When you drive around Jackson, what are some of the thoughts that travel through your mind? Do you ever find yourself in awe? Is there a moment where you wish you were somewhere else? No matter what your thoughts are today, there comes a point for everyone in life where they feel a little lackluster about the place they call home.
For one Jackson native, his hometown seemed to be the one place on earth that lacked inspiration for his photography.
In early 2017, Brooks Neely, a digital media student at Union University, stumbled upon the work of videographer Ryan Booth. Upon first glance, Neely found this work beautiful but discouraging, seeing as Booth’s subject of New York City seemed a thousand times more compelling than his own Jackson, Tennessee.
Neely found himself feeling as if there was “nowhere nice to take pictures.” He didn’t feel Jackson could give him the landscape and diversity to create the impactful images he envisioned.
That is, until the day he decided to just go out with his camera and photograph what he saw, no matter what is was. That’s when Neely met Robert.
While exploring the downtown area, Neely came across a homeless man in a wheelchair who was literally stuck in the mud. After working together to get Robert unstuck, Neely asked if he could take his photograph. Robert complied, and later Neely posted the photograph on Instagram. Instantly his inbox was flooded with messages from people wanting to help Robert.
People were coming out of the woodwork to ask how they could give. It was an amazing realization that, no matter what the location a photograph is taken in, can be used in such a powerful, impactful way. Neely realized the astounding power that one set of photos can have to make a difference.
Through this personal project, Neely has started seeing Jackson with new eyes. Taking candid photographs has helped him see the life that is happening in Jackson and gain a new appreciation for his hometown.
I asked Neely what he would want people to take away from his photographs.
“Try to look at Jackson in a different way,” he answered. “See if you can find what’s special where you live.”
Above are some examples of Neely's street photography of Jackson. To see more of his work, follow him on Instagram.
Cynthia Sipes is a native of Alabama who moved to Jackson in April of 2016. She works at Starbucks full-time while pursuing an MA in Art Therapy. She is happily married and enjoys photography along with other creative endeavors.
Photography by Brooks Neely.