Tag: professional project

professional project: redecorating

Once a year when the Dreisha and Drejanay are out of town on vacation, Valeria redecorates their rooms. Tediously, she puts glow-in-the-dark stars, Michael Jackson posters, butterflies and – most important of all – a lot of pictures of her daugher Angela in place. She says it’s important to keep the girls’ memory of their mother alive. Paul helped Valeria with the redecoratoin this year, and they asked me over to take pictures.

One of the foster children (name withheld) carries an old picture of Valeria’s children Chris and Angela upstairs.


A picture of Angela sits on the bed as Valeria sifts through memorabilia of her granddaughters’ childhood.

I like this one and the next one a lot. They are two moments from a series of about 15 pictures that I want to include in the project as a time lapse.

My favorite shot of the day. It may be blurred and noisy, but I love the moment between Valeria and Paul. After dinner, they were all excited to go upstairs to see the glow-in-the-dark stars lit. Valeria laid down on Drejanay’s bed and became quiet when all of a sudden Paul sat down next to her and hugged her.

August 6, 2010

professional project: another visit to the grave

Yesterday I joined Paul, Valeria and her cousin Mary on a visit to the cemetery where both Valeria and Mary have buried a child. Both Valeria’s daughter Angela’s birthday and the death anniversary of Mary’s son are in July. Below are some of my selects of that day:

Paul and Valeria hold hands on their way out to the cemetery.

Valeria unfolds an old drawing and a letter that her granddaughters Dreisha and Drejanay had put on their mother’s grave.

July 18, 2010

professional project: on the other side

Two weeks ago, I finally received an answer from Jacqueline Lapine at the Missouri Department of Corrections regarding my request for an interview with Deandra Buchanan. She asked me to send sample questions, so I sent her a list with questions and a personal letter in which I introduced myself and my project. Ms. Lapine forwarded both to Buchanan and he agreed to speak to me on camera.

Yesterday I went to Jefferson City Correctional Center to finally meet Buchanan. Escorted by the activity director of the facility and D.O.C. staffer Jeananne Markway I went through the security check and set up my camera in the visitors’ room. Buchanan was supposed to arrive a few minutes later, but someone in the chain of command had not been informed about the interview and so we had to wait for about half an hour until they brought him from his cell. Unfortunately for me, this meant that my time with him was cut short significantly because he had to be back in his cell block for the next count.

For the first fifteen minutes, Deandra was negotiating the terms of the interview with me and by the time we got started talking, I had only about half an hour left. Thankfully, the prison staff was quite generous and gave me another ten minutes or so to finish up the interview. I did have to leave out a few questions, but I think the material I have is good enough to add another dimension to the project.

Here are some raw edits of the audio footage:

Buchanan recounts the night of the crime:

On his reaction to the death sentence:

On dealing with guilt and remorse:

On his reaction to Valeria Brown’s visit and forgiveness:

On his outlook on life:

Buchanan’s advice to someone in his situation:

About the criminal justice system:

June 19, 2010

professional project: angela’s grave

On Memorial Day, Valeria and some of her relatives went to the family graveyard near Armstrong, Mo., and asked me to come along. As it happens so often, I went there with all these preconceived pictures in my head of somber people standing at the headstones with their heads bowed. None of that happened. Valeria and her relatives hadn’t seen each other in a while and were excited to share the latest news and family talk. Here are two shots I really like from that day.

May 31, 2010

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