Introducing…Picture Birmingham.

If I’ve seemed a bit scarce, quieter than usual, or really slow on email responses the past couple of months, it’s because I’ve been completely consumed with designing a new project and website.

So here it is: Picture Birmingham.

Picture Birmingham

First, a bit of back story.

Last summer, I felt compelled to get involved with a local ministry, The WellHouse. God kept bringing them to my mind and putting articles in front of me about the stunning things they were doing. I resisted at first, because I don’t handle tragedy well – and their ministry is the rescue of women, men, and children from sex slavery. They were seeing and dealing with tragedy every day – tragedy that most of us don’t think happens in the United States. But it does. And one of the interstates running through Birmingham is the number one avenue for sex trafficking in the nation.

I emailed them and offered to serve. I met with Alexa, their Director of Development and listened, mouth agape, at her tales of the horrific things happening in my city, near my house, and around the nation. How they had recently saved a girl who had been trafficked for 20 years from one of the most affluent suburbs of Birmingham. How they had flown as far as Washington State to rescue someone – because they were one of the only groups who would.

She explained to me the intricacies of trafficking – how our laws are set up to punish the prostitutes, and that’s how pimps enslave these girls – by manipulating them with fear of police and promises of protection. The Wellhouse is also involved in training police and talking to legislators, but it’s an uphill battle.

I knew I must help, but I didn’t know how. It was unclear and fuzzy, and neither she or I could quite nail down a plan at the time. Then I got sick. With months of doctor’s visits and uncertainties, I knew the timing wasn’t right, and I put The WellHouse in the back of my mind – still thinking about them, still feeling compelled, but not knowing what I could do to help.

That was also when I started taking photos of Birmingham. Mostly sunsets, but with others mixed in.

130831 A Hole in the Sky

Chris figured it out quicker than I did that these photographical journeys – the thrill of chasing the sunset, trying to catch it at just the right angle, not missing the perfect moment – that this was therapy for me. It made me forget my fears about what was wrong with me, gave me an adrenaline rush, and put a smile on my face.

Birmingham Alabama Skyline Photography

So Chris began to find a way to take me on a sunset journey nearly every night. And Birmingham isn’t an easy place to find a good view of the skies – we have a LOT of hills and trees.

130822 IMG_6659

It became ridiculous – many of my friends were making fun of me for my sunset obsession, but I couldn’t quit. The skies – and my city – had fully captured my heart.

140222 Late on a Saturday Evening

But I have never considered myself a photographer. I liked how my photos looked on my tiny iPhone screen and they made me happy, but I never thought they were good enough to print.

140115 IMG_7557

Until I did – on a whim.

Photo Wall

They surprised me by looking quite lovely. They brought the joy of the sunset chasing right into my living room, every moment of every day.

140209 Prelude To An (Ice)Storm

Then other people started to ask if they could buy prints, and God started to put the pieces together for me. I could use this new passion He’d given me to benefit The WellHouse. It offered me a platform to help them build awareness on social media, as well as a way for me to support them financially. I could sell prints of the best of my photos, and give all the profits to their ministry. Perhaps this was why God made me obsessed with sunsets. Perhaps, just maybe, this was even why I got sick.

140130 Sunrise over a Frozen Shore Adjusted

Working on this new site has actually helped in making me feel better, giving me something to focus on and work toward, with the excitement of knowing that God has put this mission on my heart.

(Heart medicine has also been quite helpful. But a new project never hurts.)

The new site has a shop, where I am selling prints (on gorgeous 100% cotton art archival paper), canvases (gallery wrapped), and my favorite product, luxuriously printed notecards. All of the products are locally printed and distributed by the amazing team at Alabama Graphics, and 100% of the profits will go to The WellHouse.

Buying Art of Birmingham Alabama

The site also has a PhotoBlog, where I have archived my near-daily photo journey since June, and will continue to add photos as I take them.

The photos will not all be from Birmingham. I have documented the Smoky Mountains, Lake Eufaula, Nashville, North Alabama, Georgia, Orlando, and the Alabama Gulf in the PhotoBlog, and will continue to photograph any areas to which we may travel (Asheville, North Carolina is next.) I will add new photos for sale occasionally, and not all of those will be from Birmingham, either. So even if you’re not local, perhaps the site may hold some interest to you – or at least increase your appreciation for my city and my south.

I’ll be talking occasionally about The WellHouse as time goes on, sharing their projects and ministry. And once this new site is running smoothly, I promise to be back to my normal 100% presence here as well.

So thank you for sticking with me during this busy time, and please check out the amazing things The WellHouse is doing – you can follow them on their website, Facebook, and on Twitter.

And of course, you can visit Picture Birmingham by clicking here.


Special thanks to my husband Chris, who started the whole obsession, came up with the Picture Birmingham name, and made it possible for me to spend dozens of hours in the past few months on this project. Also thanks to Wade Kwon, who designed the beautiful logo and walked with me through many business and media decisions; to James Spann, for encouraging me to take on this journey; to my fantastic tech guy, Chris Rasco, who put up with my request of working together to design the site; to Kelli at Alabama Graphics for tirelessly answering hundreds of questions and printing dozens of proofs until I approved every inch; to Carla Jean Whitley and Jamie Golden for helping me make things pretty; to Ebony Hall, for understanding the vision of my project and trusting me with two interviews before I’d even launched (I’ll be on ABC 33/40 today in the 4pm hour and Wednesday in the 9am hour); and to my parents and babysitters who helped tremendously with my kids throughout this process. I’d have never finished it on my own, and I am so grateful for your investments into this project.

Leave your comment below!

