Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cootie Stark: The King of Piedmont Blues

When I read about Mr. Johnny Miller in a local Greenville, S.C. newspaper, I had to go meet him. I was really into playing the blues guitar during that time, and I had no idea that a Piedmont Blues legend lived no more than a mile from my home.

The projects where Johnny lived weren’t far from city condemnation at that time. I pulled up in unit four, my WYFF-TV news vehicle, during a lunch break and knocked on the door. A humble yet cigar-thick voice greeted my call with hello as he opened the door.

There he was, Cootie Stark, right in front of me. Cootie was his stage name.

He invited me in before I could finish explaining my purpose.

The dark four room dwelling had painted concrete block for walls and no decoration. I guess it made sense; he’s a guy and he’s blind. I probably wouldn’t decorate, either.

Cootie started telling me the story of his life and included things like growing up in Laurens, S.C. and pickin’ peas as a child. He spoke of traveling all the way to Greenville (about 20 miles) during the summer, and how he came to play guitar. He made mention of his relationships with Baby Tate, the Rev. Gary Davis and several other Piedmont Blues legends living in the area around the 40s, 50s, and 60s.

He also talked a lot about the Music Maker Relief Foundation, and the MMRF president, Tim Duffy. He called him Timmy. He told me how the organization has helped him survive, travel the world and feel as though he again had purpose. The stories captivated me.

My lunch hour almost gone, I asked if I could come back some time and shoot a story about his life. He agreed, and I stood to leave.

“Hey, uh, I seem to be havin’ a bit of trouble with my CD player," Cootie said. "You any good at that kinda stuff? Could you look at it for me?”

I was honored with the thought of helping such a such a legend. I reached over and picked up the CD player. My keen sense of electronictechnogeek kicked in quickly and I determined without a doubt that the CD was in upside down. Yes, I know. My brilliance continually amazes me, too.

I flipped it and hit play. Out comes this great Piedmont Blues. “This is great,” I said. “Who is it?”

“That’s me,” he said in his polite southern gruff.

I shook his hand, set up a time to do a feature story* and departed to the nearest music story to pick up a copy of Sugar Man. I was late getting back.

I had a few more conversations with Mr. Miller before he died in April 2005. I again honored one evening at the Handlebar when I was able to thank him for helping me achieve my goal of winning an Emmy. I was also able to thank him for allowing me to preserve a dying form of true Americana.

I shook his hand and gave him a copy of the story.

“Thank you young man, you gonna to do just fine with your life,” was that last thing he said to me.

Listen to Cootie Stark:

* Kudos to my reporter and friend, Kimbery Lohman, for an doing such an excellent job on this story.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Saving Light To Sea - The Morris Island Lighthouse

This story profiles a group of people struggling to save to save a part of american history, the Morris Island Lighthouse located off the shores of Folly Island, S.C. I shot this story as a series feature during my tenure at WYFF. It's full of color characters and solid NPAA photojournalism. This is one of several stories I shot* that allowed me to earn an Emmy Award for Best Photography. Additional Videos

A Brief History of the Morris Island Lighthouse:
Morris Island lighthouse stands all alone about 300 yards off shore from the island of Folly Beach. It can be viewed from the northeast end of Folly Island and from the bridge coming on to Folly Beach.

The Morris Island lighthouse is now completely surrounded by water but was once sitting on a good sized island with numerous buildings around it. The lighthouse was completed in 1876 and was the second lighthouse to be built on the island.

In the 1700s there were three islands that stretched for four miles between Folly Island and Sullivan’s Island. They were named Middle Bay Island, Morrison Island, and Cummings Point. The first Charleston lighthouse was built on Middle Bay Island in 1767. The lighthouse was designed by Samuel Cardy and built by Adam Miller and Thomas Young. The tower was cylindrical and stood 102 feet tall. The lantern room had a revolving lamp that had a range of about 12 miles. In 1858 a Fresnel lens was installed.

In the early 1800s the channel leading to Charleston began to shift causing a change in the tidal currents. Sand began to build up between the islands and this resulted in the three islands merging into a single island. Since Morrison Island was the central of the three earlier islands, the now single island was called Morrison Island. Later the name was shortened to Morris Island.

The first Charleston lighthouse continued to provide service up to the Civil War. In 1861 the fleeing Confederate soldiers blew up the lighthouse so northern troops could not use it.

