Archive for July, 2010

23
Jul
10

makes you wonder

My job takes me to a lot of different places.  Most of the time, those places are interesting, fun, or in some form or fashion, meaningful.  And some times, I’d rather not have seen that place to begin with as was the case with the old Castleberry’s food plant on the edge of Augusta’s ghetto. 

For a little background, Castleberry’s (owned by Bumble Bee) canned chilis and stews at a plant that, from the outside, looked old and dirty and honestly didn’t give the impression that the inside was any cleaner.  A couple of years ago, they had a massive recall of their chilis due to botulism.  The bad press mixed with the downturn in the economy meant that Castleberry’s closed the plant and abandoned it soon after. 

Fast forward to this past week, when it was announced that Mercy Ministries, a controversial homeless shelter in the middle of a residential area across town, would be moving its thrift store to the old Castleberry’s plant after buying it for a dollar.  This was good news and meant an old building would be used again and Mercy Ministries would be able to expand on the cheap. 

To illustrate their “moving in,” I was charged with the task of finding the electrician who was trying to find all the switch points and fuse boxes to shut off electricity to unused areas and restore it to the rooms to be filled with people’s used stuff for sale.  This task proved time consuming and while I waited on him to do something interesting enough to photograph for the paper, I roamed around this completely abandoned warehouse and food factory. 

Nearly everything that was metal was rusted out, fluorescent lights dangled from the ceiling and piping was bent, cracked or just plain missing.  The only thing not somewhat attached was this bucket, which looked like it was being used to catch leaking oil or hydraulic fluid of some kind.  Coming from what, I don’t know.  It was all a little creepy.

A lone bucket sits in the old Castleberry's food plant, soon to be taken over by Mercy Ministries and their thrift store operation. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

Makes you wonder what this place looked like two years ago.

I shoot a self-portrait of myself in a curve mirror as I stand next to piles of used clothing to be sold at the new Mercy Ministries thrift store, housed in the old Castleberry's food plant. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

I still had time to take a picture of myself in one of those curved mirror you see at particularly dangerous or blind corners.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

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16
Jul
10

Fallen Hero

Honor guard pallbearers carry the casket containing Sgt. David Holmes's body to New Birth Christian Ministries, Wednesday, July 7, 2010, in Tennille, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

Reporter Adam Folk and I are working on a long term project about the Army Casualty Assistance program at Ft. Gordon.  Active duty military are selected to be part of a group called to support grieving family members of fallen soldiers.  On June 26th, 2010, Sgt. David Holmes was killed in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device.  A few days later we were notified of the death and that a CAO (Casualty Assitance Officer) had been assigned to Holmes’s widow, who lives in Tennille, Ga.  As a result, I drove down there twice last week to photograph the CAO doing his duty as best he could as he held the grieving wife’s hand along the way.

It was difficult for those in attendance on Wednesday for Sgt. Holmes’s arrival from Dover, Delaware (over 100 military, Patriot Guard, friends, family and total strangers holding small flags).  Mrs. Holmes was inconsolable and on several occasions had to be helped as she screamed David’s name and “why,” everytime she was near the American flag-draped casket.  The pain of being reunited with her husband under the worst circumstances could be heard by us all but never fully felt by anyone but Mrs. Holmes. For nearly 10 minutes, she screamed from the limo.  She couldn’t get out of the car.  Military personnel held their salutes and the Patriot Guard remained as still as possible as their flags waved.  Entire families remained motionless as they looked on.  Some cried.  Sniffles could be heard. The realities of war had hit home.  It was by far one of the hardest things for me to witness and photograph.

But throughout the short arrival ceremony, in which the Honor Guard pallbearers carried the casket from the plane to the hearse to be transported to the church, there was an air of absolute and undeniable solidarity felt with Sgt. Holmes and indeed with Mrs. Holmes.  And as I drove behind the motorcade headed for the church in Tennille, people lined the four-lane highway, some with large American flags, some with their hands over their hearts.  Ex-military saluted the hearse standing tall and proud.  It was like they had been waiting for us all afternoon.  McDonalds workers stood in front of the store in solidarity.  Even a local oil changing place had taken pause, with mechanics removing their hats.  Cars coming from the other direction not only stopped but many drivers got out to stand as the hearse drove by.

An entire town had come to a halt to honor a fallen hero.  Some didn’t even know him, but that didn’t matter.

You could call it a rural thing, a Southern thing or an American thing.  I call it a wonderful thing.

A small gallery from Sgt. Holmes’s arrival:

http://chronicle.augusta.com/multimedia/2010-07-07/photo-gallery-fallen-…

Note:  Unfortunately, I can’t post most of the photos yet because it’s still a work in progress.  But it’s a story worth telling.  And waiting for.  Stay tuned.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

12
Jul
10

got to ride in a helicopter!

Being stuck in row 44 of 45 on a commercial airliner flying through thunderstorms complete with screaming  babies and bad airplane food = clearly sucks.

Having your own helicopter for 15 minutes to shoot exclusive pictures of major breaking news = clearly awesome.

A gas line near Stagecoach Road burns after a rupture, Monday, July 5, 2010, in Thomson, Ga. McDuffie County Commissioner Paul McCorkle was injured and his son Jason killed during a gas explosion and fire. Following a preliminary investigation, it was determined that Paul McCorkle was operating a bulldozer on the property and accidentally struck a Dixie Pipelines liquid propane gas line. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

Because we are a newspaper, reporters and photographers have to be on call at all times, including holidays.  The photo department deals with this by having one photographer assigned to be on call that day in case news happens.  Of the four holidays I’ve been assigned since 2006, two of them have involved major breaking news in a town not really known for its breaking news.  I’m apparently a magnet for holiday michief and disaster.
The Fourth of July (observed) holiday is never a very exciting day.  The assigned photographer usually finds a standalone to fill out the paper and maybe catches kids playing in a pool or something.  That was supposed to be my day until I got two calls and an email almost simultaneously that a gas main had exploded and was still on fire.  The smoke is visible for miles, all three people said in their messages.  So I grabbed the 500mm and headed out to Thomson, normally a 30 minute drive.
Twenty minutes, later, I arrived at Stagecoach Road, where it was blocked off by state troopers.  As I gathered my gear, I could hear the roar of the giant fire only a few hundred yards away through the forest.  I went over to the nearest grouping of officials and asked what was the status and how far could I go up the access road to take pictures.  One of the firefighters said right where I was standing was perfect and not to go any further.  I could see the flames through the trees, but it wouldn’t have made a good image.  So I turned and mentioned to a guy in a flight suit (I’d realize what he was wearing a bit later) that it’s useless for me to be standing here, I need flames.  Little did I know,  I was talking to Todd Hatfield, director of operations at Air Med, who also flies the helicopter.

As luck would have it, he immediately offered to take me up to take photos.  Before I could remember that I absolutely hate flying, I said “you betcha!” and off we went toward the chopper.  What had I done.  I was committed now.  This guy was doing a nice thing for me and it would almost be rude for me to back out now.  Not to mention, I needed to get photos, and this was by far my best chance to get something good.

So I got in the back of the helicopter, strapped myself in and made sure my cameras were wrapped around me and my neck because Todd was leaving the door open for me to get a better view.  The flight was uneventful, and I honestly didn’t have time to think about how much normally I would be hating it because I was so focused on making pictures.

So to recap: At 11:o0 a.m., I was sitting quietly at my desk in the air conditioning.  By noon, I was 700 feet in the air over a roaring gas pipeline fire.  Nice.

-RAE

http://www.rainier-ehrhardt.com




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