The best part about my stay in Ballymena was forming lasting connections with the people I met there. I cannot say enough how much this place came to feel like home because of the wonderful group of supportive people that became a part of my life.
Dorothy is a force of nature, sharp as a tack, and so much fun. She can do anything, from felling trees with her several chainsaws, to whipping up a batch of jammy dodger cookies in 10 minutes flat, to analyzing interpersonal communication skills. The day trips she took both Lea and I on were spent talking for hours, and often extended to more conversation over dinner and wine. We became very close and I will always consider her family and friend. I loved getting to know her daughters Cora and Neve, and getting the chance to see Neve play for the Ulster Women’s Rugby team.
Just down the street from Dorothy lives her father, John. He is such a good natured man, always with a smile on his face. He would join us for dinner or afternoon tea on occasion, and was eager to lend a hand around the house or garden any way he could. I loved hearing is stories of growing up in Wales during World War II, or about how his mother was a great painter and his father was a published mathematician. John himself is a painter, and he uses it as a sort of meditation. When he paints everything else recedes into the background. He also keeps bees, and Dorothy lovingly says that he looks like an astronaut Winnie the Pooh in his bee suit.
There were some of Dorothy’s friends that became my own as well. I never got a picture of Alex, but she is a spunky Northern Irish woman who I enjoyed very much. Then there was Jo and her whole family. Jo is a kind, smart and welcoming person. She persistently asked after my photography and ended up coordinated me doing a little presentation of my different photo projects to their friend group in Ballymena. She let me document her beekeeping, which is so cool. I learned so much. My day of shadowing Jo and her bees also included lunch with, and made by, her mother Judy, who I got to know at several of the friend gatherings and who is a delight. She recently moved to Ballymena from the Lake District in England, and is loving living in Northern Ireland. We bonded over both being left handed.
I also become close with Jo’s son, Gus, who is a documentary filmmaker. We had a lot to bond over with movies and documentary subjects, not to mention that he is a funny guy and just great human. He showed me around Belfast and we also caught a couple of movies in Ballymena, followed of course, by analyzing them like the good film geeks we are.
Dorothy hosted another traveler while I was there, Lea from Switzerland who is so sweet. We made a good team, and made also sorts of tasty dinners and treats. Lea was the instigator of the glamor shoot and the rugby lesson that I went to, and my time there would not have been the same without her. We left Ballymena on the same day, and there were more than a few tears shed.
The whole gang was just the greatest and I am so thankful to have found my adopted Northern Irish family.
Back at Dorothy’s we decided to have a photoshoot. Another traveler, Lea from Switzerland, was staying with Dorothy as well and she suggested that we take advantage of Dorothy’s beautiful house and gardens, and the fact that I’m a photographer. We pulled dresses from the collections of Dorothy and her two daughters Neve and Cora, both of who joined us throughout the day. Then we played dress up all day and took pictures. It was just the best time.
To say the least, 2016 has been a rough year for the world on many fronts. Throughout this crazy year though, I was lucky enough to be witness to a lot of love. Five different friends, from all different parts of my life got married this year. As 2016 comes to a close, I want to look back on the good as I prepare for a new year.
Happy New Year everyone, and here's to love.
My sister got engaged! Almost 2 years ago, haha. I'm a little slow with my posts, I know. She and her fiancé will be married on January 21, 2017. So before they are no longer engaged, and are actually married, I wanted to post the engagement pictures I took of them last fall. Matt was loving enough to put up with Kristine and me with our photography antics. Here is the result!
And now for everyone's entertainment, some bloopers!
The day after the close of the Democratic National Convention, which had left me tired and feeling more pessimistic than usual, I learned that Hillary was having a rally fairly close to where I was staying with my sister. So I hopped on the train and went. It was a great experience. Here were the supporters I had been missing during the convention. Here was a real cross section of the US. And also, here was lots of hopeful, positive energy. I needed it.
Other than the fact that I had my knitting in my purse and the security guards would not let them in, which I don't blame them for (I left my knitting with organizers just outside the door), I had no trouble getting in. I most enjoyed the people-watching. There was such a diverse turnout. So many women, lots of young girls. People of all religions, colors, orientations and backgrounds. The melting pot of America, I loved it. I took as many pictures of the audience as I could, finding wonderful subjects. It was also a neat experience to get to see Hillary and Tim, and hear them speak.
After the RNC in Cleveland I thought the DNC in Philly would be a breeze. It turned out to be much harder on me than the RNC though. A breeze would have been nice for a start. It was amazingly hot and more importantly incredibly humid. Just stepping outside got beads of sweat rolling down your temples, let alone trying to walk around the city and photograph. The weather drained any energy you might have had.
Then there were the protesters. In Cleveland there had been a variety, from left and right and everything in between. There seemed to be only one kind in Philly: Bernie or Bust folks. And they were spewing just as much hate towards Hillary as the right had in Cleveland. Most were advocating for Bernie or another third party candidate. It was even harder to be around this than even the Trump supporters in Cleveland, when these protesters in Philly generally shared similar world views as me, or were in other words liberally minded as well.
