By Christopher Bethell
It’s Sunday evening, my last night in the valley, and I’m resting before going out. My fiancee Bekky arrived the week of Oct. 8, and I’ve been so thankful to share my final days here with her, showing her my discoveries, making new ones together, and introducing her to everyone I’ve met. Tonight we’re going for food with Kevin and Taylor, two people who very quickly became some of our closest friends, and my camera is staying firmly at home.
My mum landed at end of last week too. I took her to the places in my grandfather’s polaroids, and Oct. 15 we laid a headstone for him. The stone reads “Joseph Leo O’Donnell, Singing with the angels, Dancing in the sky.” Three years previously, we stood in the exact same spot in a panic as we couldn’t find him – his temporary marker had been overgrown. Now, here we were with something permanent, something beautiful that pointed toward the sky.
This week I was blessed to be invited into a lot of people’s homes and lives. Hannah invited me to join her and her son in baking a cake. Nick and Brandon took me and Bekky up into the mountains to shoot a gun for the first time. Hope and Jake brought me into their new apartment in Clarkston and spoke about their ideas of moving to the coast. And Dan drove us around his land and out to Montgomery Ridge to see the ranch my grandfather had visited. Everyone I have photographed has not felt like a “subject” or a “sitter” but more like a friend – a few even like family. I think that’s what happens when someone trusts you so deeply to photograph their intimate moments.
On Monday, we leave Clarkston. We head south without much of a plan, apart from hitting up Vegas for my 30th birthday, and our flight home from Los Angeles in November. As exciting as all of this is though, all I can think about is my host Beth’s banana bread and one more night at Hogans Pub in Clarkston.
Bethell is a British freelance photographer who visited Clarkston for several weeks in an attempt to learn more about his grandfather, Joseph “Joey” Leo O’Donnell, who died here in 1989 at the age of 48. This was his final installment in his series, “An Outsider’s Perspective.” People can contact Bethell at firstname.lastname@example.org.