Focus On: Demetrius Freeman

This week, we present WKU senior Demetrius Freeman’s photo essay he created while studying abroad at the Danish School of Media and Journalism last spring as part of our ongoing series entitled Focus On, which highlights some of the extraordinary talent coming out of the photojournalism program at Western Kentucky University.

 Train Ride to the End of the World: Hoyerswerda

During the time of the GDR, Hoyerswerda was a powerful, fast-growing industrial town in the Saxony state of eastern Germany. Glass factories, coal mining, and power plants provided thousands of jobs forcing the demand for housing to dramatically rise in a short period of time. Hoyerswerda was a model city of the east increasing the population from 24,549 in 1960, to 34,095 in 1963, to 53,472 in 1968. The peak was reached in 1981 when the population hit 72,000 people. Thousands of apartment complexes were built in order to meet the demand.

In 1990, with the end of the GDR and the reunification of Germany, the economy was reorganized causing thousands of jobs to disappear. Power plants reduced staff, factories closed, and buildings emptied as people moved west for better opportunities.

With the loss of these jobs, Hoyerswerda began shrinking at a rapid rate, as more and more people moved to bigger cities like Berlin and Dresden for better opportunities. The population average age rose as the students and young people left the city. Hoyerswerda was left with empty factories, businesses, streets, and thousands of empty apartments. The fear is not only of Hoyerswerda shrinking, but fear for the future existence of the city itself.

hoy001An old restaurant on the outskirts of town that has been transformed into a home. All the surrounding apartments have been demolished.

DFreeman_Hoy14An old painting of Mickey Mouse inside of what used to be a family home. When the factory shut down the residences moved leaving the neighborhood abandoned.

hoy002Paint peeling from the wall of an empty apartment complex. The apartment was filled with families and workers from the glass factory but when it closed everyone moved to other places leaving the small community empty.

hoy003The last building structure that stands on the outskirts of town. This building has on tenant and is scheduled to be demolished.

hoy004An empty desk inside of the old glass factory outside of Hoyerswerda.

hoy005Abandoned mining quarry.

hoy006Broken glass from an abandoned home across the street from the closed down glass factory. When the factory closed the neighborhood emptied as everyone migrated to Dresden and Berlin for better job opportunities.

hoy007A paper cutout sits in the window of a home in a next to Hoyerswerda. The village is scheduled to be demolished so that the mining company, Vattenfall, can begin mining coal where the village stands.The company has built a duplicate town 6 miles from the original town.

 ————

NPPA: What lead you to this story?

DF: Some years ago I read an article about Detroit, and it’s issues with job loss and a fast-shrinking population. Reading the article made me ask, is this issue happening in other places, if so why, and more importantly, could the survival of a city be based solely on the economic diversity of the city? Is this the beginning of a new society issue that will hurt smaller cities, towns, etc.? Will we all migrate to bigger cities? All of these thoughts crossed my mind and I began researching where this was happening in the world other than Detriot. If Detroit the extreme case, was it economic based? More questions meant more research. Then I came across a New York Times Article from 2009 about Hoyerswerda, Germany. The article explained the issue of shrinking populations, the aging community, and the lost of jobs, but visually I had no idea what these places were like. So I decided that once I returned to Europe I was going to do a photo story there.

NPPA: What story are you trying to tell with these images?

DF: The goal of these images is to provide a photographic landscape of Hoyerswerda and the feeling of isolation, destruction, and emptiness.

NPPA: What has been the most rewarding part of the story for you?

DF: Personally, working on this story has really made me open my eyes to other cultures, languages, and has made me more aware that there are issues that need a voice everywhere. This project made me fear what could happen, embrace what did happen, and sympathize with people with a level of understanding that was gained through listening and asking. Having the opportunity to focus on a single project for a longer period of time was such a joy to me. At first I was nervous because I have never worked on something for a long period of time, but as the story went on I felt that I connected on a deeper level than just the surface. The most rewarding would have to be  the relationships I established. I met some awesome people in Hoy who showed interest in who I was and allowed me to explore their world and tell me part of their story.

NPPA: What was the most challenging part?

DF: This project made me step out of my comfort zone, which is an extremely challenging thing to do. I traveled to a place I had never been before, where most people do not speak English, where Neo Nazis have a strong presence, and where seeing a dark-skinned person is a very rare sight. While in Hoyerswerda I was confronted by a Neo Nazi advocate who spoke strong words about “Hail Hitler and Only Whites should be on the earth.” This was the first time I had ever had a direct verbal racism attack, which made me feel out of place for a moment but because I did my research and found a fixer, she was able to defuse the situation. This encounter was a reminder that racism still remained and that I must continue forward and not let such things harm who I am.