Comments

  1. Lindsay D. says:

    This is awesome Isn’t it wonderful to see God at work and how he orchestrated the whole thing?! I am so encouraged by you!

    • Yes it is awesome – it’s been very encouraging to me personally to see that He goes to that much trouble just to let me be a part of His ministry. It’s thrilling and mind-boggling all at once.

  2. Erik Pasco says:

    Subscribed to the photoblog. What a great ministry!

  3. This is great! I have loved your sunset posts, and the amazing vista’s you seem to find!! One day.. when you finally get out to visit us…. have I got some AMAZING sunset shot locations lined up for you… seriously. :)

  4. Laura W. says:

    Awesome! & what a great ministry for this project to benefit!

  5. Trudi Burner says:

    Praying God’s richest blessings on this incredible ministry!!!

  6. Ashley H says:

    This is Amazing! I too have heard about the WellHouse and wanted to get involved… I just live and work too far away. I wanted to share with you also, these other two blogs I read daily posted about this same subject today… only in Idaho! I’m including their links so you can see what their ministry is as well! http://www.karissaandcompany.com/
    http://choosehappychooselove.blogspot.com/

  7. Stephanie says:

    Congratulations on the new project! I love your sunset photos, and I think it’s awesome that God found a way for your “therapy” to benefit others, as well. My heart breaks for the victims of sexual trafficking…I didn’t know much about it, either, until my my church began to work with a missions group that has a ministry to support victims. It’s heartbreaking and it absolutely should not be happening, especially here, in the wealthiest country in the world. Picture Birmingham and the WellHouse will be in my prayers!

  8. Words can’t express how much I love this story. So I’ll just let the tears dribbling down my face suffice.

  9. This is just the coolest. I am so so in love with this… words just don’t even… they don’t even work.

    Can’t wait to start collecting them! Sharing on Facebook!

  10. Congratulations!!! Your new site looks awesome and your photos look so beautiful, especially on the cotton. I know ya’ll are so proud and excited for this new venture! I love how God brought your passion for sunset photography together with your desire to help The WellHouse and gave you a tangible way to do it even while you are sick.

  11. I’m so excited about your project!!! Will you have printed material to pass out?? I’m speaking next weekend and would love to pass out info about the site.

    Cathy

  12. This is completely awesome!

  13. Reformed Grits says:

    Well, great, now I feel like crap. ;D Good for you for coming up with a beautiful way to “picture” the gospel as well. Redemption is beautiful.

    • Ha! I was going to make you a silhouette cut-out of my children to hold up to your screen on every picture in this post – you know, MST 3K style. Since you said children made the photos palatable.

  14. What a wonderful way to see God at work. I love hearing how supportive Chris has been through everything! And I love how you call it “my south.” We will help support with purchases and prayers.

  15. Awesome news…I know of this ministry and often wonder myself how to be a help or if they need things…

    PS..Chalkville MT Rd has amazing sunsets..I often slow traffic down to see them..lol…and sunrise is awesome going the other way..

  16. Fantstic! You’re and amazing and inspirational person!

  17. I’m so excited to see this take flight, Rachel. Your back story is amazing, and I can’t wait to see where it takes you!

  18. Stephanie Gallagher says:

    This is amazing Rachel! I need some gorgeous photos for my house, I can’t wait to browse through your new website!

  19. This is wonderful! Congrats!

  20. Congratulations, Rachel! Wishing you great success in this project.

  21. Beautiful — God’s handiwork in the sky and in your life. Absolutely beautiful.

  22. I love this and have been thinking about it ever since i read your post last night. So often when confronted with a cause like human trafficking it seems overwhelming… what could I ever do to help when my experience is so far removed? And yet you have found a way to become involved using your very unique talents and interests. It is inspiring! May God bless you and your efforts.

  23. Wendy Bridges says:

    My family and I moved to Birmingham three years ago, and immediately fell in love with the city. Your photos of her are inspiring, as is your passion for sharing your gift to benefit the helpless. God bless!

  24. I live in Birmingham also and when I do get to see a sunset, they are magical. Thank you for taking to the time to do what I can’t, taking the time to take a picture,

    Also, James Spann was bragging about you on FB yesterday!

  25. So excited about the new venture! Can’t wait to see all the blessings that result. :-)

  26. That is so awesome! I have loved all the beauty of your sunset/scenery pictures. They are a great reminder for me to slow down and enjoy God’s creation. It seems like I am always moving a mile a minute with 2000 things on my to-do list. Every time I see one of your pictures God reminds me to stop and appreciate the natural beauty around me every day.

  27. Rachel, this is an awesome way to support The WellHouse! Can’t wait to see how God is going to use it.

  28. Amanda Sheren says:

    So proud for you! That is a GREAT reason to not be around as much on this blog (even though I haven’t noticed as much since you’re so good). So GLAD you’ve found a great way to listen to what God is saying to you and that this will help them in any way possible. Your pictures are beautiful and I hope you’re doing better!

    • I’m glad you haven’t noticed! I cut down to three (from four) posts a week at the beginning of the year. It’s silly how agonizing of a decision that was for me to make.

  29. I love every bit of this! I love that gave you a way to find therapy in the beauty of his creation. I love that your husband encouraged you. I love that you created a completely unexpected way to help meet a deep need. I love that you are able to share your images with those of us who love Birmingham, too (placed my order tonight)! Who knows, maybe you will be able to give Jamie a job in the near future! ;)

  30. Reformed Grits says:

    ARGH, “palatable…” yes, again, make me feel like crap. ;D

  31. Great idea! And the pics are gorgeous!

  32. Wow! What an amazing project! And your photos are GORGEOUS! You have a way of capturing a moment — a mood — a flash of beauty! Truly lovely!

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