Recommitment to the Living

Back in late April a friend of mine sent me a link about a project that Athens Clarke County put together. It is called DECKed Out Athens, and I zeroed in on the 40 foot fabric banner designs Athens wants to hang from the new Parking Deck that’s being constructed downtown. The theme is Downtown Athens. I figured my kaleidoscope images would be great for the project, I could stack them on top of one another 10 times, and thus create a 4 ft by 40 ft banner.

My first challenge was to take pictures of downtown Athens, because I had none. I went for a couple of walks down Clayton Street, camera in hand, photographing shop fronts and steeples and also from the top of the parking deck that is in the heart of downtown. This gave me fodder for my first Kaleidoscope. In the meantime, I heard about my friend Mitchell’s death, and attended his memorial service. The following week I sat down to create the first kaleidoscope in the downtown series. Imagine my heart beat when I saw that most of the pictures I had taken were from May 3rd, the day Mitchell died. So the first kaleidoscope became about him, and the beautiful day that he died on. The only picture that wasn’t taken on the day he died is the one of a knight’s armor. However, this seemed especially fitting since his first wife had called Mitchell her Knight in Shining Armour at his memorial service. I figured his armor got a little tarnished from so much use over the years.

Downtown May Third 2011, by Beth Thompson

I felt no series of images about Downtown Athens would be complete without live music. The music scene is such a huge, vibrant part of Downtown Athens. One evening I looked at shows around town, and felt this incredibly strong urge to go to the Melting Point. I arrived, and started snapping pictures of the band up on stage. Imagine my heart beat when the lead singer announced that the performance was dedicated to Mitchell. So the second kaleidoscope also became about Mitchell, celebrating his life and the lives he touched.

Live Music Kaleidoscope by Beth Thompson

At this point I had reconnected with Mitchell’s older brother, Martin. I spent time telling him my stories of Mitchell, the project I was working on, and how each design seemed to be about Mitchell. I decided to run with the theme, or perhaps the theme decided to run with me. Either way, I asked Martin to loan me some pictures of Mitchell to scan for the next kaleidoscope. There was Mitchell with his brothers, Mitchell at the Mellow Mushroom with family, Mitchell in the leather jacket which he painted. Mitchell as a little boy, Mitchell with his children, Mitchell holding Eson as a little girl. Since the theme was downtown, I went for the pictures of Mitchell as an adult, with friends, in downtown Athens.

Mitchell's Kaleidoscope by Beth Thompson and Martin Atkinson 50% of the proceeds from the sale of Mitchell's Kaleidoscope will go to a fund for his children.

Finally, I photographed the Human Rights Festival Downtown. There are so many festivals that happen downtown in the spring and summer, I felt that it was appropriate to include one in my series. I also wanted pictures of the crowd moving to the beat of the music. I was actually rather frustrated on this shoot, my point and shoot camera wouldn’t focus in the soft, flat light. Never-the-less, I persevered. There is nothing about this last kaleidoscope that directly relates to Mitchell, only that the last Human Rights Festival I attended I barely missed seeing him with his video camera. I think the movie he made of that Festival is on YouTube. That and it was time for me to return to life, to recommit to life, and the living.

While the kaleidoscope for Mitchell I created to specifically honor Mitch’s life and our friendship, in the process I held each of you and the friendship that we share in my heart. I realized that for me, what downtown Athens truely symbolizes is friends, and friendship. You are the family I have chosen.

Reaffirming Life by Beth Thompson

I have only displayed the kaleidoscopes here, not the banner designs. The banner designs will have to win the contest to see the light of day, there is no way a small file on the computer screen can do them justice.

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