carolina.

Outside of class, I have shot photos with my Nikon D-80 for The Daily Gamecock, Garnet and Black, and 2020 Publications in Irmo, SC.  I also created several documentary videos using Final Cut Pro for class.  Other software I have experience with includes Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and FileMaker Pro.  I also have experience using XML and HTML code.

From a young age, I was drawn to photography and the arts.  I took my first photography classes in high school, which is where I first decided I wanted to somehow turn my love of photography into a career.  I am excited for you to read my blog and can’t wait to learn something from all of you.

[Photo taken by a friend.]