Two Views by Billy Weeks
The words and photographs of Billy Weeks a southern based photojournalist whose work can be found at www.billyweeks.com
I believe that we never wander too far from our past, especially when photographing stories. This page is based on the famous quote by Ansel Adams,” There are two people in every photograph.” For me, it’s between the photographer and the subject. So with that in mind, from time to time I will post two views of a photograph, one from the subject perspective and the other from the photographer. If interested in buying a print from Two Views: by Billy Weeks please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Two Views: Engine Failure
View One: The Subject
It’s a car that can swim or it’s a boat that can roll. No, it’s a 1967 Amphicar and on a sunny Sunday afternoon this one went for a drive over the choppy waters of Chickamauga Lake. This car was restored in North Georgia with parts harvested from the boneyards of water vehicles. The Amphicar was manufactured in Germany from 1961 to 1968 and about 3500 units were marketed to both Europe and the United States. Needless to say only a few have survived. One might say that a car shouldn’t float, but on this day one cruised past a powerless bass boat.
View Two: The Photographer
I love cars. I especially like the cars from the 1960’s. My first love was a midnight blue 66 Chevy Biscayne. The car was our family transportation until a hole in a piston put it on blocks in our backyard and there it sat. I was 15 and thought I needed a car, but I wanted one that was fast and lean with a big engine, maybe chrome wheels. I could not wait to get my hands on the daily newspaper. I would go straight to the classified ads. Picking out a Camaro Super Sport or a fastback Mustang was an every day experience. My colors were red or white. We did not have a lot of money, so my dad had another idea. One day around 3 pm an old blue wrecker showed up and dropped a grease-covered hunk of rusty engine with the numbers 283 stamped on the air breather. I watched my Dad give the driver a $35 in three tens and a five. Then it happened. He walked over to me and said, “ Do you want a car?” There is the car and there is the engine. Put them together and you can have a car.” I wanted to play ball every afternoon not work on a car, especially one that looked like an oversized family car and was dark blue. It was not white or red. I just did not want that car. This Biscayne was ugly, however this car was special. It was special because my dad and I put a 283 Chevy engine in this car. I looked forward to 2:30 every afternoon; the time Dad would get home, so we could work in the grease. It was a summer of magical thinking. One might say that a car without an engine should not run, but in the heat of late summer a father and son fell in love with a powerless 66 Biscayne.
Two Views: The Hitter
View One: Subject
It’s a few minutes before dark and rocks are everywhere. Yes, rocks. The field is covered with rocks and young men playing baseball. I am in the Dominican Republic where about 10% of all major league base players are produced. One of my biggest challenges is to go into the slums and find athletes. It didn’t take long because in the DR there are few things that bring out passion more than baseball.
In open fields batters take full swings at torn baseballs with unraveling stitches that resemble a small comet. Every time the ball meets the bat there is a thud. It’s the kind of sound that a hitter never wants to hear, because it signals a miss hit. But this is not an unskilled batter or a poor swing; it’s a player from a poor community with a major league dream who knows his only chance of playing in the majors is to swing big. One might say that baseball is just a game, but here it’s a way of life, and players must learn how to hit because no one will ever get off this island just by covering the bases.
View Two: Photographer
The ground is wet and the rain is coming down. As a fourth grader I am standing in front of a block porch at my home with baseball in one hand and a torn glove on the other. With a quick release I throw the ball against the wall quickly, grab the rebound, turn and fire again and again and again. The sound of the ball hitting the wall can be heard two houses over and the neighbors watch from their windows. I often wondered what they were thinking about this kid who loved the game and had so much passion he would field a baseball in all kinds of weather.
Growing up, I had two goals one to be a photographer and the other to play third base for the Atlanta Braves. My afternoons were often filled with trying to hold a bat just like Rico Carty and field a ball like Cleat Boyer. I dreamed of playing with the Braves in the Fall Classic. I never made it as a Major League baseball player, but I did make it to three World Series as a photojournalist, including the Braves pennant in 1995. One might say that baseball is just a game, but for me it was a way of life and I would never have made a career of journalism just by covering the bases.
Two Views: Marco
View One: The Subject
“Mr. Billy, I just saw the poorest man I have ever seen. He lives up the mountain past a wire fence. His name is Marcos,” said an American doctor. After a short truck ride up a steep dirt road with Honduran ruts cut deep into the soft red dirt our medical team arrived at a fence. I crawled under the fence and walked up a path toward a small dirt floor home. Under a wooden table sat Marcos as sunlight filter in past the holes in the roof to show a small man of less than 100 pounds. His arms were covered with scares from biting. He could hardly talk.
The medical team did what they could onsite and then decided to move him to a medical care center. Still sitting under a table, I watched him eat a large plate of rice and beans then a team member picked him up and carried him out of the house over the fence and to the truck.
I am not sure what happened to Marco. It’s common for a photojournalist to meet a subject and then unmeet them. Its part of the job and sometimes it hurts. Photographing people has an unknown. Many times it’s, just the basic information of who this person is, but to me it’s about what happens to them and did my images make a difference. One might say that poverty is commonplace in Honduras, but there are different levels of poor and here Marco is at the lowest.
View Two: The Photographer
It’s 1960, sounds of a rattling flatbed truck with slats sticking up like a rolling wooden box pulls into the driveway of our new house. I am very young and my sister is only a few months old. The white house is a shell home and it cost just over $3000 to build. No heat, air, and no walls, only two by fours with wires and water pipes. Being a shell means that the inside of the home is unfinished. Sometimes I see sunlight filter past the roof into the room. The sunlight captures me as I watch airborne dust dance across the light. I had no idea that filtered light would play an important role in my life through my photographs. But here it is and it’s one of my earliest memories.
My Dad worked in a thread mill and was a weekend preacher. This meant that we had little. Food was in the house, but it was often only beans or stewed potatoes and sometimes polk salad, which was a plant we would pick up along the roadside. Growing up this way had many unknowns. I often wondered about the future. I am still working on this one.
I worked hard and went to University, made a career in photojournalism, reported about others who have similar stories. It’s part of the job, I love it, and it sometimes hurts. There is a line in a popular Sheryl Crow song that says, “Its not having what you want it’s having what you got.” I understand.
One might say that poverty is commonplace in the United States, but there are different levels of poor here, and I have lived at one of the lowest.
Today I want to thank Chevon Petgrave who did a small video of me working at the UT Chattanooga Lady Mocs game a few days ago.