I grew up hearing about Elijah P. Lovejoy. I guess that’s because I’m from the Riverbend area.
When I got to journalism school at Eastern Illinois University, I was astounded that no one had heard of him. I get that the average Chicagoan was unlikely to know a lot about the town of Alton, but surely they had heard of this abolitionist, who was, after all, a journalist like themselves. Not so much, apparently.
We were on an Opinion Writing field trip to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2005/2006 when I took several friends on a detour on our way back to Charleston, Illinois. We sat in Robert Wadlow’s chair and visited the Lovejoy Monument, as I had done many times before. But I’d never wandered into the Alton City Cemetery, though, until just recently.
I started at the 110-foot monument, designed by architect R. P. Bringhurst. It was erected in 1897 to honor the memory of Lovejoy, who was the editor of The Alton Observer until his death in 1837, a day before his 35th birthday. Carved near the statue, a quote,
“I have sworn eternal opposition to slavery, and by the blessing of God, I will never go back.“
(Inscription on the Lovejoy Monument in Alton City Cemetery)
Before his death, pro-slavery advocates made a number of attacks on his printing press, trying to quiet the voice of the American abolitionist. Lovejoy was eventually shot and killed by a pro-slavery mob during one of those attacks. According to Wikipedia, he was originally buried in an unmarked grave until 1860, when local newspaper editor Thomas Dimmock located the grave and arranged for a proper marker. Some of his supporters are allegedly buried near him.
This March, I visited his actual gravesite for the first time, and photographed it for my film photography course. There was something special about being there. Today, Lovejoy is considered a martyr for the abolition movement and his gravesite is sacred, especially to a journalist like myself. Even though I no longer work in the field, it was an honor to stand there and reflect on my journey as well as the state of the world today.
Lovejoy’s impact is still a part of the Riverbend. The Telegraph, in Alton, where I worked as a reporter, page designer and web editor for three years right out of college, still bears the image of Lovejoy’s monument on its masthead. A local elementary school is named after him. The library where I studied at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville bears his name as well.
Still, the battle for racial and social justice is an uphill climb and a continuing battle in this community and beyond.
One year ago today – not to the date, but to the day – on the Friday before Spring Break, college leaders met around a huge table in the Foundation Board room and discussed the threat of COVID-19. We would extend spring break by a week, long enough to allow faculty some time to revert their courses to a virtual format. We prepared to hunker down for a month or two, or possibly longer.
Well, we all know how that turned out. Exactly one year later, our community’s positivity metric has finally dipped below, and stayed below 5% for weeks, and there are three vaccines being deployed across the U.S. My dad gets his second Moderna shot on Monday. Mom and I will get our second Pfizer shot in about a week. My husband had the Johnson & Johnson shot, so one and done. And Amelia starts school five days a week on Monday.
The college is preparing to begin reopening, and it’s likely I’ll be back on campus this summer… definitely by August. This thing isn’t over yet, but the end feels like it might finally be in sight. And that’s good, because I’m exhausted. This year, I’m taking spring break off work. I’m going to spend 8 days with my kids and one in the darkroom.
As I settle in tonight to begin said vacation, I can hear the insects and other wildlife singing outside. Time “springs forward” tomorrow night. Spring is almost officially here.
“I am good at a lot of things, but great at very few.” That’s what the voice inside my head always tells me. When it comes to my art, especially, I have a serious case of imposter syndrome. “I’m not good enough.” “Other people can do it better.” “It doesn’t speak to anyone but me.” “People who say they like it are just trying to please me.” “Why don’t more people like it?” The self-doubt runs rampant.
Yet, I feel the need to create. I’m a good writer, but I don’t have the attention span to maintain interest in a story long enough to write a novel. I love to paint and draw, but – and I’m not being self deprecating here, just honest – I don’t know what the heck I am doing with a paintbrush or a pencil. I am not tone deaf and have a pretty good ear for music, but my voice cannot carry a tune to match and I never successfully stuck with learning an instrument.
My one constant has been my love of photos. Nothing lasts forever, you see, except a photograph. It started with home photos, snapshots and selfies throughout my formative years – a way to remember the moments and the people who helped make me who I am today. I never took much stock in the quality of the photos or the process of creating them, but I documented everything so I would have it forever.
In college, I took the requisite visual communication classes for my journalism degree, and held my first DSLR in the student newsroom. I admired my friends on the photo staff and marveled at the way they portrayed the things that were happening around us. When I graduated, photography became a component of my job – but it was less about the process and more about the subject of the photos that went with the stories I wrote as a local journalist.
A photographer friend and mentor of mine used to tell me I had a good eye, and ever since then, I’ve worked to improve my camera skills so I could make the pictures I see in my head of the beauty in ordinary things and in the people I love that make my life worth living. I’m still learning, and I always will be.
After the crazy year that was 2020, I needed an outlet. In January 2021, I began taking a film photography class at Lewis and Clark Community College, and I fell in love. The hands-on process of taking a photo without the crutch of the digital screen, and the tactile process of developing the film, then enlarging, printing and perfecting the photos in the darkroom, fed a part of my soul that has been starving for a long time.
Years ago, I stepped away from client photography to concentrate on my full time job and having a family – but I never really left the photo life. It’s just that most of my work these days centers around Lewis and Clark Community College and my two beautiful girls <3.
I’ve grown a lot over the years, and my work speaks for itself. I feel more at home with a camera in my hand than ever, and I’m eager to continue sharing my work with others.
After 5+ years of finding my identity as a mommy, it’s time to get back to me just a little.
So I’m relaunching my Facebook page today under a new brand, and a new name – my own. I’m open to working with clients again on a limited basis, but mostly I just want to put my work out there and get back to doing something I love. Thank you for sharing in my journey.