Photo Journal

History—Past and Present and What It Might Say about Our Future

I haven’t been “philosophical” on my blog in a long, long time. But I have some thoughts today.

I spent the weekend in Bennetts Point with Mama and my brother and sister. We went expressly for the program sponsored by the community association about the new historical marker put up at the boat landing at the Frank Baldwin Bridge. The marker honors the Engagement at Chapman’s Fort when five Union soldiers received the Medal of Honor for rescuing hundreds of soldiers when their vessel, the Boston,  sank. I won’t go into the whole history, but here is the gist:

In May 1863, the Union vessel, The Boston, sailed up the Ashepoo River to take out the trestle for the Charleston-Savannah Railroad in order to cripple the Southern troops and the South in general. Southern troops managed to keep the Boston from reaching the bridge. While on the trip, the Boston became lodged on in the marsh. At one point, an order was given to destroy the vessel. Five Union soldiers helped rescue hundreds of black Union soldiers. The rescuers were white.

Now, that may not be a big deal, but this monument is a BIG DEAL. First, it recognizes a Civil War battle that took place in the South. Second, it honors an engagement in which the Confederate forces were (sort of, thanks to the grounding the Union vessel) successful in preventing the Union forces from destroying a vital portion of the railroad. Third, the marker honors five UNION soldiers who received the Medal of Honor for their acts of bravery. These men did not care about the color of the skin of the men in the regiment. Those men needed saving. Period.



I’m processing all this in the context of recent events in New Orleans where Confederate monuments have been removed. We cannot change history. The Civil War, the War between the States, or the War of Northern Aggression—however you want to name it—happened. That fact can’t be changed by anyone. There were brave men on both sides of the line; there were Southerners who were opposed to slavery but fought to protect their land. There were unscrupulous men who fought only to kill another human being. There were cowards on both sides as well. We can’t rewrite history or change the facts.

What we can do, though, is try to understand what happened. We have to learn what really happened. We have to see things through the other side’s eyes, whoever that other side is.

What I appreciate about this marker is that it honors Medal of Honor winners. It presents a more balanced view of this engagement. The Bennetts Point community should be proud of it.untitled-26


Thursday Thanksgiving

I mentioned Monday (or was it Tuesday?) that I spent the weekend in Bennetts Point with Mama. It was a “girls’ weekend.” Mama wanted to check up on the place down there, visit with some friends, and attend the community meeting to see what was going on. She also planned to attend services at the new community church, but it is not yet ready for occupancy. We had hoped to take pictures of the new church, too, but the weather interfered with that project!

It has been a long time since Mama and I have had some extended one-on-one time. You know, she has always been my parent, but also my friend. We connect on many levels. She enjoys reading; I love to read. She has been crafty in her years—sewing, knitting, wood working, some painting. She loves to learn stuff. She is interested in many things. She has taught me much about being independent. I think she was a women’s libber before it was popular! I could easily picture her as one of the original suffragettes!

Daddy was often on the road for his job through the week. He worked construction as a laborer, foreman, and finally job superintendent, until his retirement. That meant he often went where the work was—Owensboro, Kentucky; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; various places in North and South Carolina and Georgia, leaving Mama to raise three children and keep the small farm going. I learned a great deal about being independent, making decisions, and being strong from Mama during those years. Even during these last months of Daddy’s life, Mama was strong. She told me that she had been preparing herself to be a widow for the last thirty-five years or so, ever since Daddy was diagnosed with cancer the first time in 1976.

This week, I am thankful for Mama’s presence and guidance, and most of all, for her love and support. I am thankful that she “gets” me, even though I am sometimes the “odd one out” in my family. She understands my introversion (my brother is the same. It’s my sister who is the extrovert!); she gets my need to create things. She knows who I am perhaps better than I know myself sometimes.

Mama is not exactly camera-shy, but she does not like us to take her picture unless she is ready for it, so I don’t have a candid to share from this weekend. But I do have one image that I love. The bottle bush at the end of the driveway is still blooming in November. There were maybe a half-dozen “brushes” still on the bush. And they were such a vibrant and deep red. (I wonder if they would grow this far inland. I know the oleander that grows around the house at Bennetts Point does not like the Midlands of South Carolina. Mama tried to grow one at her house in Peak.)

Beauty is all around us in all places and in all weather. It just takes us being wide awake to the world.


(I “messed” with the editing. The red is more muted in this image, and a little “bluer” than it was in real life, but art is about vision, and this is what I “see” in my head.)


Textures on Tuesday

I spent the weekend with my mother at our getaway in Bennetts Point, a tiny coastal community in South Carolina. It’s located on one of the “barrier” islands in the ACE Basin. The weather didn’t exactly cooperate for great photographic adventures, but we did do a little exploring Sunday morning. We set out toward Yemassee and the Auldbrass Plantation, which is actually a quite modern plantation designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It was “tour” day, sponsored by the Beaufort Open Land Trust, and it was crowded. We didn’t stop, and I didn’t get any photographs.

Our next destination, in the same area, was the ruins of the Old Sheldon Church. We did stop and walk around the grounds for a bit. And I did get a few images. There were few people there. There were a couple of folks leaving, but there was a painter set up working on a canvas of the church. He told us that he had already spent about sixty hours on the canvas and had about forty more hours to go. And this was on the small canvas. He had a large canvas to paint the same subject later on.

Old Sheldon Church is one of many Civil War ruins resulting from Sherman’s march through South Carolina. Actually, there are two version of the story of the burning of the church. In one version, Sherman’s troops burn the church. In the other version, freemen, slaves, and white citizens “raided” the church for materials to rebuild homes after Sherman marched through and destroyed homes. After the church was looted, it was burned perhaps to hide the evidence. I don’t suppose we will know the true story.

These kinds of ruins fascinate me, not only because the history behind them, but because of the striking visual image they present. Naturally, I did not resist the urge to photograph them.


This is my final version of the image. I used two layers of textures from the Photomorphis Artistic Background and Painterly Background collections. I changed the blending modes and opacities, and painted off the textures over the church ruins. Then I applied two actions: a vintage action and a twilight action, again adjusting the opacity and painting off the effects to bring out the ruins.

I wanted to achieve a kind of “brooding” look, a little mysterious, a little ominous, to match the history of the ruins.  The ruins are surrounded by graves of folks long dead. I think again of the lines from Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights when Lockwood, the narrator, looks out over the moors where Katherine and Heathcliff are buried and says that he cannot imagine “unquiet slumbers.” I can imagine the unquiet slumbers around these old church ruins, and can easily picture the men and women who founded the church and attended worship here.