Keys for the City

Keys for the Hill City is a new public art installation in Lynchburg: 5 donated pianos were decorated by local high school students and placed along Main Street for anyone to use. I have played them a few times in passing and regularly see people use them on their lunch breaks or while walking around in the evenings. We are all hoping they are treated well so they come back again next year. I followed students at Brookville for a month as they worked their piano and put it together as a slideshow after it was unveiled.

Enabling Musicians

My latest project for the In Harmony series. See the whole series (thus far) online: In Harmony: Music in Central Virginia.

Working mostly out of Bedford, James Jones has spent over 30 years refining his craft: building acoustic musical instruments. “You have to put the time in. And I have put the time in.” His expertly crafted hammered dulcimers have been shipped and played around the world. Octave mandolins, harps, zithers and psalteries also take shape in his shop, which he always worked by himself. “You feel like an enabler. Because that’s really what instrument builders are,” said Jones. “The fact that you’re working with your hands and creating things out of materials has its own satisfactions but you also realize that what you ultimately produce is making music.”

Music Maker

The News & Advance photo department is starting a monthly series on people of Central Virginia who are connected to the music scene in some way. Called “In Harmony,” we hope to find a diverse set of individuals who are all tied together through music.

This is the first slideshow in the series.

Raymond Buckner is a recording engineer and producer at Hallow Tree Recording Studios in Lynchburg. Originally from Danville, Buckner started on his path in music in eighth grade, forming a band with friends and recording demo tracks in his bedroom. Building on his music education at Liberty University, last year he joined James Walz, the owner of the Hallow Tree, and now oversees three to four sessions a week with musicians of all genres.

Love is Love

In preparation for Valentine’s Day, I have been working for the last month on a story about a couple with Down syndrome. Reporter Amy Trent approached me with the idea and, after the first day of shooting, I decided it was worth pursuing as an audio slideshow.

I owe a sincere thanks to the Overstreet and Little families for allowing us in and trusting us with Nathan and Christy’s story. Please turn your audio up and click below to play. Amy’s wonderful article is here.

Riding with Grace

Even though I had never been to a “biker church” when I took on this project, I somehow found exactly what I expected. Simply put, rough looking guys from all walks of life, meeting in a less-than-traditional space for worship. But I wasn’t prepared for the fervor and passion that filled the tiny space; pastor Billy Powell’s hoarse voice bounced off every wall of the dingy thrift store converted sanctuary where old armchairs (all for sale) accommodated the overflow guests. Just like the days when he was a scrappy fighter in his motorcycle “club,” Powell meets his new duties head-on and follows through. I can’t say for certain where he spends the rest of his days, as he is almost impossible to track down outside of the church (I heard he works at some construction sites as well as a tattoo shop), but I met people from 20, 30 miles around who had come in to hear him preach and share about his new life, serving the Lord. At his handlebar-adorned pulpit is, to me, where this story is certainly centered.



Anna donated her hair to a cancer-wig foundation (there are several organizations other than Locks of Love that are in need of hair donations), and Salon Nefisa downtown let me in to take pictures the process.

Not a new story by any means, seems like there were a wave of these three or four years ago, but fun to shoot on my lunch break. I have been struggling to keep sharp with my shooting, giving myself mini assignments and shooting them journalistically. I feel like there is a “use it or lose it” philosophy to really maintaining all the skills and intuition I have developed over the last four years. For several months before the Post-Dispatch internship came through, I considered how easy it would be to abandon the path of a career in photojournalism in lieu of a more immediate means to financial stability. But I can’t see myself happy in the least doing anything else. I am willing to explore my potential as a photographer outside of newspapers (which I think is smart, and most others are doing already) but even with the bad state of the industry I am not taking my camera off my shoulder.