The Unseen Illness

| Wednesday, April 18, 2012

For one of my senior capstone classes, I've been working with eight other students to profile some individuals who are working to provide care for people with mental illness. A consistent theme I've heard from various people in the community is that there is a stigma associated with mental illness. When someone has a broken leg, their injury is visible whereas mental illness is often not visible. Consequently, mental illness is frequently unseen by people who aren't directly connected to the issue.

We published our first round of stories today. You can find them on our project's website called The Unsung System: The Hidden Network That Cares for Missouri's Mentally Ill.

Below are a few photos I shot of Karren Jones. Katy Bergen wrote the story and captions that pair with the photos.

Karren was wonderful to work with even though I only had about an hour with her. And it was great getting to collaborate with Katy Bergen.

Karren Jones, 67, answers the WARMline at the National Alliance on Mental Illness Missouri office in Jefferson City. The WARMline is meant to offer encouragement and support to those living with mental illness. Jones, who lives with four mental illnesses, says it’s easier for callers to open up to her because she understands many of their struggles.

Karren Jones, 67, is often the first one to arrive to the National Alliance on Mental Illness Missouri office in Jefferson City. She began working at NAMI in 1989 after mental illness caused her to go on disability from her job. “The president of NAMI told me that if I wanted to I could come to the office and help out,” Jones said. “I helped so much that they put me on the payroll.” Today, Jones is a phone responder, mentor and speaker for the organization.

Karren Jones is a phone responder, mentor and speaker for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Missouri. She was 19 when she first saw an angel in the backseat of her 1953 Ford Crown Victoria. Jones, 67, knows the angels are hallucinations, symptoms of the mental illnesses she’s had for most of her life. Still, she finds them comforting — they let her know a room will be safe.

Big Man On Court Basketball Tournament

| Friday, April 6, 2012

On Thursday, April 5 Pi Beta Phi held their Big Man On Court basketball tournament. The proceeds go to the Pi Beta Phi foundation and to First Book to promote national literacy. For a college fundraiser, the players get extremely competitive. It was fun to attend and fun to photograph.

Family First in the Family Restaurant

| Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Trish and Chuck Vernon purchased the Main Street Cafe in Eldon, Missouri two years ago. Despite their busy lunch boom, the Vernons operate the cafe entirely on their own. Eighty percent of their customers are regulars that come in on a daily or weekly basis. The Vernon's thoroughly enjoy their business, but they say they will always put family first. Their biggest priority is their 9 year old son, Maxwell.

Spring Break In Texas

| Monday, April 2, 2012

I spent most of my spring break in Texas this year. I traveled back and forth between Austin and Dallas. Honestly, it was just really nice to be home with my family.

Here is a photo of my 16 year old brother Drew at a cross country competition. I'm glad to see at least one person in my family excelling at athletics.

Mid-Missouri Bee Keeping

| Sunday, March 18, 2012

Yesterday I went to the Mid-Missouri Beekeeping meeting. I've been wanting to shoot beekeeping for a while. What I found most interesting about the meeting was how large the beekeeping community is in Missouri. I really enjoyed watching the wide variety of individuals that were there. I watched enthutiasts intermingle with professionals and discuss the different facets of beekeeping. I look forward to getting to know some more individuals in the community and to check out some bees.

Warm Weather

| Friday, March 16, 2012

It's unusually warm for March, which means I find any excuse I can to go outside. Here is to enjoying my last months in Missouri before I leave for Arizona this summer.

One Day Story with Donna Walter

| Thursday, February 23, 2012

This project was supposed to be shot in one day. Our professor allowed some flexibility with that guideline. But the woman I worked with, Donna Walter, joked with me that I couldn't possibly tell her story in just one day. After spending the day with her, I agree. She is a complex and interesting person with rich life experiences. I so appreciate her opening her life up to me, and I hope I have the opportunity to photograph her again in the future.

