The news of the flooding in and around Nashville began hitting the local media Saturday afternoon. Speculation held that we would receive at least eight inches of rain in a twenty-four hour period; however, the estimates were off by nearly ten inches. I woke up Sunday morning to a phone call informing me that the farmers market four blocks from my apartment had sustained massive flood damage. Ignoring the requests by law enforcement to stay home, the defiant adventurer in me decided to grab my gear and go. My original objective was to take still photos of the happenings in and around my neighborhood, but I quickly realized that still photos wouldn’t have done much justice. I saw shop owners wading chest-deep in murky water, trying to save what was left of their livelihoods; contents of their shops floating all around them. I saw families evacuated from their homes without a chance to collect their only belongings. I drove past parking lots full of vehicles almost completely submerged in water. This kind of flooding hasn’t been seen in Nashville in over seventy years; we simply weren’t prepared for it.
The human element to this story is vast and far-reaching. Lives have been lost, homes and cars destroyed, entire neighborhoods underwater and their inhabitants displaced. The news media had focused so much on the water rising instead of what the rising water was directly affecting; people. I didn’t set out to capitalize on a tragedy. I didn’t set out on a vast humanitarian effort. I set out to take pictures of people in my neighborhood and I ended up getting caught up in the emotion of what I was capturing. I wanted to share what I was seeing and experiencing and I did it the best way I knew how.
The way I see it, if you are true to yourself and true to your craft, people will see the real heart and motivation behind your actions and respond appropriately. I have a huge problem with so called “slacktivists” who are quick to talk and slow to act. There are far too many artists, writers, musicians and photographers who align themselves with causes and do little, if nothing, to help with said causes. They tend to be vocal, uninformed, and carry a sense of entitlement that their art is more important or more necessary than others. These are sharply contrasted by those who dedicate their art and their lives to capturing and sharing the needs of the less fortunate. I’m seeing that we can use our art to promote true, good, and meaningful change; not the kind spouted by slick politicians using enigmatic buzzwords. The catch is, you’ll never know what good can come of your work if you don’t get out there and use your talents.
For those curious about the technical aspects of the video, it was shot completely with a Canon 5D Mark II at 1080p and 24 frames per second. I mainly used Canon’s 85mm and 50mm primes as well as a 35mm on a few shots. I edited and color corrected in Adobe Premiere Pro CS4. The shakiness of the video was a bit of a concern for me, but I’m not a videographer so I don’t have all of the necessary tools. Shooting this showed me the need for shoulder stabilization and a follow focus.
I don’t claim to be a great artist or a great photographer. I’m certainly not a great cinematographer. This was my second attempt ever at shooting and editing a video. As the news services picked it up and Twitter exploded with retweets from various blogs, I began feeling very uncomfortable about the “success” of my work. The praise received began to feel misdirected and frankly, wrong. This wasn’t supposed to be about me and my abilities – it was about getting the word out about a tragedy which the mainstream media had yet to satisfactorily cover. Soon after the buzz began to die down, I started receiving numerous notes thanking me for bringing this tragedy to light. I heard from viewers who were brought to tears by the images I had captured. I heard moving personal stories from people directly affected by the tragedy. As of writing this, my video has received over 130,000 views. That’s 130,000 people who otherwise may have not heard about what was happening. Even though it wasn’t my original intent, I’m thankful for the opportunity to share Nashville’s current situation with so many people.
If you feel inclined to help, but you live outside of the Nashville area, there are several local charities to which you can donate. I can wholeheartedly recommend The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, Hands On Nashville, and The Salvation Army.