Folly Beach, Folly Island, Folly Island Lighthouse, Photojournalism, TV News, Video blogFollowing the civil war, in 1873, Congress appropriated money for the rebuilding of the Morris Island Lighthouse (then referred to as the Charleston Main Light). The lighthouse was completed in 1876 approximately 400 yards from the earlier tower. It stood 161 feet tall and was patterned after the Bodie Light of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. It even used the same paint scheme as a day mark – black and white horizontal stripes. There were a total of 15 buildings on the island besides the lighthouse tower. Included in these were the keeper’s quarters, various outbuildings, and a one-room schoolhouse (the school teacher came over from the mainland on Monday, taught the children during the week and returned to the mainland on Friday).

Toward the end of the 1800s the channel had again shifted, but this time the change threatened the Charleston Harbor. In order to keep the channel open several jetties had to be built. These were completed in 1889. Although the channel into Charleston was saved, the changing tidal currents resulting from the jetties caused severe erosion on Morris Island. The island began to shrink. By 1938 many of the buildings were destroyed and others moved. The light was automated in 1938 and the Fresnel lens was removed.

Since 1938 over 1600 feet of land surrounding the tower has been lost. Today it stands alone, completely surrounded by water. In 1962 the Sullivan’s Island lighthouse was built to replace the Morris Island Light, which was decommissioned. The U.S. Coast Guard had plans to demolish the tower but petitions from local residents saved the structure. The Coast Guard built an underground steel wall around the tower to protect it from further erosion damage. The lighthouse is now
privately owned and efforts are underway to preserve the Morris Island Light.

The Morris Island Coalition is working hard to protect Morris Island. The Morris Island Lighthouse Project is working to preserve and restore the lighthouse. Please visit their sites and learn much more about the rich history of Morris Island. [Source - FollyBeach.Com]

* Kudos to my reporter and friend, Stephanie Trotter, for writing a great story and for allowing me to white balance when there was nothing white at hand.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Paris Mountain Trees Ansel Adams Style

paris mountain trees ansel adams style black white photoblog whimsParis Mountain Trees - In the Style of Ansel Adams - Fall 2005

Friday, March 21, 2008

Do You Know Your Photojournalism? Prove it.

The Challenge
There are 52 photos in this 2:30-minute video about a handful of significant events in the history of photojournalism. All of the photos are VERY famous. All of the photographers are VERY famous (in the genera circle). Several of the photos are from the same photographer. I'm not going to tell you how many photographers. Your challenge is to send me the list of the photographers who took these photos.

The Prizes
All who take on this challenge with a noble submission will have your name/link in a "contestants" blog. For the winner, I will 1) extoll your brilliance in a separate "Winner" blog; 2) I'll give you a permanent link on my site; and 3) I'll display up to three of your photos in the "Winner" blog (with proper credit and linkage, of course). One caveat: If you have a site that I find offensive, repugnant and/or libelous/slanderous, you lose. Same goes with your photos.

First person to get them all correct wins. Entry is based on time stamp. Simply leave your entry in the comments section. Or, if you must, send your entries to buckeyetimmy "at" yahoo dot com. If you're viewing this via the Worlds Beyond Rittman YouTube Channel, you can leave your entries there, too. No spam. All respect. Promise.

Side Note:
Within a few days after meeting my professor/collegiate advisor, Tony Mendoza, he told me that all photographers long for reecshe blacks. On and on he went with this while we spoke in the darkroom. "Teeem, you need to get reesche blacks. Reesche blacks Teeem." Tony is a Cuban-American. We were the only people printing.

I decided on my way home that I was going to request a change of advisors. Screw it, I didn't need to put up with that for the next two years. It took nearly a day-and-a-half days before I realized that he wasn't talking about an affluent sugar daddy on the down-low. I laughed out loud in class. - True Story -

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cows Escape Truck, Town Rallies City Police, Cowboys, & Mop-Toting Grandma

Cops, EMS, Firefighters, Lasso-toting Cowboys, Children and a Grandma rallied to track down a heard of cattle that escaped their captivity.

The assignment was to investigate a report of a hand grenade found by children in the a backyard. The hand grenade report turned out to be bogus, but serendipity of that moment led me to a much better – and much more fun – spot news story.

Cowgone is one of several in a series of stories that allowed me to win an Emmy for best TV News Photography.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Attacked Reporter Speaks About Her Experience

Hear from Charmayne Brown, a black female reporter in South Carolina who was standing on a street covering a murder investigation when she was attacked by a white family yelling racial slurs. Get the Background & Watch the Entire Attack Video.

