Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lite Earl Gossage, Jr.

Sandy Powers, an accomplished photographer from Texas, shares this heart-warming story:

Lite Earl Gossage, Jr. That is his name, and he happens to be a homeless gentleman who profoundly affected my life. I first met him in downtown San Antonio, looking for a photo for a photography competition that had the theme “Elderly Portrait”. He was playing his harmonica for change (quite competently, I might add), but mostly, people were just walking by like he wasn’t even there. He saw me with my camera, so I asked him if he minded me photographing him while he played. He smiled and began playing with a bit more flare (and maybe pride) in his notes. After the song and several good pictures, I admitted that I didn’t have any change, but if he was hungry, I’d be happy to buy him a hamburger with my debit card. “Thank you, ma’am, that would be nice.” So off we walked a few blocks to a gourmet hamburger place downtown – all the while I listened to story after story of Lite Earl Gossage, Jr.’s life.

Photo by Sandy Powers

I thought that would be the end of the acquaintance, but I regretted that because my photo won 1st place in the competition, and I know he would have loved to hear that. But then, lo and behold, I was eating my lunch at a park close to my work, like I did most days – and several miles north of the downtown spot where I had seen him initially – there was ol’ Lite – with his wife -- who had moved from downtown to the park! And also lo and behold.... there was another portrait competition called “One in 7 Billion”, so once again a delightful conversation ensued, and an honorable mention recognition for his portrait in the competition. This time I was able to let him know after the competition how we did. He was so excited, you would have thought he had been chosen for the cover of Time magazine :) And he then proceeded to tell me that he was worried about me spending so much time at that park, but if anyone ever “messed with me” to just come let him know, and they would have to answer to him ! My heart was warmed.

Photo by Sandy Powers

One more photo, and one more kudo of recognition of sorts was on a drizzly day at the park. I was talking with him, and right in the middle of our conversation, he starts calling out at the top of his voice, “Hey, Daffy.....” after which he ran over to a certain duck hanging around. The duck saw him but didn’t even flinch at Lite’s aggressive approach. Daffy knew ol’ Lite, and that was obvious. So Lite picks him up and mutters to me that Daffy’s his friend, and he sits the duck down right next to him and starts playing his harmonica while the duck actually seems to smile in enjoyment as he plays. The photo was accepted and published on a prestigious photography site called 1x.

Photo by Sandy Powers
The last time I saw Lite was on a very cold day at the park with his wife. His wife was sick with a cold and flu symptoms. My heart went out to her. To them. So much! They were cold and miserable and hungry. I invited them to hop in my car and let me take them to the Barbecue place down the road and let me buy them a good hearty dinner. But first... cold and pain relief medicine for Cindy. I would say that all that made me feel great to be able to do that, but it haunted me.... well... sometimes it still does, that I had to drop them back off with no real solution to their problem. I no longer work at that job, so I don’t make it over to that park very much, but I am proud to still call Lite and Cindy my friends, and I pray that God is watching over them.

sandy powers photography


Sandy's Bio

I have been a serious photographer for many years with my passion and focus being the artistry of PEOPLE! I recently left a well-paying job (and one that I was miserable at) to follow my dreams and pursue photography as a full-fledged livelihood. I spend my professional time alternating between portrait and wedding photography, and being a member of the Perspectives Gallery of Art in San Antonio, Texas where I sell my fine art wall prints with a few other artists in different mediums.


Thursday, February 24, 2011


In Relentless Pursuit!

Thinking back from this juncture in middle-age, it is impossible to remember a time when I could snap a camera shutter without experiencing a rush of joy and the tingling anticipation of finally seeing the image that was captured with that click. In these digital days, we are able to press the shutter button and then experience immediate gratification, as the image is presented to us on the camera’s LCD screen, and then on our computer’s beautiful monitor. But if we’ve lost the sting of anticipation, our mission has now become a relentless and endless pursuit: Capture the perfect image, no matter what it takes!

And sometimes it takes more than we expected. Over the years, I’ve exchanged the “misadventures of intrepid pursuit” with my fellow photographers, and the stories never fail to have us wiping the tears of laughter from our eyes. So with this new twist on the “Silver Lining” theme, I’m inviting all photographers – or anyone with an amusing anecdote of Relentless Pursuit – to send me your story, and if it’s the right sort of story (if it elicits empathetic chuckles or tugs on my heartstrings), I’ll post it on this blog. I’ll add photos that I think enhance the theme, and also include your photos with the story, if you send them. Before I publish the story, I’ll send it back to you for your approval or final edits.

To get this new theme off the ground, I offer this story of my own—one of my favorites: I call it, “Faces in the Sycamore.”

House on the Hill

Our house sits at the top of a considerable hill,  strewn with a variety of nearly 100 magnificent trees, some of which tower majestically above a natural pond at the bottom of the hill.  Four sprawling London Plane Sycamore trees are placed near the pond and as gorgeous as they are, they create huge messes during every season—fallen branches in winter, ubiquitous seed pods in Spring, large hunks of stripped bark in the Summer, and a plethora of spiny sycamore “balls” in the autumn, along with the myriad brown crunchy dead leaves.  But gorgeous they are, despite the high maintenance that they require. With strong, graceful branches stretching out in all directions from their hefty trunks, and the textured, dappled bark covering the strangely bumpy wood, they are fascinating creations of Mother Nature.

Faces in the Sycamore
It was perhaps ten years ago, when I stood, camera in hand before one of the sycamores near the pond, and discovered that there were faces and whole people “growing” on that tree. The more I stared, the more figures I could see, popping out at me from every direction. It was amazing! Stories about how each figure become "imbedded" in the tree began forming in my impressionable mind and I was losing touch with my other surroundings, as you will learn.

Soon I discovered that if I stood back a bit, the figures “in the tree” would pop even more, so with my eye to the viewfinder, I inched back, little by little, until the perfect view appeared to me. Just one more little step backward and. . .

Suddenly I had run out of pavement and was falling backward, down about four feet, onto the debris strewn stony spillway behind the pond’s dam!

Spillway: Whence I fell
My first thought as I came to my senses was “Whew!” for my camera had luckily landed safely on my nicely-padded stomach.  Miracles do happen!   My second thought was, “I haven’t cracked my skull open,” and my third thought was more ominous:  “I wonder if any of the neighbors witnessed this bit of unintentional slapstick.”  So, slowly, I pulled myself together and crept gingerly to my feet.  Standing in the spillway, with just my eyes peering above the spillway wall, I panned the neighborhood and concluded that my silly blunder had most likely gone unobserved.  (If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it make a noise?)

And then I noticed a slight throbbing in my right index finger, which had not been as lucky as my camera and somehow had landed under my butt at the bottom of the spillway. Very very slowly and fearfully, I directed my gaze to my now aching finger. My stomach began to turn as I took in what had happened: The finger was bent at the middle joint—but in the wrong direction. It was badly dislocated. The queasiness in my stomach turned to dizziness, and I sat down on the spillway floor to regain my composure. But wait! Even with my finger painfully pointing back at me in the wrong direction, my first priority was go have a "gimp" at the newest shots.   Were those faces captured by my lens?

The author, among London Plains Sycamores at Sayen Gardens, Hamilton, New Jersey
Inspired?  I'd love to post your stories here.  If it catches on, we may have a book down the road.  Send me your tales, along with a few photos, if you have them.  I'll add some if I see fit, and send you the draft for final edits and your approval.  I'm excited...I KNOW there are some GREAT stories out there.  Let's do it!

All photographs, unless otherwise
indicated are by Michelle Alton

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