Two-thousand and eighteen is nearly behind us. It was an extraordinary year in terms of our nation experiencing unprecedented things, primarily related to our president.
It was a period of painful adjustment for me personally, yet also a time of new triumphs. I adjusted to moving away from downtown Chattanooga while also taking on new roles in my career and acquiring new skills. I struggled to produce as much photography as I would have preferred and could have done under more favorable conditions; finding available collaborators among my previous models proved difficult and forced me to scout some fresh new faces.
I lost good friends to illness and tragedy. I found myself working to reconcile my own circumstances. It was a year of monster storms and wildfires as climate change reared its ugly head, even as Trump and his cronies acted in defiance of the inevitable catastrophes our planet faces. Justice reared its head as evidence and indictment accumulated as the voters called for accountability. We head into 2019 with breathless anticipation of gavels falling.
I started out the year mourning the death of my friend Chris Wright, who passed after a long illness; he and I became good friends when he was the county librarian and I was a local newspaper reporter. In early 2018, I was still coming to grips with lacking a studio space for photo shoots due to moving out of my downtown Chattanooga apartment – doing outdoor shoots was problematic with a colder-than-normal winter and multiple snow events to keep things interesting. People I photographed included Hope Norwood.
In the world: The US government shut down for two days because of a dispute over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The first total lunar eclipse since 1983 happened on the 31st.
At my day job, Riverworks Marketing in Chattanooga, my bosses announced they would be hiring someone to become an SEO & copywriting specialist. I immediately let them know that I was interested in filling the position. I also officially became a “Google Trusted Photographer” during the month of February. My sister and I celebrated her birthday at Mi Casita with our friends, then rocked out at a Guns N’ Roses tribute show at the DeKalb Theatre that was a blast from the past. I did some killer food and venue photos at Il Primo Italian Restaurant in Ooltewah TN. My stepfather Monroe Browder was hospitalized for sepsis and we worried he might not make it (spoiler alert: thankfully, he did).
In the world: The Winter Olympics were held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. A passenger plane crashed in Moscow, killing 71 people, while an Iranian plane crashed, killing 65. Space X conducted its maiden flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket. A school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida killed 17 people and injured another 17. Billy Graham died. Charges were brought against 13 Russians linked to a Kremlin-backed “troll factory” that stirred political division among Americans. Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller hit former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort with new charges and secured a cooperation deal from his deputy, racking up 5 guilty pleas and 22 defendants charged.
I drove down to Tuscaloosa in the rain to do a photo shoot with Bethany Raquel; I got some shots of the campus while waiting on her. I made a note in my journal of how mean-spirited things were becoming in the country due to politics: “I don’t even recognize people that I’ve loved before.” My sister Anita took me to Atlanta for my 50th birthday; we connected with our college buddy “Pablo” and went to a beer festival in Roswell, the Twin Peaks restaurant, then the Pink Pony. The work crew took me out to Big River Grille near Hamilton Place for drinks and dinner on my actual birthday day. Model Jessica Brown drove over to Trion GA and shot with me in Mentone.
In the world: China changed its constitution to allow Xi Jinping to be “president for life”. Vladimir Putin was elected for a 4th term. In over 900 cities, people marched against gun violence in the “March for our lives”. The president’s top lawyer quit.
I spent part of Spring Break with my daughter, Miranda, at the Hampton Inn in Ooltewah. Prior to this break, I would normally spend spring break week in Panama City Beach, FL shooting a swimwear calendar, but I decided against doing it anymore because the city’s rules prohibiting open containers on the beach during that week specifically had rendered the place a ghost town, and thus, not a target-rich environment as far as recruiting coeds to shoot for a swimwear calendar. Miranda and I were excited to see the new Avengers movie but needed psychological counseling after walking out of it. LOL
In the world: The US, UK and France bombed Syria for a sarin attack on civilians. The FBI raided the offices of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen.
This was a difficult time for me, as I began to realize that not living in downtown Chattanooga anymore would result in a far different summertime experience. I did drive over to Cleveland to photograph the highly-choreographed wedding reception for one of my former models, Stephanie.
In the world: Trump announced he would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. A plane out of Cuba crashed, killing 112. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married in England. Trump raised tariffs on imported steel 25% and ramped up his attacks on Mueller.
I photographed the wedding of my friends Dena and Kevin on the Walnut Street Bridge, then did some pet-sitting for them while they were in Puerto Rico on their honeymoon. My daughter was with me part of the time, and we enjoyed exploring the city more than we had in a while. I went to Riverbend with my friend Yolanda and caught Third Eye Blind performing; they had more songs I recognized than I assumed I would hear. June was the month I got myself out of a bit of an emotional funk I had been in and decided not to take life quite so seriously.
In the world: Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to discuss the denuclearization of North Korea. At the G7 summit in Canada, Trump pushed for the reinstatement of Russia and proposed the elimination of tariffs. Margot Kidder and Harlan Ellison died.
