Yesterday I had the absolute pleasure of photographing local model, Heather Shepherd Gardner. Some people are just naturals in front of the camera, enjoy the photos!
If the community was a parent and Steve Stones it’s child, Stones would be the black lamb of the family who everyone wants to keep quiet about. Stones has graced the pages of the local newspaper on numerous occasions due to some of his shocking content. His latest censorship occurred two summers ago in the very conservative community of North Ogden, and consequently he made the front page of the Ogden Standard Examiner over the word, “Sex.” Despite his Latter Day Saint upbringing, Stones is openly a critic of religion to the point of Atheism. Stones states the reason for this perspective is “I’ve seen how religion chokes people’s perception of life; if people are ideologically entrenched in their beliefs, it causes them to look at the world from a very narrow perspective. Gay marriage and women’s right to contraception are examples of how religion is a way of controlling thoughts and behaviors. Religion doesn’t coincide with creativity.” “Our previous president [George W. Bush] stated ‘God told him to go to war,’ look at what this has led to. He put both wars on a credit card and it has changed our whole capitalistic system because now the American People are having to pay off that debt and had caused companies to lay people off.” Stones continues,” Think about it, if there’s a God, would God really want people to go to war? If we’re all Children of God, then would God really want one child to kill the other? It doesn’t make any sense.”Also a critic of capitalistic culture, Stones’ perspective is seen in his artworks as well; for example, although it seems funny to some, here’s one of his coveted pieces entitled, “Crucifixion of the Hamburger Messiah.” “We are a culture obsessed with symbols, when you see symbols used in contemporary culture they typically have nothing to do with the products they represent. It’s just an eye-catching way of getting the consumer to pay attention to the product. Symbols become iconic, just like religious symbols” Stones says. Although I have a better tolerance level for religion, many people including myself tend to agree with Stones. It’s no accident that “In God We Trust,” is the motto printed upon the American Currency, or that McDonalds ranks #1 in the American Food Industry, despite exposure of questionable ethics and the potential consequences of its global popularity.
My sister traveled to Europe for her 40th birthday and brought back several photographs and souvenirs. I truly appreciate the fact that I was on her mind while she was among such a wondrous environment. I’m very grateful to have such a loving, caring sister. She works very hard and deserved every second of that trip! Additionally, the photos were just awesome and I found myself asking how the environment smelled, what the temperature was like, how was the humidity, etc. (you know, questions about all of the other senses that can’t be duplicated).
Some of her photos were mini-videos. We’re so lucky to live in an age when communication is so easily accomplished with the advances of camera phones! My sister played one of the videos; I admired the crystal clear, high resolution motion picture of her riding with her husband at the back of a boat in Venice. Her amazed expressions were childlike as the boat floated along canals dividing intricate buildings connected by bridges which were centuries old. I was reminded of what a foreign exchange student said once in a college class a few years ago when one of my fellow students had inquired about culture shock, she simply stated “One of the biggest adjustments for me is the fact that you don’t have buildings in America as historical as we have in France and all of Europe.”
As I lay in bed that night, it occurred to me that perhaps America is missing something, and it isn’t even our fault. We don’t have the intricate, centuries old buildings they have in Europe, or any of the appreciation. What is the importance of these structures? I believe they keep us in touch with our humanity. One can look at a historical structure of Europe as a tangible echo erected by the hands of some civilization who trod the very same ground ages ago. Here in America, we have centuries and an ocean between ourselves and our humanity.
The values between Europe and America differ greatly; for example, Notre Dame Cathedral still stands centuries after its groundbreaking during the year 1163. Here in Ogden, Utah where I live, the distinctive Mormon Temple which was dedicated in 1972 was recently demolished mere decades after it was built due to the structure “being architecturally out of style.” Here in America, it’s out with the old, in with the new and capitalism reigns supreme. If something breaks, we throw it away and buy another.
As my sister continued with her fascinating presentation of photographs, she came upon photos of her nephew being trolleyed away on a gurney after dislocating his knee while exploring Paris. Sadly, the young man had to be sent back home to the United States and his European trip was cut short; however, the entire medical expense was only around 100 American dollars. There was no waiting for ages to be seen by a medical professional and the whole process was very smooth.
It’s pretty sad when one can get injured on foreign soil and be treated far better in that country than if the injury happened while a citizen in the United States. We are a country of misguided consumerists, who push our elderly off into nursing homes and forget about them. We cannot wrap our minds around the thought of actually caring for our family members in their times of need, let alone caring for our fellow citizens; instead, we try our hardest to sidestep any sort of responsibility, from one human to another.
Last week, I volunteered at the Ogden Union Station. It was decided that the task which I could best serve the community was to wash the glass. I was grateful I was told to take my time, as it was understood that the contents of the building and cases were of interesting historical value. If you know Ogden’s Union Station, you know about the museums contained within the building. Of these displays, the one that stood out to me the most was The John M. Browning Firearms Museum.
As I was obviously putting my most excellent glass washing skills to use, I couldn’t help but realize that such a collection was worth more than a life. I stared down the barrel of an old pistol, wondering who may have owned the weapon, who may have been injured by such an instrument, and who wasn’t so lucky to survive seeing the very same sight.
I began to question how a single man was able to generate so much revenue just by patenting and crafting better killing machines. The name of the game is to outdo the competition; but, where could this possibly lead?
As I took a small breather, the man in the museum told me a love story about Val Browning and his wife, Ann Chaffin Browning. Apparently, Ann liked to shoot clay pigeons and wanted to have a more ladylike shotgun, so her husband lovingly crafted one for her. Although the sentiment was very sweet, I often wonder why humanity values something such as a gun.
I admire the creative ingenuity to make human life more simple; however, guns are an art form that gives one power to end a life in an instant without even requiring the need to think about it first– just pull the trigger.
In conclusion, I wonder how society can place so much more value on an object such as a gun, yet undervalue artists who work diligently to get those who participate in their works to face humanity, to value life, to think, and to actually care.
Even though I washed every inch of glass in that room, I’m not sure how clear patrons of The John M. Browning Firearms Museum will be able to view the contents inside.