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.

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.

 

For the past couple of days, I’ve been working on a short video of the winners of this year’s Best of Photojournalism contest for the National Press Photographer’s Association‘s conference, Convergence 10.  As I’ve watched the winning pieces, I’ve felt so inspired by these photographers, videographers, and producers.  But, there is one story that immediately made an impression on me: “Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy of Mountaintop Removal Mining”.  This amazing video was a collaborative project by Yale e360, milesfrommaybe productions, and MediaStorm.

©2009 Yale University

“Leveling Appalachia” is about the practice of mountaintop removal mining which is destroying mountains and covering thousands of streams in southern West Virginia.  As the video shows, it has also affected the quality of the drinking water in the surrounding areas and has caused floods, though the WV Coal Association denies it.

Occasionally when I drive home to Ohio, I take a much more scenic, though slightly longer, route through West Virginia.  I drive right through the area focused on in this video and I am always stunned by the beautiful, mountainous scenery.  It breaks my heart to think that this area is slowly being destroyed.

On another note, I was incredibly impressed by this story.  The photography is amazing, the audio is impeccable, the story, compelling.  This and the other stories in this year’s Best of Photojournalism provide me with so much inspiration for my own projects.

I hope you take the time to watch this story and let me know what you think of it.

Click here for the story.

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.

A photo from Frozen Land, Forgotten People (photo by Barbara Davidson, Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times)

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Southern Short Course in News Photography.  It’s a conference that’s held in Charlotte, NC and it’s basically a weekend filled with guest speakers and workshops all related to News Photography.  I meet so many amazing photographers and learned more than my brain can hold.  I wanted to share the work of one of those photographers, Barbara Davidson of the LA Times.  Click here to view her multimedia piece, Frozen Land, Forgotten People.  This audio slideshow won in NPPA’s 2010 Best Of Photojournalism contest, taking first place in the News Audio Slideshow category for Web sites that are affiliated with a major media organization.  It’s a story about an area of Navajo land in northeaster Arizona that was affected by the so-called Bennett Freeze which halted all development on the land for 40 years.  While this ban has been lifted, this area is still severely poor and undeveloped.  It’s an incredible story told with beautiful photography and I was shocked that this exists in America.  I found this piece especially inspiring because I am currently working on a couple of audio slideshows myself.  At the Short Course, Barbara spoke about this project and talked about the shock she felt when traveling from LA to this area.  Please watch this story and let me know what you think.

[http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-bennett-freeze-ss,0,760471.htmlstory ]