It's seven o'clock on a crisp fall evening and a small group gathers in a public parking lot. As the participants arrive, they all have one thing in common - each one is clutching a camera. Some are big, some small, some on tripods and some with long telephoto lenses. This group is part of the Henry County Pro-Am Photography Club and they are about to embark on their monthly photo outing. This month's theme is to photograph Uptown Martinsville and they have been kind enough to allow the author to tag along.
As the group walks together up Church Street looking for interesting scenes to photograph, individuals split off momentarily to capture an image and then return to the group. Club member Graham Park is intrigued by a vintage fire escape ladder on the side of the Holt building, while Daryl Patterson focuses on the unique architecture of the Uptown Branch Post Office. Plants, signs, sculptures, textures and shadows of this historic district are just some of the subjects that the participants target for photos.
At this hour of evening, most businesses are now closed and several shop owners are locking up for the night but life is still in the air. Small groups of people are out and about walking and some are being "walked" by their four-legged friends. Cars drive by on their way to loft apartments located throughout Uptown and the smell of delicious food wafts from the nearby restaurants Hugo's and Mtn' Jax. Light music is heard from a distant vehicle and nearby a crow caws.
During the walk, club members commented on businesses that they did not know existed and on features of the city that one never sees while zipping by in a car. Walking the streets slowly and with focus to really see the surroundings offers a unique way to rediscover a place that you only thought you knew. As we continued on, the comments kept pouring in... "Oh, I didn't know we had a bicycle shop." "Did you know that antique store was here?" "Have you been to that museum before?" It made my heart smile to see residents getting excited about their own community and reconnecting with it through the art of photography. Gargoyles perched atop buildings on Walnut Street, decorative grates in the sidewalks on Main Street, hand painted murals on Fayette Street and vintage signs throughout the area were all studied in great detail by this group of photographers. Each one trying to snap an interesting photo that captured the scene just so.
The Henry County Pro-Am Photography club is sponsored by Henry County Parks & Recreation. The mission of the club is to promote the enjoyment of photography to the hobbyist, artist, and professional, by the sharing of knowledge, experience and ideas among it's members. The outing this evening is no different, the members gave each other suggestions for photo angles, discussed their latest equipment purchases and checked out sneak peeks of each other's photos on the digital displays. They share stories, laughter and camaraderie in the fading light as they walked through town. Soon a dark sky above the warm glow of street lamps reminds everyone that it is getting late and time to go home.
Before the group disperses, Club President Rocky Wall tells everyone about the next month's photo outing. They are excited about the new challenge ahead while also anxious to take a closer look at their photos captured this evening. In the words of the renowned French photographer Elliot Erwitt "To me, photography is an art of observation. It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place... I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them."