The word Grace has many definitions. A way of moving that is smooth and attractive. A controlled, polite, and pleasant way of behaving. An unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification. An act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency. A charming or attractive trait or characteristic. A short prayer at a meal asking a blessing or giving thanks. A sense of propriety or right.
But in the making of this incredible series, we saw Grace to mean something else, too. A physical embodiment of graciousness for the life we have, for love, and for living in the NOW.
Elmwood Cemetery, founded in 1852, is one of Memphis’ many treasures. “An historic cemetery that provides a beautiful final resting place to families as it shares its history, art and nature with the community,” reads its mission statement to the public. Also an official Bird Sanctuary and Arboretum, Elmwood is a truly amazing, incredible, moving “park for the living.” A place where Memphians can celebrate themselves as well as their city’s history and its valuable place in time.
We at Find Memphis are lucky to have a wealth of friends who display grace on a daily basis. The following 10 people we photographed were originally selected for their dance abilities, if for no other reason than movement in a still environment is fun to capture and to absorb. But inside the original project came something much more. These 10 people also reached down deep and used the emotion in their hearts to invoke joy, inspiration, and thoughtfulness in us and, we hope, others.
So we give you our Top 10 favorite shots in GRACE: The Celebration of Life and Living For Today.
Louisa Koeppel’s photo stirred us on many levels. Was she falling or flying? Was she living or losing? About Memphis, she says, “We tend to ‘suffer for our art’ and ideas, and at the same time willingly give them away. Seeds of creativity and change are planted here. We have a wee inferiority complex but that just drives us to dig deeper into who we are to get at the dense, and fertile ground, nourished by the river . We’ve all got a little Memphis under our fingernails, one toe ever so gently dipped in the gutter while swinging our pearls.
What struck us about Kathy Caradine’s photo was her uninhibited and joyful freedom. Accompanied by her lack of shoes. About Memphis, Kathy says, “Memphis is such a unique place – not terribly prosperous but rich in culture and heritage.There is an odd blend of down to earth and elegant. Memphians are stubborn and true to themselves, which can make it hard to get things done but when it works – it is seismic!”
Jeanna Juleson’s photo blew us away with its raw vulnerability and, of course, grace. “Elmwood Cemetery connected me and my two dear friends in peace and nature and the joy of hope. Earthly and spiritual in the midst of Memphis. The most natural sanctuary. I am a Memphian by love, not birth. It is my home, my family, my piece of the land.”
Emma Crystal’s photo radiates acceptance and profound peace. At home in Elmwood, Emma says, “I’ve always found peace in cemeteries. When I was in New York, I used to go to look at the crypts and headstones. Some of them are true works of art.” When it comes to Memphis, she loves it. “It’s just the right size for me. Not too big, not to small….lots of culture.”
Christi Gray Hall’s photo was utterly candid and utterly perfect. A truly kind and nurturing spirit, Christi finds cemeteries very peaceful and about Memphis she says, “You can’t find better music, barbecue, and soul.”
Marc Gill’s photo moved us strangely. Is he asking her to dance or asking for her forgiveness? Is he introducing himself or apologizing? Is he comforting her or leaving her? About cemeteries he says, “I know it is a possibility that I am walking on someone’s grave. I want to be respectful of those who have passed. ”
Justin Nelson’s photo tugged at us for many reasons. One, his was the first we took and it was on one of the first beautiful days of 2016. But his joy leapt out at us from the screen when we saw this shot. When asked about Memphis Justin said, “Memphis is an amazing city that doesn’t get the positive reflection it portrays.” We saw Justin’s positive portrayal in this shot immediately.
Jared Johnson’s candid shot with his fiancé filled a balloon up inside of our hearts. So many of Jared’s original shots showed such a HUGE amount of joy and personality and life. But this one special captive image painted a story of love that we couldn’t get out of our heads. About Memphis, Jared says, “I love living in Memphis because I think Memphis has the best soul of any city in the world. It’s soul is musical; it’s soul is full of amazing talents with smarts and creativity that knows no bounds. But Memphis is like a middle child who is still trying to understand its place. There are some deep wounds and low self-esteem. My wish for Memphis is to know just how beautiful it is and to continue to grow.”
Noelia Warnette-Jones is a gorgeous human being that helps produce amazing photos at every shoot. She is a muse on many levels. But this, again candid, photo of her and her daughter resonated with us on such a deep level. Noelia says, “Take on what you can for today because tomorrow is not promised.”
Michael Detroit’s photo shoot was in a league of its own. Armed with a scooter, a pair of skates, a Diet Coke can, and a giant sense of humor, his photo shoot left us wanting to learn more about him. And this photo says out loud, “Ask me anything you want to know – but you gotta follow me to hear the answer!”
These 10 friends we photographed gave us so much more than we expected and this series is one we will love forever.
Stay tuned for an Elwood bonus video featuring our incredibly talented friend Thomas Bergstig!
Please visit Elmwood Cemetery for its beauty and resonance, and please keep following us on findmemphis.com!