NPPA: What has been the most important thing you have learned?

DF: The experience I gained from working on Train Ride to the End of the World: Hoyerswerda has been very rewarding for me both professionally and personally. Professionally I have become an overall better journalist. Though I took photographs, the most important and time-consuming moments were during researching, planning, and interviewing. I learned how to look at and analyze the research material to find my angle. I learned how to plan for a trip, scheduling my time with several subjects within a day, and I learned the importance of having a fixer. This has given me confidence in traveling to places where the culture and the language is different. I also learned how to communicate better during interviews, allowing the subject to speak freely gave more details and important information that also makes them feel a part of the project and thus gives it a better result.

Photographically, I have gained the confidences and trust in my skills, the ability to tell a story in a different form than linear, and a stronger ability to show meaning in a photograph that is normally done with text. I learned how to adjust my visual style to fit with the dominating material and how to collaborate and be more open minded about photo selection.

This project taught me more about myself and helped me learn and overcome new challenges while creating lasting memories and relationships. Experiences is what I live for so I encourage others to take that chance, buy that ticket and go explore. Thanks! -DF

Through Our Eyes – Week 21

Each Thursday, WKU’s Student Chapter of NPPA brings you some of the best images of the past week taken by our very own classmates. To submit for our weekly posts, you must currently be a WKU Photojournalism student and have taken the images or produced the video within the last week (Tuesday to Tuesday). Send your top 1-5 selections to wkunppa@gmail.com by our Tuesday 6:30pm deadline and our officers and attendees will pick the best of the bunch to showcase at our open meetings every Tuesday at 7pm in Lab 127.

toepost041014_001Logan Beckham, 17, twirls a burning T-shirt during a riot after University of Kentucky was defeated by the University of Connecticut on April 07, 2014. Beckham recently got kicked out of high school for possession of marijuana.  HARRISON HILL

toepost041014_002Two men hang out of a limousine during the NCAA championship game on State St. while calling out at pedestrians to join them. The men yelled out at rioters passing by, claiming differing identities such as “porn stars from California” and the posse of Jennifer Lawrence.  ALYSE YOUNG

toepost041014_003University of Kentucky fans celebrate by climbing a tree on State St. The UK Wildcats defeated the Wisconsin Badgers 74-73 on April 5, 2014.  MICHAEL NOBLE JR.

toepost041014_004UK students try to wake up an unconscious man after being knocked out by another rioter after University of Kentucky lost in the NCAA National Championship against University of Connecticut on April 07, 2014.  HARRISON HILL

toepost041014_005A University of Kentucky fan screams in protest as Lexington police officers carry him to a police car away from rioting on State Street in Lexington, Ky following the University of Kentucky’s NCAA Championship loss against the University of Connecticut. The young man was detained after becoming aggressive with other crowd members.  BRITTANY GREESON

toepost041014_006A couple celebrates the UK victory over Wisconsin in the Final Four at 202 State St. on April 5, 2014.  JUSTIN GILLILAND

toepost041014_007Alex Kandel, lead singer of Bowling Green band Sleeper Agent, performs at the Warehouse at Mt. Victor on April 5, 2014. The hometown group returned to their roots in Bowling Green after a long hiatus away on tour. They performed with Buffalo Rodeo, another Bowling Green group, and Knox Hamilton. (shot through a glass prism)  LUKE FRANKE

toepost041014_008Chi Omega junior Hannah Bobinger of Hendersonville, Tn., practices singing alone in a hallway before going on stage to perform during Spring Sing at E.A. Diddle Arena at Western Kentucky University on Sunday, April 6, 2014.  DOROTHY EDWARDS

 

Through Our Eyes – Week 20

Each Thursday, WKU’s Student Chapter of NPPA brings you some of the best images of the past week taken by our very own classmates. To submit for our weekly posts, you must currently be a WKU Photojournalism student and have taken the images or produced the video within the last week (Tuesday to Tuesday). Send your top 1-5 selections to wkunppa@gmail.com by our Tuesday 6:30pm deadline and our officers and attendees will pick the best of the bunch to showcase at our open meetings every Tuesday at 7pm in Lab 127.

