Last week after posting the image of my mother from 1942, there was a comment from a woman named Lana Robinson. I didn't know her, but have noticed over the last couple of years that she is a regular reader of my blog posts. In her comment she mentioned she was the baby in her family and her mother was Belva. I've only known one person in my life with the name Belva and that was Belva Cutshall, who was the daughter of Berzilla Wallin, one of my favorite Madison County people.
Lana moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1971, which explains why I never met her since I didn't move here until 1973. She thought we had maybe met at Berzilla's or her mother's funerals, but I have no memory of it.
In 1979, I was working on a Photo Survey grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The idea was to do a year-long look at the county and present the work in an exhibit at Mars Hill College. The entire project is now housed at the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
I didn't know Belva well. We would see each other at family decorations, or events where her mother and brother, Doug Wallin, were singing. But my memory of her is formed by this photograph I made at the Marshall Bypass in 1979 as part of the grant - genuine, easy to be around, direct and colorful.
Photography has opened many doors for me. It has taken me places I wouldn't dream of going and introduced me to amazing people I never would have met otherwise. So, it fascinates me that forty-two years after meeting Berzilla, who was eighty-three when I met her, I find out her granddaughter, who I don't know, reads my blog. I think this speaks to how communication has changed during that time period; the technology has changed us. But also, I think it shows us how photography provides us with not only memories of our shared and personal pasts, but also offers opportunities to engage in the future.