One-handed Picker

At the start of a busy day, at the end of a long week, I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting and photographing George Evans. My time with him was uplifting as well as humbling. George was born with several birth defects, including a stump hand. However, with a nub of a thumb just big enough to fit with a guitar pick, he turned to music as a kid and never looked back. His talent and dedication opened doors to him that usually stay closed to people with his disabilities. Learning guitar, bass, and dobro led him to play alongside greats such as Joe Isaacs, Charlie Waller and Ralph Stanley.

These days his eyesight is going bad and he most frequently plays at his brother’s small church in Lynchburg. He had us meet there for the photos. When I walked inside the the simple, brick building, it was dim and sparsely decorated and I thought I’d be lucky to get a decent shot out of it. The windows were covered with heavy curtains but I discovered that the glass panes behind were frosted, giving off a lovely, soft light. Using that, I found a nice spot for George and made some frames of him holding first his dobro and then the 1939 Martin guitar that his father passed down to him. As I started to pack up, I asked if I might try the guitar. He said yes, so I sat down and strummed a few chords. Easily the best-sounding guitar I’ve ever played and one with a rich history as well. Very mellow with a lot of soul. George sat down next to me with his dobro and told me to play anything, that he’d figure it out. Although we jammed for just a couple minutes, taking that short time-out put me in a totally different mindset and reminded me that this job is full of wonderful surprises.

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