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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Until I did – on a whim.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.