-1Katie Norman, 19, waits behind the baptistery with her uncle, Ed Norman, 56, on the morning of Sunday, March 30, 2014.  Ed has been battling liver cancer for the past 17 months, which has significantly affected his energy, making it difficult to perform simple tasks like walking or talking. Katie asked her uncle to baptize her after hearing his testimony. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” said Ed.  SHELLEY OWENS

uk riotsA man jumps over a burning couch on University Avenue as thousands of fans stormed State Street and University Avenue after University of Kentucky beat the University of Louisville in Lexington, Ky., on Friday, March 28, 2014.  JABIN BOTSFORD

uk riotsThousands of fans stormed State Street after University of Kentucky beat University of Louisville in Lexington, Ky., on Friday, March 28, 2014.  JABIN BOTSFORD

toepost040314_004A student tries to wake up an unconscious fan after the University of Kentucky win over University of Louisville during the sweet sixteen NCAA tournament on March 28, 2014. Hundreds of students flooded the streets after the win to burn couches, break stop signs and climb light poles.  HARRISON HILL

1_Sharon_smallSharon Graham gets some fresh air outside her home at Bowling Green Towers on Friday, March 28, 2014, in Bowling Green, Ky. Graham celebrated one year of not smoking two days prior. Graham smoked for 35 years until her granddaughter was born and realized smoking prevented her from seeing the child. “I made up my mind that I had to see her and have her in my life. That’s what got me going to quit smoking,” she said.  CASSIDY JOHNSON

5_Kevin_smallKevin Cross stands in the hallway of his home at Bowling Green Towers on Friday, March 28, 2014, in Bowling Green, Ky. Cross has been all over the country working various jobs, including traveling with the circus, bouncing at a bar, and being a DJ. He finally came to Bowling Green to move closer to his girlfriend. “How you are doing depends on your view of the grass: you’re either looking down at the blades or up at the roots,” he said.   CASSIDY JOHNSON

Megan models MAC lipstick, Bowling Green, KentuckyMegan Lemmons models MAC lipstick in Bowling Green, Ky.  ALYSSA POINTER

https://vimeo.com/90809444

Brad Ausbrooks has been collecting tattoos since he turned 18. Now, he has been working for Carter’s Tattoo Company in Bowling Green, Ky., for 11 years.  KREABLE YOUNG

https://vimeo.com/90608402

Growing up a fiddle player, Frank Beauchamp combines his love for music with his passion for teaching. The fifth grade school teacher has been at Caverna Elementary School in Cave City, Ky., for nine years and has brought his fiddle with him every day. He plays before during and after school and says it can provide a welcome break for both him and the students during the day.  BRIAN POWERS

Through Our Eyes – Week 19

Each Thursday, WKU’s Student Chapter of NPPA brings you some of the best images of the past week taken by our very own classmates. To submit for our weekly posts, you must currently be a WKU Photojournalism student and have taken the images or produced the video within the last week (Tuesday to Tuesday). Send your top 1-5 selections to wkunppa@gmail.com by our Tuesday 6:30pm deadline and our officers and attendees will pick the best of the bunch to showcase at our open meetings every Tuesday at 7pm in Lab 127.

toepost032714_001Tyler “London” Chandler, 19, of Louisville, Ky.,  identifies as transgender. As a freshman at WKU, he says he feels more open to express himself. After seeing a fortune teller, he decided to wait on any surgeries to advance his career in musical theater. Shot through a piece of beveled glass on Saturday, March 22, 2013.  ADAM WOLFFBRANDT

toepost032714_002Young cheerleaders occupy their time prior to performing at the Mardi Gras Nationals Cheerleading Competition in Nashville, TN, March 22, 2014.  JUSTIN GILLILAND

toepost032714_003Chris Page, left, comforts Bryan Blackwell as he mourns the death of his father, Bobby Blackwell. Bobby died of a sudden heart attack early last Sunday, March 23, 2014.  HARRISON HILL

toepost032714_004Kelsey Holland listens intently during the “Bluebirds 101″ class on Sunday, March 23, 2014, at the For-Mar Nature Preserve and Arboretum in Flint, Mich.  KATIE MCLEAN

toepost032714_005Isac Duron, 11, of Bowling Green, Ky., poses for a portrait at his parent’s shop, Taquiera Sinai, where he currently works the front counter.  BRITTANY GREESON

https://vimeo.com/90073126

Robert Jordan has owned and operated Jordan Sales and Savage in Fayetteville, Georgia since 1972. After developing Parkinson’s disease, Mr. Jordan contemplates selling his treasured land.  ALYSSA POINTER

https://vimeo.com/90038209

Born and raised in Smiths Grove, Ky., Mark Whitley has been a professional wood artist in his hometown for the past 14 years. “I live and work in Kentucky because I love Kentucky,” Whitley said, but his inspiration does not come from his home state. “I knew I had to leave,” Whitley said, and with nothing more than a backpack he traveled the world engaging different cultures in a way that dictates how he works today.  BRIAN POWERS

