Notes from Candice Ransom

One Thing Leads to Another

my blog photo

A few years ago one of my Hollins students, who was also finishing up her degree at Longwood University, gave my name to the library at Longwood.  They invited me to speak in the spring of 2013.  During the Q&A, someone asked if I had any hobbies.  I replied, “Trespassing,” and then quickly explained my interest in photographing abandoned buildings in Virginia.

The special collections librarian at Longwood, Amanda McLellan, asked if I would consider having my photographs on Greenwood Library’s Digital Commons website.  I was stunned.  My work is okay for my blog and my personal pleasure, but good enough to be displayed in a university collection?

You’d think I’d jump on this opportunity before she changed her mind.  Life got in the way, for months and months.  In fact, I saw Amanda at a conference where I was speaking more than a year later (an invitation that came from my Longwood appearance).  I promised I’d get my act together.

I set aside time to think about it.  What would my page look like?  More important, I needed to say something.  To me, a picture is not worth a thousand words.  A bunch of photos of abandoned houses would have little meaning without some kind of context.

Last summer I wrote a draft of an essay to accompany the photo gallery.  Was it good enough?  I was like a deer in the headlights over this project.  My photographs and my words were going to be out there.  I finally finished the essay in November.  I began sending photos after New Year’s, nearly two years after my initial invitation.

When the gallery appeared, I was floored.  The project looks so professional!  My thanks to Amanda and everyone at Longwood who waited patiently for me.

My photographs finally have a home beyond my computer files.  The gallery will grow–I have lots of photos to send.  And I’m already thinking about a slightly different series of photos that will continue the theme.

I invite you to take a look at my page, Looking for Home, at the Greenwood Library’s Digital Commons.  The essay appears first.  Scroll to the end to click on the gallery pages.

I’m proud to have my work accessible to a larger audience, something I never dreamed when I picked up my first digital point and shoot camera a few years ago.  Isn’t it amazing how one thing leads to another?

20 thoughts on “One Thing Leads to Another”

  1. Wow! This is too cool! Enjoyed your essay — it does provide the perfect context for all your photographs. It’s definitely wonderful how one thing can lead to another. I liked looking at the photos and trying to imagine the stories of the people who used to live in those places. 🙂

    • Who would guess that trespassing would lead to this? I don’t do as much of it these days–to be honest, I’m not out that much to find the places. But this site may keep me involved in tracking down Virginia’s past before it’s forgotten forever (I recently took photos of a house that will be torn down–not inside, though).

  2. A moving essay and wonderful photos to ponder. I’m always drawn to the windows on abandoned houses. Broken glass or not, I imagine faces looking out.

    • That’s why you are such a good mystery-ghost story-writer. I’m drawn to the doors, hoping they are open, even if only a little, which I take as an invitation to come inside.

  3. I have always loved your photos and explorations of “old” buildings and houses. Knowing the back story is always amazing and moving — so many stories conveyed in the images –the addition of your words will be a treat.

    Buzzard Report: On the drive to Norfolk (to visit my mom) I saw 43 buzzards; 2 splendid bald eagles flying along I64 East in the brilliant sunshine; one large raptor (buff chest — not able to see head or shoulders and he/she was sitting in a dead tree so no wing markings visible). Buzzard number not the all time record but there were a lot of them out and active. I even saw one sunning in a tall tree. I never fail to think of you when spotting birds. Hope those good thoughts come through to you every now and then — say whenever you spot an interesting bird saying a quick hello to you.

    • Sheila, I didn’t think anybody loves buzzards as much as I do, but you are my buzzard compatriot! I never thought of counting them. I’m distracted enough by determining if they are black or turkey (length of tail, tilted wings, lots of flapping or no flap). If only I could photograph buzzards, I’d be so happy. But they won’t sit still and I don’t have a long-distance lens.

      Probably the raptor was a red-tailed hawk, but it’s hard to tell with a quick glance considering all the variations–juvenile, male/female, red-shouldered juvenile, etc.

    • Hi Laurie: The house with the piano on the porch is near Hollins property–fallen down now. My photos of that place are terrible (it was almost pitch dark in there), but I plan to put them on the website. Those pictures got me started . . . thanks for dropping in!

  4. Congratulations! Seeing your essay and photos at the Greenwood Library Digital Commons sent my heart soaring. Your compassion for home and the stories of place and the way those places shape us, save us, protect us, and sometimes haunt us is enlightening. Spending time reading your essay and walking into your pictures, I am overcome with emotion. I think I take home for granted, and I worry that I may develop a sentimental feeling for place when it’s too late. Your words give me pause, and I spend time considering, and I am thankful that you are a part of my home.

    • When your home is taken away from you, in my case not once but twice, and you visit houses every single night in your dreams, you realize that home forms us. We all need some place to be from, and later, to create a place.

      When I first walked into your house, I wanted to sit right down at your big work table and color. Coloring was always comforting to me, and to this day I have that visceral reaction when I see crayons. This is the highest compliment I can give your house, truly a home to everyone.

  5. I visited the sight and your essay, it touched me heart and soul. I was swept away into your past and my memories also were stirred.

    Your pictures will live and last at the library, recording the past of the Virginia where generations of our families
    lived and left a legacy, as did so many people trying to live as best they could under all conditions.
    Houses do have stories to be told and just felt.

    At the golden hour as the long yellow rays of sun filter through my window, I wish to thank you for these visions you have provided me and others as we seek sense and order in our lives.

    I remember a note I wrote after a day alone in rural Virginia. “Please don’t let us be forgotten” and I haven’t
    and through you words and pictures they won’t be.

    • Dear Steve: I am stirred by your comment. Today I’m working on a post about memory–mine is failing. It’s so important to me to capture, any way I can, the past before it’s gone.

      No, Steve, we will not be forgotten. You won’t let us be forgotten because you tell the stories. I won’t let us be forgotten because I share those stories and ones that aren’t mine. I will continue to take those photos because I see the march of development everywhere in our native state.

      To be honest, there are days when I wonder why I try to remember or risk breaking an ankle to take a risky photo or wonder why I care so much about the marginalized people who we used to know, who are still there, and, heaven forbid, who we might become ourselves.

      Thanks for writing. It helps more than you know.


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