Donna Walter walks through her backyard wearing a coat that she calls wearable art. Walter’s yard has a variety of eclectic objects on display including two giant stuffed catfish, mannequins, Virgin Marry sculptures and more. “I’d say it’s all found objects. And I’m a thrift store junky.” Walter spent fifteen years around architects and artists before moving to Columbia.

Donna Walter kisses her dog Chewy on Wednesday, February 22. Donna starts her mornings by getting a cup of coffee at Coffee Zone and walking her two dogs. The dogs go almost everywhere with her.

Sister Abigail, Donna Walter and Lisa Guroshong listen to Steve Gallagher’s writing exercise. Walter meets the writing group on Wednesday mornings at Kaldi's coffee shop to socialize and do writing exercises with the group.

Donna Walter twirls in a skirt in front of Tricia Straub and Kathy Gordon. The women were exchanging used clothes that the didn't want anymore. Walter is 67 and is retired. She spends her time engaging in a variety of activities. “I just like to play. I’m really good at playing…and throwing parties.”

Tricia Straub, Donna Walter, Katie Young and Kathy Gordon meditate on Wednesday, February 22. The all female mediation group’s goal is to send positive energy to people that are ailing. Walter engages in a variety of spiritual practices on a regular basis including Buddhism, Christianity and Sufism.

Donna Walter eats lunch at the Olive Garden Cafe on Wednesday, February 22. Walter enjoys trying different restaurants in Columbia and eating exotic foods like lamb and goat meat. She once ate baby camel when she lived in Northern Africa. Walter has lived in many places including Switzerland, Paris, New York City and on a one thousand acre ranch in California. “Some people say ‘you should write down your stories’ and I say I’m too busy still having them.”

Bird by Bird

| Sunday, February 12, 2012

“There are an enormous number of people out there with invaluable information to share with you, and all you have to do is pick up the phone. They love it when you do, just as you love it when people ask you if they can pick your brain about something you happen to know a great deal about- or, as in my case, you have a number of impassioned opinions on.” Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird.

I was driving around and looking for new people to talk to when I saw something that made me stop. It was a yard filled with interesting…stuff. Mannequins, stuffed catfish, Madonna statues, a tank, a bald eagle and more placed across a yard in front of a Columbia home. I sat in my car and thought about how I would introduce myself. But I remembered reading that passage in Bird by Bird. I convinced myself that a person with this yard made a decision to make it look this way and they would want to talk to me. I knocked, but no one answered. So I worked up the courage to write a slightly awkward note- hi my name is Christie, I thought your yard looks interesting. I’d like to talk to you and take your picture. Give me a call.

The woman that lived there did give me a call. And she turned out to be an immensely interesting individual. More details on my meeting with her to come.

LueElla Canton

| Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I didn’t anticipate turning in this assignment for my Picture Story class. I’ve been sick with bronchitis and coughing in a subject’s face is less then appealing. My professor helped me create an alternative assignment, but I woke up this morning feeling significantly better. I got off of work at 5 and I figured it would be a cop out to not attempt to find a subject.

I convinced myself that there are loads of interesting people with interesting stories out there. I need only find them and ask.

I was driving aimlessly for a while hoping to see people on their porches or walking around their neighborhoods. But it was getting dark and most people were inside.

I was pretty discouraged until I drove by a building with a crowd of people out front. I thought I saw someone waving to me to come in but I kept driving. A block away I realized this was a mistake. You have to look for signs and opportunities. I turned around and parked my car.

It was the All People’s Missionary Baptist Church in Columbia where I had been waved down. I was quickly welcomed inside and introduced to a lot of wonderful people. I sat through the service because I wanted to get a feel for what this church community was like. I was amazed by the openness, honesty and passion displayed.

Tonight I focused on LueElla Canton. She has been a pastor at this church for twelve years and started preaching when she was nine. This video is a very small part of her story. I hope to work with her more in the future and to continue to tell her story.

snapshots from my summer out of a suitecase.

| Monday, January 30, 2012

I had a pretty unbelievable summer. I went to nine countries in 7 weeks- the Bahamas, Greece, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, Holland, Belgium, France and Spain. It's amazing how much is out there and how beautiful it all is.