 

Through Our Eyes – Week 18

Each Thursday, WKU’s Student Chapter of NPPA brings you some of the best images of the past week taken by our very own classmates. To submit for our weekly posts, you must currently be a WKU Photojournalism student and have taken the images or produced the video within the last week (Tuesday to Tuesday). Send your top 1-5 selections to wkunppa@gmail.com by our Tuesday 6:30pm deadline and our officers and attendees will pick the best of the bunch to showcase at our open meetings every Tuesday at 7pm in Lab 127.

toepost032214_001Donald Cartwell, 61, of Richardsville, Ky., sits in his bedroom smoking one of his hand rolled cigarettes. Over time, Cartwell has lost his ability to walk due to a battle with spine and bone cancer. He relies on his wife, Ruth, for care on a daily basis. “Sometimes I sit here and think and I just wish God would give me my legs back,” said Cartwell.  BRITTANY GREESON

toepost032214_002Varun Kolanka gets a handful of color in the face from Pramod Tadakamalla, center, as Monic Shah, left, and Anirudh Dorepally, back, look on. The friends, all seniors from Hyderabad, India, gathered to celebrate Holi on WKU’s south lawn on Saturday, March 15, 2014. The spring festival of Holi or Festival of colors, is an ancient Hindu religious festival celebrated with colored powders and dancing. WKU’s Indian Student Association hosted the event for the first time on campus and hopes to attract more participants in the future.  BRIAN POWERS

toepost032214_003Elizabeth Kizito, also known as “The Cookie Lady,” is the owner of Kizito Cookies in Louisville, Ky. After moving to America from Uganda in 1975, she developed a love for cookie making and has been making them for about 35 years. “Most of the Ingredients in my cookies are not listed on the package,” said Kizito. “My family’s love and perseverance, the beauty and magic of Africa, the American Dream, are all mixed in next to the chocolate chips and butter and nuts.” Kizito sells cookies in her shop and travels around the region selling cookies from a basket that she wears on her head.  HARRISON HILL

JEFF BROWN/HERALDWKU freshman forward Bria Gaines (11) celebrates with WKU freshman guard Kendall Noble in a 61-60 victory over Arkansas State in the 2014 Women’s Sun Belt Tournament Championship at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, La., on Saturday, Mar. 15, 2014.  JEFF BROWN

toepost032214_005Bob Wieber prepares to meet a doctor who will help him with his apraxia on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 in Clarksville, Tenn. Apraxia is a condition that makes speaking very difficult for Wieber, who has been gradually developing it over the past three years. Wieber traveled all the way from Michigan to New Mexico to see an acupuncturist to get help.  CASSIDY JOHNSON

toepost032214_006Hopkinsville, Ky. native and WKU junior Maurice Dunn II, 21, has been playing the trumpet since he was in sixth grade. “Growing up, everywhere I went I would constantly be playing,” Maurice said. “I got to be pretty good.” A member of the WKU marching band during his freshman and sophomore year of college he has since laid down the trumpet to pursue other interests such as his Adveristing major. “Trumpet was always something I did because I was pretty good at it,” Maurice said, “not because it was a passion.”  LUKE FRANKE

Through Our Eyes – Week 17

Each Thursday, WKU’s Student Chapter of NPPA brings you some of the best images of the past week taken by our very own classmates. To submit for our weekly posts, you must currently be a WKU Photojournalism student and have taken the images or produced the video within the last week (Tuesday to Tuesday). Send your top 1-5 selections to wkunppa@gmail.com by our Tuesday 6:30pm deadline and our officers and attendees will pick the best of the bunch to showcase at our open meetings every Tuesday at 7pm in Lab 127.

toepost030614_001Andre Barbour’s father Douglas Barbour is seen in front of the original Barbour family house on the Barbour family farm in Canmer, Ky., on Saturday, March 01, 2014. Andre Barbour is transforming his family farm from being dependent on tobacco to growing food for lower and middle income families in Louisville’s West End.  JABIN BOTSFORD

toepost030614_002Brad Menke and Sidney Herrell share a kiss during Sigma Chi’s “Battle of the Greeks” Fraternity Fight Night on Feb. 28, 2014 in Bowling Green, Ky. HARRISON HILL

rodeo wku vs  2-08_JB_01Andrew Wall is punched by Sawyer Vannatta during the fourth fight of the night during the Sigma Chi’s Battle of the Greeks Fight Night at the Blue Dome in Bowling Green, Ky., on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Wall beat Vannatta. Battle of the Greeks donates the proceeds to the Huntsman Cancer Institute to raise money for cancer research.  JABIN BOTSFORD

toepost030614_004Bowling Green sophomore Chase Proctor gets his nose fixed while Bowling Green senior Jay Beard reacts about his first round. “I wouldn’t want anybody else in my corner,” said Proctor. “He is one of the few people who knows how my head works.” IAN MAULE

