12th Avenue South, 2008

Photo Phonica

12th Avenue South, 2008. From the series, Nashville.

My grandfather died the day after Christmas 1968. He was a Methodist minister and had moved the family there for a job on the Methodist board in 1949. He was having a scheduled heart surgery and while I am still not clear on the details, I know he died on the operating table. The surgeon who was a family friend cried as he delivered the news to my grandmother. I was one year old when he died so I have no recollection of him. Growing up, my grandmother was always the most religious person I knew, yet privately, she admitted to me that his death had shaken her faith. She wondered why God had not listened to her prayers and spared him.
At the center of much of my photography is an internal struggle with my own faith in being an artist. Fortunately, the act of taking pictures keeps the doubts at bay–I photograph, therefore I am.
I made this picture of the Midtown Fellowship church in Nashville on my Guggenheim year photographically investigating my hometown and my grandfather’s death. So much of our life is based on one thing: how much we actually believe. Belief in ourselves, our partners, our careers, our government. Being an artist is often believing in something that is not there–that which only I see. While I have learned that believing is the foundation of all things, maybe the most important thing my grandmother taught me was that you can have doubt and still have faith.