My mother surprised our family by announcing that she wanted to downsize her belongings and sell her house, my childhood home, by Christmas. My sister had moved into my home in the same block after I moved into my apartment in Chattanooga, but nine months removed from living there, it was obvious to us that our space was entirely too cluttered as well. Thus began a month’s long process of sorting, throwing things away and preparing for an estate sale. I missed all of the fun of a Chattanooga summer (merely driving up there 5 days a week during the work week), but I was greatly enjoying the opportunity to spend so much time with my daughter, who I had previously only been around a couple of nights a week and every other weekend. Just a few yards away from her mother’s apartment and with so much more daylight during the summer, it became a daily occurrence to be around her, mostly sitting in our recliners and watching shows on Hulu together after work or on the weekends. We enjoyed celebrating her birthday at Lake Winnepesaukah, the famous amusement park from my youth. Photographically speaking, I got some awesome shots at an AC/DC and Def Leppard tribute band show at the DeKalb Theatre. Sadly, I had a friend to commit suicide during the month.
In the world: 12 boys and their coach were successfully rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand. Trump sided with Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence agencies in Helsinki, Finland.
And just like that, summer was ending. But not before celebrating my daughter’s birthday weekend having fun in downtown Chattanooga. It felt so good to be back down there, in the mix again, but in a different way. We ate at Mellow Mushroom and watched as a server carrying 3 pizzas dropped 2 of them – one of them almost on a baby’s head! Then we went to Sing It or Wing It karaoke. We finished the weekend gorging ourselves at the City Café downtown. I did photos at Honda of Cleveland while shooting with Aimee Kathrine Dillard of Gadsden and Savannah Fuller of Chattanooga. I also went out on my first date in ages with a friend named Jen. I also got sick at the end of the month and wouldn’t feel better for a couple of months and a couple of rounds of antibiotics.
In the world: The US reimposed sanctions on Iran. John McCain died. A federal jury convicted Paul Manafort on multiple charges while, on the same day, Trump’s former fixer Cohen pleaded guilty to financial crimes and campaign finance violations.
I attempted to take a week of vacation at the beach in Gulf Shores following my friends Robert and Emily’s wedding, but it was difficult to really enjoy being at the beach since my antibiotics made me susceptible to sunburn and we were in the midst of a heat wave that had temps up around the century mark. My sister and I ended up getting bored in Gulf Shores and headed home early after hitting the Florabama Lounge a couple of times. We got home to discover that our air conditioner had broken. I made a lot of progress clearing out the garage (it was cooler to be in there working than inside the house). I did photo shoots with Dallas and Kori. Near the end of the month, I got an out-of-the-blue message from a friend who I briefly dated the previous year who invited me to come live in her spare room at her apartment following her sister moving out. It put me in a position to spend more time in Chattanooga and avoid putting quite so many miles on my car, just as the days started getting shorter.
In the world: An earthquake in Indonesia caused a tsunami that killed 2,256 people. Burt Reynolds died.
I did another photo shoot with Marissa, formerly my bartender at Hair of the Dog, as well as a terrific shoot with my friends Megan and Jessica at Greenway Farms. Auburn fans saw our hopes for the football season crash spectacularly. I did a two-day shoot at Plastex Matting in Fort Payne for their website. My family had our uncle Leon and his wife Caroline in mind as they evacuated their beach house in St. George’s Island ahead of a very strong hurricane that struck the Florida Panhandle. A lot of places in Panama City Beach that I went to while shooting the Classmate USA calendar were wiped off the map. invited me to The Spot to meet her boyfriend.
In the world: The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing was front and center in the national consciousness. The whole country was glued to TV sets watching this woman alleging a supreme court nominee of rape testify under oath. The midterm elections heated up as pipe bombs were sent to several prominent Democrats, and there was a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Hurricane Michael hit on October 10 with winds of 155 mph. Canada legalized the sale and use of cannabis. Eleven people were killed during the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
I watched the Mid-Term Election results from a nightclub in downtown Chattanooga and felt extreme disappointment that the “Blue Wave” seemed to be a wash (although it ended up being a much bigger deal as results slowly came in). The Dems did win control of the US House of Representatives again, which was good (if you agree with my politics, anyway). It seemed like an important moment to be around me fellow citizens after two years of putting up with shenanigans from Trump & Co.
In the world: The Camp wildfire in California resulted in 88 deaths and 18,804 buildings destroyed. Trump declined to get out in the rain during ceremonies to mark the World War I centenary on Veterans Day. Former President George HW Bush, Stan Lee, Roy Clark, Spongebob Squarepants creator Stephen Hillenberg, and filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci died. Trump fired Jeff Sessions and replaced him with a loyalist who had publicly bashed Mueller.
I successfully completed a Google course on Google ads toward becoming certified as an expert. I ended up in Facebook jail for 3 days because of a photo I posted on Instagram featuring my #TopNine posts of the year. Their algorithm mistakenly labeled a black and white photo of a model wearing a light-toned bikini as a nude image. This came on the heels of Tumblr announcing they would begin censoring all risqué content, forcing me to request a manual review to have many of my posts untagged as explicit (when they weren’t!). America was taking a decidedly conservative turn as we transitioned to the final year of the 2010s.
In the world: NASA’s InSight Lander touched down on Mars and gave us the first-ever listen to the sound of wind on the Red Planet. Michael Cohen was sentenced to 3 years in prison for his crimes, while former National Security advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty. Tumblr announced it would ban pornography on the social network.