Nature on Saturday, March 1, 2013, in Bowling Green.Molly Kaviar, 22, of Louisville, Ky. is an activist for the environment, civil rights, and other human rights. She is an organizer with WKU AID, promoter for I Love Mountains Day, and intern for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. “I was raised this way,” she said. “It’s never been an option to not help bring change to the community.” ADAM WOLFFBRANDT

toepost030614_006An unnamed Arnold employee glances back as Anna Starodubtseva exits the dressing room for the Bikini International competitors on Saturday, March 1, 2014, at The Arnold Sports Festival.  SAMMY JO HESTER

toepost030614_007William Wells, 64, of Nassau, takes a smoke break while inspecting a run down bohemian home, February 28, 2014. Wells was in telemarketing his whole life until 6 years ago when he quit to become a house inspector so he could see more of the island.  JUSTIN GILLILAND

toepost030614_008Richmond senior Emily Brown, junior Haley Holdwick, senior Megan Hambaum and junior Beth Beindit react to their 64-38 loss to Goodrich on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 after the Goodrich vs. Richmond girls basketball game at Goodrich High School.  KATIE MCLEAN

carter_b_sleddingcampus_098_cropLouisville senior Justin Wellum is jolted by a bump while sledding down a hill in front of Van Meter Hall on the campus of Western Kentucky University on March 3rd, 2013. The combination of snow and ice shut down the university and canceled classes for two consecutive days.  BRANDON CARTER

-1AWestern Kentucky University Police Chief, Robert “Chief” Deane, of Detroit, Michigan, is the only male in his immediate family that chose to be a police officer. Deane became a university police officer after spending time in the Detroit police force, Army Reserve and The United States Air Force. He was the first African-American police chief at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside as well as Western Kentucky University. One of his greatest achievements was when he was able to “Get the people [at University of Wisconsin-Parkside] to trust him enough to allow him to carry his gun on his belt.” Chief Deane said when a problem was presented, he and his team would have to go to their trunk to get their weapons, which was very inconvenient. Deane has never regretted choosing to be an officer even after grazed by a bullet during a drug raid while working with the Detroit police squad.  ALYSSA POINTER

Through Our Eyes – Week 16

A wholehearted thanks to Denny Simmons, of the Evansville Courier & Press, who guest-judged with us this week!

Each Thursday, WKU’s Student Chapter of NPPA brings you some of the best images of the past week taken by our very own classmates. To submit for our weekly posts, you must currently be a WKU Photojournalism student and have taken the images or produced the video within the last week (Tuesday to Tuesday). Send your top 1-5 selections to wkunppa@gmail.com by our Tuesday 6:30pm deadline and our officers and attendees will pick the best of the bunch to showcase at our open meetings every Tuesday at 7pm in Lab 127.

Assignment_03 Medical ProfessionalOptometrist Dr. Joe C. Tucker, of Vision Source Bowling Green, uses a Binocular Indirect Ophthalmoscope, which is used to look for a retina examination, inside WKU Photojournalism studio Monday morning. Dr. Tucker has been working as an Optometrist for 34 years after graduating from Houston University. When asked what keeps him in practice Dr. Tucker said, “Giving the gift of vision is something only a select group of people can do and its a great feeling. We take our vision for granted.”  CONNOR CHOATE

toepost022614_003University Louisiana-Monroe guard Chinedu Amajoyi signals a time out after securing a loose ball during the game against Western Kentucky. ULM would go on to lose the game.  IAN MAULE

toepost022614_004David “Doc” Livingston, 89, of Bowling Green, Ky., plays clarinet for his wife, Joyce, 87, in their room at the Bowling Green Retirement Village. David, a once prominent figure in the local music industry, suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. “I don’t always remember much and I can’t always say much,” David says, “My wife had a stroke a few years back, so I speak to her with my music.”  WILLIAM KOLB

toepost022614_006DJ Richie Rich (center in blue) and his hypeman Mr. Hollywood relax before the Migos concert on February 22, 2014, Bowling Green Ky. The concert lasted 5 hours, with the Migos arriving 2 hours late to for their performance.  HARRISON HILL

