Michael W. Thomas
March 9, 2020

My Photography Beginnings

I remember it was January 2016, one of the coldest days that year where my photographer friend Daryl @daryloharephotography and I took a walk on Big Creek Greenway where I had my first photography lesson,. Daryl insisted on capturing my image so I reluctantly agreed so she gets credit and so much more in introducing me to my new found passion with the camera

I was taking a genealogy course and the topic of seeking out family photo albums to use in telling the story of my family tree was discussed. It brought back fond memories of my dad as the family photographer and videographer.

It reminded me that I at some time had interest in photography having the opportunity in my Humanities course in high school to check out a 35mm camera to complete a project.

 I remember my dad trying to teach me the different components of the camera when all I was interested in or capable of (numbers challenged) was to point and shoot. Well another trip to Radio Shack with my dad provided me with a build your own 35mm camera.

I can say that I was able to assemble it but cannot remember if I ever took a successful photo with it.

Many years later the need to capture our kids in their school and sporting events put me behind the lens with the main objective  to capture all aspects of family trips and kids’ events.

I’m not sure exactly what it was that planted in my head many years later that I wanted to get back into photography but the genealogy course did stir up my photography interest. So after class quick trip to Best Buy set me on my mid life crisis trek to photography.

I spent the first few months capturing nature on the Big Creek Greenway, the basics, birds, squirrels, anything that moved or slivered onto the path.

Shortly after, I had to run an errand to a part of Atlanta that is well hidden from the ever present Atlanta Skyline. Every city has these areas where the community has been overlooked, overrun and neglected from the growth boom most big cities experience but no doubt leverage the undesired part of town to contribute cheap labor to build and support businesses of the iconic skylines that hide and overlook the less fortunate.

I pulled off in a parking lot where I walked around and observed abandoned schools, neighborhoods, pop up vendors selling their wares and more than normal down on their luck people walking around.

I was ashamed, embarrassed, angry and brought to tears, the only thing I saw of significant worth was a MARTA (public transportation) Station  conveniently place to transport people from the neighborhood to other places in the city to basically menial jobs.

It was there that I reluctantly snapped my first “street” shot, an old man sitting outside of a package store and as covert as I tried to be he looked at me just as I pressed the shutter.

I edited it in a vintage filter to make note that there is no time relevancy in the image.

Another image I captured was of a grandmother (I’m assuming) and her granddaughter standing in this empty hillside. I could feel love, fatigue and hope while knowing life was going to be an uphill struggle.

It was that moment that I knew I needed to tell stories, to reveal the unseen and help people understand that the tremors are still felt from vibrations of ugly stains set hundreds of years before.

In addition to my lecturing and teaching of African American History I had also found another voice from my heart, my soul and my eyes to help others know “The Why” and to understand the parts of American History that was left out by design.

I also enjoy capturing positive, happy images to balance the scale of life, families enjoying themselves, people laughing and just about anything that will cause a smile.

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