A Little Side Project
11 November

A Little Side Project

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Annie Hilliard and me.
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Jill Ferree www.jillferree.com
One of the best things that has happened since we have moved to Tybee is we now have overflowing circles of friends. Don't get me wrong, we do have wonderful friends in Virginia, and I still love them very much. What is so different here is people live at a much slower pace of life. Taking time to spend with each other loving life together. We cherish each day as we are gifted with an abundance of friends on our little piece of paradise. Sure there are the beautiful sunrises, and sunsets...but more than that it is the people we get to share it with. We have many like minded people here. There is a lot of diversity, but there is an island mentality present that permeates everyone in some way.  Most of our friends are either self-employed entrepreneurs, artists or musicians (or all of the above) most of the time, their schedule is their own. Living spontaneously, its not out of place to congregate at a local restaurant or bar at any time during the day or night. Almost two years ago, I met Jill. Sean and I were gathering with other locals all decked out in green, purple and gold at Tybee Social club waiting for the Mardi Gras Parade to begin. Tybee loves parades and there are at least nine official parades that happen through out the year some are a huge hit with thousands of participants and some you don't want to blink or you just might miss the whole thing. But either way, Tybeenians love parades, like we really need further reason to celebrate? Each community celebration, we have the opportunity to meet more of our neighbors. This day was no different. Jill introduced herself to us and was so warm and friendly. At this point, we were still rather newbies on the island. We shared our story with her of how we found our way to this cherished little clump of sand. Within a few weeks we were official facebook friends and got to know each other a little better. It is really kind of funny because many people here are on facebook and even though we share space within 3 miles of wonderland, you get to know someone's interests a little more when you are facebook friends. Jill is a very accomplished artist and I have always admired her work as it graces the walls of  her son and daughter-in-law's restaurant, Tybee Island Social Club. Fast forward about 12 months. I was telling Sean that I was thinking about doing a personal project. I wanted to photograph artists at work. I told him that I wanted to start with photographing Jill as she was painting. Not sure if she would even agree to this,  (many artists are peculiar beings and might not want anyone watching them work , much less making a permanent record of it) I made mention of this to Jill as we were hanging out on the deck one late, hot summer night. Sipping ice cold beer as the condensation gathered in pools on the table, I explained my thoughts of this project. She was delighted and seemed genuinely excited about my idea. She went on to tell me details of some of the accomplishments in her life and how she would like to share her story and have it as a record of legacy for her children and grandchildren. A few weeks later she followed up with a phone call telling me some of her ideas too. We had a mutual friend, Annie, who is a very talented writer  (we did not know Annie was a mutual friend until a little later) .  Jill arranged for the three of us to get together and discuss Annie writing about Jill's life and me taking the photographs for the piece. It would be a three person partnership project, celebrating each of our talents in a new and exciting way. Meeting once a week as the August summer heat pounded on the island, we would sit on Jill's front porch swing in the mornings and laugh and drink cold water as she would paint.  We listened as Jill would reminisce details of her life. Annie was deciding what point of view she would write the story from, amd I was clicking away capturing her brush strokes as her latest painting came to life. Until we had enough of the heat and were ready for some food, we would ride our bikes over to Social and celebrate life and new friendship. One day we decided to meet under the gazebo at 19th street, the ocean breeze kissed us and made us feel forever blessed. It was almost as time stood still. For a few hours, we had no other responsibilities, except to enjoy each others presence on a most remarkable day. The sky was a perfect blue and the most picturesque white clouds hung over the sea. In our "meetings" we found it kind of curious to discover that we are exactly 16 years apart. We share many similarities as creators in our own disciplines. Each in a different stage of life, but feeling that we were a gift to each other for this season. Its like this piece was a catalyst to span generations of artists and creative types. After about 6 weeks of photoshoots and hanging out, writing and revisions, we had a finished product and were ready to begin pitching it for possible publication. I find it amusing how I thought that I wanted a personal project for me as an artist, but I gained so much more than that. Two precious friends that are now a part of my life in a deeper and more meaningful way than I could have imagined. Sometimes you just need to step out and begin creating what your heart tells you to create and see what develops.