rodeo wku vs  2-08_JB_01Fans sing and dance during a Migos concert put on by I65Nation at the Compound in Bowling Green, Ky. on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. Around 2,000 people showed up for the concert which was I65Nation’s largest turnout to date. Migos are an American hip-hop group from Gwinnett County, Georgia.  JABIN BOTSFORD

rodeo wku vs  2-08_JB_01Kirshnik Ball, known as “Takeoff,” smokes and drinks right after a performance during a Migos concert put on by I65Nation at the Compound in Bowling Green, Ky. on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014.  JABIN BOTSFORD

rodeo wku vs  2-08_JB_01High-heels and bottles of alcohol are left behind after a Migos concert put on by I65Nation at the Compound in Bowling Green, Ky. on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014.  JABIN BOTSFORD

toepost022614_005Isaac Graham, 19, rests atop the Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center at Western Kentucky University as severe thunderstorms approach on Thursday, February 20, 2014.  WILLIAM KOLB

toepost022614_010Edmond Schwab, 65, now retired, left college to pursue radio broadcast and to be a US Postal Service delivery-man, leaving himself with 239 hours of undergraduate hours completed and no degree. “Don’t try and be an expert at everything; pick one or two things and be good at them,’ said Schwabb. JABIN BOTSFORD

toepost022614_002Bowling Green sophomore Chase Proctor rests after doing a live shadow boxing drill at Bowling Green High School in preparation for Sigma Chi fight night. “I don’t feel like an underdog but I definitely feel like an outcast doing this by myself,” says Proctor, who is fighting unattached while most of his opponents are connected to a Greek organization.  IAN MAULE

toepost022614_011Singer songwriter Fauna Halo, 20, has played for crowds since she was 12 years old. The former South Floridan was discovered on MySpace before she graduated high school and moved to Nashville by herself at age 18. She composes songs based on real and imagined events in her small apartment in Nashville, Tenn. “I play music because its all of me,” Halo said. “Every phrase to loved ones or anyone that you always have a hard time getting out is fluidly capable of being easily ousted through music with less anxiousness and doubts.”   NICOLE BOLIAUX

 

Focus On: Brittany Greeson

Before WKU junior Brittany Greeson was even finished shooting her story on a single father for her Picture Stories class, it was already being considered as an entry candidate for the Hearst Journalism Awards Program.  This week, we present Greeson’s story as the first post of an ongoing series entitled Focus On, which highlights some of the extraordinary talent coming out of the photojournalism program at Western Kentucky University.

 A Father at 60

In the hilly countryside of Fordsville, Ky., 60-year-old Faron Cox spends his days in the same double wide trailer where he spent his childhood. Following the loss of his father in 2006, Cox inherited the home in addition to the expanse of land he now looks after.
At an age when most are retiring, Cox faces the daily challenges and struggles of raising his two youngest sons, Faron “Bear” Cox, 8 and Skylor “Tiber” Cox, 4.
Reality hits often for Faron as he finds himself worrying about the demands of childcare and his diminishing health. He relies on his disability check and pain medication for his back to get through the fiscal and physical challenges of each day.
A tense and complicated relationship with the children’s mother leaves Faron as a single father. Now, he questions the time he has left to watch his children grow.

1_Story_FaronCox_GreesonFaron Jr. and Skylor play on the rope swings outside of their home as their father pushes them. “When I first had my first three kids, back in the 70’s I thought that was it. I wasn’t thinking about having another wife or more kids and then more kids. It never entered my mind. You don’t regret having your kids. That’s actually the only thing you’ve got to show for in life other than the memories of the ones that are gone,” Faron said.

2_Story_FaronCox_GreesonFaron changes Skylor’s diaper on the make-shift bed in their living room. Faron has had to delay pre-school for Skylor because Skylor has had difficulties with potty training as well as concerns about his speech development.

3_Story_FaronCox_GreesonAfter waking him at dawn for the school day, Faron has a discussion with Faron Jr. about his behavior in school and the expectations he has set. Faron gets the kids ready each day, brushing their hair, putting their shoes on and getting them dressed before he drives the 7 miles between Faron Jr.’s school and their home.

4_Story_FaronCox_GreesonFaron holds the daily dosage he has to take for the arthritis causing his constant back pain. After working a variety of physical jobs his entire life he say it is now wearing him down. New health problems have left him feeling weaker than usual, but because he can’t find trustworthy childcare, he hasn’t had the time to visit the town physician.

