“Where I’m From” Lifestyle Session|Spartanburg, SC|Ariel

Ariel told me earlier this year that she had several ideas coming for me, so I was excited to get a call from her last month. She said that she wanted to go to all the places she’s seen growing up and take pictures there, which I thought sounded like a great idea. I had no idea how inspiring it would be for me and how much I would get to know this girl more through it! She named this session “Where I’m From.”

Where is she from? Fairforest, a neighborhood in Spartanburg. She said to me, “I can be classy but the hood is in me.” So far I’ve only known classy Ariel, so it was fun to see the place that’s shaped every side of her. She’s spent some time researching the history of this place, and even though there’s not much in the books, she knows the Walden family are the people who started the town. After meeting at Ariel’s house, we headed to the property that belonged to the Waldens. The original house had been torn down, but this building remained.

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Next we went to Ariel’s old middle school, where she learned to hustle. This girl bought candy bars at Sam’s and sold them out of her backpack to the other kids at a premium. An entrepreneur from the start. This is where her love for photography began too. She told me she was a bad kid and would write all over the desks. One teacher made her stay after school–that teacher was also the yearbook teacher, and that’s where the first camera came from. One person can make such a difference in a life!

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Our next stop was the post office, which is kind of what makes Fairforest more of a town than a neighborhood. To me, it still felt like a neighborhood. When we were in front of the post office, a guy drove up that Ariel just happened to know. They talked about school and then we went on our way, but I loved the small town feel of everybody knowing everybody.

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There’s something about a post office that makes some of the clearest childhood memories, at least for me. My hometown post office moved when I was in high school, but it’s the old one that I remember–going there with my mom, the smell of all the paper and cardboard, being allowed to open the mailbox and try to watch the mail go in as it closed, picking out special Christmas and nature stamps. It’s the simple things.

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It was a hot day, and Ariel mentioned the words Pineapple Fanta. I never knew they existed {am I the only one?} and I just had to try one, so we went to the Hot Spot. We saw the same guy that was at the post office and they joked about following each other. Ariel bought Fantas for each of us {it was delicious! reminded me of these; the pineapple was always my favorite} and a couple fireworks.

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We took our drinks to Leo’s TV, which Ariel had never been to but had always seen. She knew the store would likely close down someday and wanted to remember it. One thing that she said really stuck with me: she compared having your picture taken to making a museum of your life. The more I think about it, the more true that is. Museums show even the smallest and simplest details, and photos can do the same. People can look at them and learn something about you.

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A train deafened us as it went by, but I’m glad we got a photo with it. I imagine trains are as familiar a sound to Ariel as they are to me–I grew up hearing trains at night while falling asleep and now in Taylors I hear them just about every hour.

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Next to Leo’s was a yard full of old cars and trucks, which I’m sure are just as much of a familiar presence on this street as the TV store. Ariel once took photos of Tucker and me at Jim Forrester’s boat junkyard because we always pass it going back and forth on 85. Plus these look super cool!

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This mural is just one that we couldn’t miss! So colorful like Ariel’s DOPE shirt and full of good vibes like her hat. Also Call It!–what is more Spartanburg than The Beacon?

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At the beginning of the session Ariel said the main place she wanted to go was this building: it’s called the Montgomery Building. She had a long list of spots, and I hope next time we will make it to the items “potato house” and “Krispy Kreme? Two original + cup of milk” that I’m sure have great stories behind them, but I’m glad we got to spend time looking at this place. She was so passionate about it, and told me her soul just loves it, and that she always dreamed of living there. They’re doing some revitalization that could make that possible! And it really is beautiful.

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The best view of the Montgomery Building was from the roof of a parking deck, and this 864 shirt was the best one to wear in downtown Spartanburg. And the parking deck was the best place to set off our Hot Spot fireworks. We do what we want.

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Ariel’s friend painted this jacket for her–864 on one sleeve, 321 on the other, and a camera on the back. Perfect!

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Back to Fairforest for a few more. We ended back at Ariel’s adorable house. I mentioned in the Jones family post, which was a session on this same day, that it was such an honor to be invited into someone’s home. Even moreso because it is the home Ariel grew up in! I feel so special to have had a look into Ariel’s life, her childhood, and even her future. She’s a photographer now, and says that photographers are the best people in the world {I agree}, but she has other dreams too. She loves funeral science and is interested in law as well. Ariel, I already know you’re going to be everything you want to be! Keep hustling!

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Ariel summed up the session on Insta and it’s perfect: “I love Spartanburg. I love the people, places and soul here, I’m connected. There is a triumphant story being written & I’m glad to be a part of it. Glad to be Spartanburg-Made.”

What better way to promote the growth of this city than to photograph it? She’s doing it and I’ve had fun doing it too. Thanks, Ariel! Let’s do this again and again! Love it!