Are You a Racist? What Should Happen to the Attackers? Does SC Need a Hate Crimes Law? Leave a comment and let the whole world know.

Charmayne Brown Interview on WORD Radio

A look into Race Relations in South Carolina

Reporter Attacked On Camera by Three Women

A reporter for WSPA in Spartanburg, S.C. was attacked while covering a murder investigation.

According the the WSPA Websitereporter Charmayne Brown and was standing on public property when a group surrounded her and started punching. Brown says she was across the street from the victim’s house when family members began yelling at her to leave.

Brown says the group was also yelling racial slurs at her and her photographer. She says one of the women in the group then rushed at her, punched her and dragged her to the ground. She says at that point it’s hard for her to recall what was going on, but WPSA's satellite truck operator Ray Daubenspeck says he also saw the woman punching her. He called 911, picked up a camera and began recording video. Charmayne says at least two other people joined in on the attack as her photographer tried to pull them off of her. Source: WYFF & WSPA

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Getting Water

Getting Water Naked Buckeyetimmy Worlds Beyond Rittman photojournalist photography
Getting Water | June 2005

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Quotes: Bush v. Iraqi Information Minister

When I saw the headline across the Web: Bush Claims No Recession for US; Bush Rejects Recession Claims; and Bush: United States Not In Recession, I couldn't help but think of the words coming from the mouth of the Iraqi Minister of Information, Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, during the US invasion of Iraq.

I snickered. And then I opened Photoshop. I simply couldn't help putting together this photo collage mixed with George Bush quotes along side some of the quotes from the Iraqi Information Minister.

As a quick aside, I'm not usually one to blog politics. Everyone has their own personal views and the little-known blog of Worlds Beyond Rittman certainly isn't going to change anything. It's just for fun, really.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Relative Size Of The Universe, Creation v. Evolution, and Shecky The Starfish

The relative size of the universe is nothing more than amazing. Every single time I see something like the photos below it causes one of those WOW moment in my life.

My personal theories have changed over the years as to how, exactly, this could happen. Those theories don't stray too far from conventional wisdom and religious thought. Here are my choices as taught to me all of my life:
  1. God, The Almighty Creator + Time
  2. A really big explosion + Time
I could use these photos to spark the debate over creation v. evolution. It's pretty simple to me, really. I'll come right out and say it. I'm a Christian (que sound: ominous hallelujah 1).
Bye bye closed minded, intolerant people. Thanks for stopping in. Come'on back now, ya hear.

However, if you're not sure where to put your subscriptions, have you thought about the starfish theory? The theory - as described to me by my friend BadBlood - is one of confused brilliance that leans, in my opinion, closer to what I believe is the correct answer.

The starfish, we'll call him Shecky, doesn't know he's a starfish. Shecky gets up every morning (do starfish sleep?) washes his points, brushes his mouth parts, and might have a piece of cold mussel, clam, and oyster pizza for breakfast. As far as he knows, he's the king of the tide pool.

Shecky simply doesn't have the capacity to understand that a hyperbola has an apex, hyperbole uses exaggerated phrases for emphasis, or hyper-threading is simultaneous multithreading technology in use. C'mon, he's a crustacean.

But does Shecky wonder? Is he smart enough to understand what tastes good to him and what doesn't? Probably. Does he think about the pressure variance upon his body four times a day? One would think such a thing doesn't go unnoticed. Has he figured out that it's the tide causing that pressure variance? I doubt it.

Assuming that you are slightly more intelligent than a crustacean, do you recognize that things change? Is it physics? Yep. Is it evolution? Yep. Is it something so big that you couldn't possibly understand? Yep.

If you believe that there is a spiritual realm, wherever the roots of your theory or belief may lay, wouldn't that be faith? If you believe it but can't see it, isn't that faith?

Faith is powerful. Faith is strong. It can take you to places that you never imagined being or allow you to accomplish the greatest of tasks. Here is the catch; faith is a laser. In order to work, it has to produce the right type of light, it has to be focused, and has to be used for it's intended purpose.

There are 100 BILLION stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way, which is pretty average. The Hubble telescope with it's pinhead-size spectrum of space can see 3000 galaxies. Contemporary wisdom in the world of physics and astronomy places the number of galaxies in the universe at approximately 125 BILLION.

  1. God, The Almighty Creator + Time
  2. A really big explosion + Time

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

In The Third Dimension

Watching The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D - May 2007

Monday, March 3, 2008

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Buckeye Panic

John Bell | Widespread Panic | Columbus, Ohio 10.04.06