5_Story_FaronCox_GreesonFaron takes a moment to rest his eyes after a long day when his kids were actively playing. He often struggles to keep up with them and takes on a more observant role. “I get tired with everything. A lot of times they’re out of control or off tearing up something. It’s a young persons job. If you was in your twenties or thirties you’d be able to cope with stuff like that but I have to deal with it. What else ya gonna to do,” Faron said.

6_Story_FaronCox_GreesonSkylor jumps on his father’s back to give him ‘little kissies.’ “You’ve gotta be close with your little ones. When your kids get grown you lose them. You lose that certain part of them,” Faron said.

7_Story_FaronCox_GreesonFaron paces back and forth gathering wood for an open pit fire after a day of logging with his oldest son, Darrin. He and Darrin depend on the 55 acres of land for wood to heat their homes.

8_Story_FaronCox_GreesonDespite complaints of back pain and feeling sickly, Faron cuts a stockpile of wood for the wood stove that functions as the main heat source for his home.
“My mom and dads all gone and everything’s all gone. I’ve got my dads land here, all 55 acres, and it takes a lot of work to keep it going,” Faron said.

9_Story_FaronCox_GreesonFaron takes a moment to step out onto the porch after a day without the kids around. At random, the children’s mother will take them to town to visit but will often bring them back home within hours. Faron describes the tense and often verbally aggressive relationship with the children’s mother as emotionally draining.

10_Story_FaronCox_GreesonFaron’s oldest son, Darrin Cox, 40, plays catch with Skylor as Faron and Faron Jr. discuss plans for school. While Darrin shares the property with his father, their relationship is strained and distant and Faron has retained most of the responsibility for taking care of the land.

11_Story_FaronCox_GreesonLeaning by what he refers to as his “thinking window”, Faron takes a few moments of silence as the kids watch television. “It scares me thinking at my age you don’t know how much longer you got left. I’m just hoping I live long enough to see the little things get on their feet. You often wonder what your kids are going to do or how they’re going to react when you’re gone,” Faron said.

 ————-

WKU NPPA’s Naomi Driessnack sat down with Greeson to talk through the experience she had shooting Faron’s story:

ND: What lead you to this story?

BG: I got kind of lucky because I feel like he (Faron) wanted his story to be told. When I shot the story, I was basically living on the property so that I could spend 24 hours with him.

ND: When you first met him, what did he say that made you think he wanted his story told?

BG: He was just so open, it’s so rare that you meet someone without a guard up. He told me everything. He was like “I am raising these kids and struggling with this…,” and I opened up about my life and explained my job and why stories like his are important to others. Part of it was his loneliness, but part of it also was that he needed someone to listen to him and I feel like a story like this was important for me because I too often question whether or not the stories I do have purpose. When I feel like someone wants a voice that lets me create a better story because they want it. He needed someone to talk to and now he is talking to a large audience because a camera was there.

ND: What has been the most rewarding part of the story for you?

BG: My mom was a single mom, and I realized that parenting is so hard, and I feel like the story helped me grow up more. I went back to my mom and said; “I don’t know how you did it…I’m so sorry that I was such a butthead when I was a kid.” I felt like I wasn’t just a fly on the wall. Those late night talks we had, where I would just put my camera down and we would just eat beans together and chill, that was awesome.

ND: What was the most challenging part?

BG: It was really hard emotionally. I can’t be numb. The first time that I went out and shot, I was supposed to make it three days but I only could make it two and a half because I was so emotionally and mentally exhausted. Faron opened up to me so much and told me so much about how depressed he is, he tells me everything. Dealing with that and seeing what they are going through, seeing the poverty, I just kind of needed to get out of there and rest my mind because I found myself wanting to save them and started wanting to take care of the kids, and I can’t do that.

ND: What has been the most important thing you have learned?  

BG: I think I’ve learned most importantly that at the end of the day, creating a beautiful image and achieving success as a photographer is cool, but if I lay in bed at night and I still haven’t done anything to touch someone’s life or if I haven’t been good to my subjects then my job is meaningless. I would burn out really quickly if I didn’t feel like I was being good to them, so being kind and gentle and opening up to your subjects and viewing them as human beings is the most important thing. Faron is another human being who could have been my grandfather. I think it’s maintaining those relationships and never burning bridges will help improve the reputation photographers have because I feel like a lot of us have a negative reputation because we take so much, but how much do we give back?

