I just returned from Chicago and my first Thirdcoast Conference . Thirdcoast brings together audio producers and storytellers from all over the world for several days of workshops centered around the “art and craft of documentary production.” Perhaps you can imagine the thunderous din of somewhere between 800-1000 audio storytellers gathered together? I assure you, it was gloriously deafening. Upon most occasions, there were so many conversations buzzing you could feel the sound overtake your body. As a participant, you were amidst a constant conversation, whether you were having one or not. I found the conference to be invigorating and I am planning to share some of my favorite aspects here in the weeks to come, but for now, I would like to introduce you to two friends also attending and a few of their projects.
I first met Raymond Thompson in a course called Documenting America seven years ago. I was struck by his sensitivity as a visual storyteller and the way in which his work listens and attends to the world in a visceral and memorable way. We have stayed in touch over the years and some of my favorite projects of his include Justice Undone and The Divide, that attend to incarceration and the impact it has on families in Virginia. Presently, Raymond is thinking through the African American experience of nature through a photographic project he calls Imaging/Imagining Trees and Imaging/Imagining Creaking Forrest. These images do important work of “Deconstructing colonial optics of African Americans” through stunning photographs situating participants in the forests of West Virginia.
In addition, Raymond is currently collaborating with talented writer, editor, and audio producer Diana Mazzella on a podcast called Sparked that looks beyond the widespread stories of challenging lives in Appalachia to bring to the fore people who are steadfastly creating positive and unexpected changes. Together, Diana and Raymond are looking closer at a place many people look beyond to tell multifaceted, and often surprising stories. Tune in to their special blend of insight and curiosity here!