This one’s a little different.
In my grandparent’s house there was an embroidered picture of six sheep hanging on the wall. Five of the sheep were ‘traditional’ white sheep; the sixth, however, was black. I’m pretty sure it was never defined who the ‘black sheep’ was, yet there was often speculation as to who it represented. (I’d be willing to bet the label may have been passed around depending upon when and who you asked!)
Yes, this one was a little different.
Pressed for time, I decided to bring both Alice and Grit into my makeshift studio together and ask questions while the other sat just off camera. I went into the project really wanting to isolate my subject; to get answers that weren’t rehearsed, or weren’t crafted in such a way so as to please or somehow fit a pre-determined path of what something was ‘supposed to look like.’
With Aunt Alice, I’ve never doubted that I’d get anything but the truth from her, regardless of whether her husband (or anyone else) was sitting right next to her.
She looked straight into my lens as she shared stories of what it was like growing up and working on the farm. Her parents treated her ‘as another boy,’ expecting her to do the same jobs as her brothers. Difficult perhaps, but also a source of pride for Alice as she was the one who drove the tractors. In fact, she was the one who could drive every tractor on the farm.
Aunt Alice didn’t stop to pose or primp for the camera. She just kept sharing, honestly and directly. Stories of how she still likes to use a lot of things her mother taught her. Family recipes. Quotes. Pressed for an example, she quipped: “Do what you want, you will anyway.”
She told the tale of seeing Grit for the first time, walking up the road with her brother John. “That one’s mine,” she stated as he came over the hill.
Born in Flint, Grit grew up the oldest of seven kids. Alice says he fell in love with her family before falling for her.
He played basketball at Alba High School in northern Michigan, graduating ‘in the Top 10’ of his class. Shortly thereafter he would serve his country in the Army Air Corp, traveling to Japan by boat in a tortuous 18 day journey through extremely rough seas. Grit worked several different jobs in his day, the most interesting of which I found to be his stint as a prison guard in Jackson. Making $45 a week, he lasted eight months before a riot caused him to reconsider his line of work.
When I asked Grit “what makes you happy,” he paused to give thought to his answer. It wasn’t long before Alice interjected: “Sex! Sex makes him happy!” Yes, this interview was a little different. And I really enjoyed it.
Black sheep? I don’t know, think what you want. You will anyway.