Soon after business slowed for Leigh Ann Edmonds during the early days of the pandemic, unexpected down time proved to be a creative blessing in disguise. Edmonds had worked as a freelance commercial photographer for 20 years and been at it full-time for 10 — and suddenly realized she was quite burned out in her profession.
“A few weeks went by, and I started thinking about how much I missed shooting,” she confessed. “So I started photographing random places in my community, and it started becoming fun again.”
Edmonds is not the first of her family to pick up a camera. Her grandfather, David Allen McCluskey, who died seven years before her birth, had also been a gifted photographer. One day, Edmonds’ mother presented her with a special gift: a collection of photo negatives, taken by her grandfather during the 1950s and ‘60s. “I started studying them, and I noticed similarities to the way I shoot,” Edmonds said. “Our photos seem to match up almost seamlessly.”
Now, these artistic, familial resemblances are on display at Canary Gallery for lovers of photography to view and admire in the aptly-named exhibit, "Two Worlds, One Journey." Gallery Founder Libby Pantazis met Edmonds years ago at a fundraiser and immediately felt like the young photographer was noteworthy. “Since then, I've followed her work and reveled in it,” Pantazis explained. “I’d been searching for a photographer for the gallery for about seven years.”
“Photography, to me, doesn’t have to be about earth-shattering news or a pretty event,” commented Edmonds. “It's just as important for photography to document those in-between moments.”
Edmonds and her grandfather clearly share the penchant for capturing “in-between moments” – that is, when people aren’t posing or expecting a camera to appear. In one of McCluskey’s most memorable shots — taken at the funeral of his wife, Nola McCluskey, in Birmingham’s Jefferson Memorial Cemetery — a handful of Edmonds’ family members, including her mother, are showing raw feelings or “the pain in their own way,” as it's described in the show notes. This haunting photograph is one example of how McCluskey, like his granddaughter, used the art form to capture the human condition at its truest and most vulnerable.
Sadly, this would be McCluskey’s last photograph; after his wife’s passing, his creative inspiration dwindled until his death in 1974. His own photographic career would be far briefer than his granddaughter’s, lasting just a decade, and Edmonds considers it a privilege to share their collective work with the public and honor the immortality of art.
“I will now complete his journey,” she mused. “ I don’t have children of my own, so my photography is my baby — and I want to leave my work behind for future generations the way my grandfather did.”
To learn more about Two Worlds, One Journey, visit canarygalleryllc.com.