A Father at 60

A Father at 60

In the hilly countryside of Fordsville, Ky., 60-year-old Faron Cox spends his days in the same double wide trailer where he spent his childhood. Following the loss of his father in 2006, Cox inherited the home in addition to the expanse of land he now looks after.
At an age when most are retiring, Cox faces the daily challenges and struggles of raising his two youngest sons, Faron “Bear” Cox, 8 and Skylor “Tiber” Cox, 4.
Reality hits often for Faron as he finds himself worrying about the demands of childcare and his diminishing health. He relies on his disability check and pain medication for his back to get through the fiscal and physical challenges of each day.
A tense and complicated relationship with the children’s mother leaves Faron as a single father. Now, he questions the time he has left to watch his children grow.

Through Our Eyes – Week 15

Each Thursday, WKU’s Student Chapter of NPPA brings you some of the best images of the past week taken by our very own classmates. To submit for our weekly posts, you must currently be a WKU Photojournalism student and have taken the images or produced the video within the last week (Tuesday to Tuesday). Send your top 1-5 selections to wkunppa@gmail.com by our Tuesday 6:30pm deadline and our officers and attendees will pick the best of the bunch to showcase at our open meetings every Tuesday at 7pm in Lab 127.

https://vimeo.com/87041719

Coach Bill Powell has been swimming for 67 years. He learned when he was 8 while living on an island off the coast of Michigan. Ever since then, swimming has been a lifelong endeavor. He spent most of his career as head coach of Western Kentucky University swimming and diving, where he eventually had WKU’s current natatorium named after him. He has touched the lives of many by sharing the love he has for his passion of swimming.  KREABLE YOUNG

https://vimeo.com/87026162

After an intense break-up, a man copes with the fallout of his longtime relationship.  LUKE FRANKE

**Please note: this is a work of fiction, and contains graphic imagery**

toepost021914_01Tyler “London” Chandler, 19, of Louisville, Ky., received his first wig from his cousin. “She knew the struggle I was going through with transitioning and if it was right or not… she understood,” said Chandler. “So she gave me a wig of hers, because she’s all for my transition, and she believes that’s what I really am, as do I.” Tyler told his grandmother when he was five-years old that he wanted to be a girl but she, along with his mother, brushed the comment to the side. Now a freshman at Western Kentucky University, Chandler feels free to express himself without any reprimand. He says it is like starting over. Chandler feels his mother knows about his transition. “You know how parents know but they don’t want to know?” he said. Chandler is studying performing art/ musical theatre with hopes of one day performing with Janet Jackson or Beyoncè.  ALYSSA POINTER

rodeo wku vs  2-08_JB_01Children play catch as WKU beats Southern Illinois 6-4 on Feb. 16, 2014, at Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green, Ky.  JABIN BOTSFORD

toepost021914_03Warren Central High School art teacher Sandra Carter hides under a table with a student during an earthquake drill on Monday, Feb. 10, in Bowling Green, Ky. Carter has been teaching at Warren Central for over 20 years and is very close to her students.  CASSIDY JOHNSON

toepost021914_04A view of the sinkhole that opened up in the Skydome Showroom on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky. Eight display cars were swallowed by the hole. MICHAEL NOBLE JR.

toepost021914_05Jake Thompson congratulates Thomas Peter for batting in a run against Southern Illinois. Western Kentucky went on to beat Southern Illinois 6-1 on Feb. 16, 2014, in Bowling Green, Ky.  MICHAEL NOBLE JR.

Rodeo on Friday, Feb. 14, 2013, in Bowling Green.Jess Travis, 20, of Bowling Green, Ky. ADAM WOLFFBRANDT

toepost021914_07Professor Chris Derry has been teaching Marketing and Sales at WKU for 5 years now. He brings 30-years of sales experience and an outspoken joy and enthusiasm to the classroom that the students thrive off of. “I enjoy helping students find their perspective,” said Derry. “A lot of them don’t understand the potential they have.” Professor Derry contributes his confident demeanor and positive attitude to his father Bill. “If we walked down the stairs without a smile on our face we went straight back to our room,” Derry said. “You couldn’t ever get him down.” Bill Derry passed away in 2010 due to various physical ailments, diabetes, and ultimately asphyxiation. Chris wears two watches, one his own and one his father’s, to constantly keep him in his thoughts and remind him of the impact his father made on him growing up. “My dad pulled 16-hour days for five years when he first opened his drug store,” Chris said. “If I could be just half the man he was I’ll be happy.” LUKE FRANKE

JEFF BROWNWKU junior forward George Fant lays the ball up to the rim during the WKU 81-76 win over Troy at Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky., on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014.  JEFF BROWN

toepost021914_08Karbura Vincent, 51, rarely gets to see the sun as he goes about his days working long hours on the night shift at a local factory in Bowling Green, Ky. A refugee from Burundi, Africa, Vincent is the sole income source for his family of nine. BRITTANY GREESON