I know they are angry with a broken system, which is amazingly valid, but they seemed to be forgetting every US History class that covered an election. Since, for all intents and purposes, we do have a two party system, any time a third party candidate has played a part it has undermined the side of the political spectrum they fall on. You can't fix a flawed system from the top down, and definitely not in one or two election cycles. I wish these people would take their passion to the local, then state, then federal level. Electing officials from the ground up. Voting for a third party candidate this presidential election, or by simply not voting at all, will hand this election to Trump. And that quite frankly terrifies me. I'm not even saying Hillary is the "lesser of two evils" as so many have. I think she is a hugely qualified public servant, who has always worked for women's rights which I hold quite dear, and I think her world views are similar to mine. Whereas Trump could not be further away from those views.
I had meant to simply document the convention, and not give much of my personal political views, but I felt this gave context to my photos. That is all my opinions are there for, context, not to start a debate. By the end of the convention I had turned my camera on the city of Philly instead of the protesters, because I simply didn't have the energy, both physical and mental, to deal with them. My next post will be those photos of the city and it's people.
Last month the Republican National Convention was held in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. This election cycle has been so extreme, polarizing and heated that I didn't feel I could pass up the opportunity to go and document the convention. So home I went.
There, on the first day of the convention, I met another woman who had traveled back to her hometown of Cleveland, the wonderful Rose Hamid. Rose was one of the first to speak on the Speakers Platform in Public Square. I wish that everyone could listen to her and what she has to say. She is eloquent, articulate, calm and optimistic. She has a glowing smile, an easy laugh, and even while discussing difficult topics she sees the good in humanity. Rose is a Muslim woman who grew up in Cleveland and now lives in North Carolina. She is an advocate for creating personal connections across all parts of society; across party affiliations, across religions, across backgrounds. Her hope is that through these connections we can work together, that we must see the humanity in everyone.
In the two weeks that I spent documenting the Republican and Democratic national conventions, I felt that Rose had the best and most helpful approach and message. There is a lot of hate and anger right now. I am infinitely grateful that I live in a country that allows people to openly protest, and by exercising this right people are being truly and deeply American. Protests and public demonstrations are hugely important to bring issues to the forefront and help to bring about change. That change requires personal connections, and for people from all sides to come together to do a great deal of work to figure out a way forward. Only by being able to talk, debate, and listen will we be able to move forward.
Rose did just this. She spent both weeks seeking to speak one-on-one to people. To break the ice and present an offering of goodwill she handed out thousands of rose pens that read her message: "Salam, I come in Peace."
To read her take on the conventions please check out her blog here: http://www.mrsrosehamid.com/huffington-post-whats-a-muslim-to-do-after-attending-the-rnc-and-dnc/
You can also see a bit of her talking to reporters after her speech here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article90279662.html
And I'm back! Sorry for the half year long hiatus! Since then I have completely organized, keyworded, and rated all of my pictures. That's right, all 44,000 or so. I have also done a fair bit of traveling and can't wait to get back to posting.
This week's Black and White is of my lovely friend Andrea in the Japanese Gardens in Portland, Oregon. More to come!
I've been awol for weeks but now I'm back! Luckily, it was mostly for fun reasons. For a couple weeks I was visiting friends in LA and San Fransisco, and soaking up lots of good times. There will be some posts on those adventures in the weeks to come. For this week's black and white I've picked a photo of my lovely friend Alexis, whom I stayed with while I was in LA. This was our first morning, out at a delicious little coffee shop called Cantina.
Twenty-eight years ago my Aunt Mary bought Juilleret's restaurant in Charlevoix, Michigan, and she has been running it ever since. They do breakfast and lunch, and are known for their cinnamon bread and cinnamon rolls which, I must say, are delicious. My mouth is watering just writing about them, but wait till you see the pictures, you'll be in the same boat.
Mary is not only the owner who manages the finances and inventory, she also does all the baking in the morning and runs the griddle all day. And while she does have employees, (most importantly Jan the best waitress, who has been there longer than Mary has), Mary is Juilleret's. She is the fuel and the engine. It's rather an incredible feat that she accomplishes every day.
Now, after all these years she is going to do something she really deserves: retire. The restaurant hasn't sold, so at the end of this season it will close it's doors. Our family and people in the community will miss it greatly, but we are happy for Mary to put her feet up for a little a while. Because I'm sure she won't be able to sit still for long, I don't think that's in her nature. But at least perhaps she won't get up every day at 4:30, and spend it toiling away. There will hopefully be many happy and leisurely evenings spent with my Aunt Pam.
Before this all transpired, I wanted to document a little window into what Mary's life has been like at Juilleret's. My family went up to visit and celebrate the restaurant one last time this summer. I got up with Mary and shadowed her all day. It was amazing seeing how easily she multitasked and ran the kitchen. After those 28 years she has it down to a science.
Here I am very proud and honored to present my series on Mary and Juilleret's.
kaitlin k walsh
Adventurer armed with a camera.