September 3, 2021
TURNING NEGATIVES INTO POSITIVES
Photography by Leigh Ann Edmond
Story by Karen Ghostlaw Pomarico
Leigh Ann Shaw was a wedding photographer from a small town roughly 15 miles north of Birmingham, Alabama, called Mount Olive. Little did Leigh Ann know when she stopped for a red light after a grueling day photographing a wedding, that her life was about to change forever.
A man she had met only once before, lead guitarist, rock musician Gary Edmonds, came to her window at that red light and asked her to join him for some good music and fun. An offer she found a bit hard to refuse. After that night they were inseparable, and Leigh Ann Shaw became Leigh Anne Edmonds a year and a half later in the fall of 2012. Photography changed for Leigh Ann, no more weddings, but instead a full backstage pass to some of the most renowned venues in the Southeast and to some of the biggest country rock stars of that time. With Leigh Ann and Gary’s life on the road, adventure and the outdoors is often depicted in Leigh Ann’s personal photographic works. It has been a huge part of her life for well over 25 years now, and Leigh Ann considers it more about a visual journey than a professional destination.
The vast majority of Leigh Ann’s work is in black and white. She connects to the nostalgic and timeless look of black and white over color images. Leigh Ann credits her style of photography from her earlier, formative years as a student of photography, where she learned film and darkroom processes. She refers to her work as predominantly unplanned, spontaneous, and observant. “I never control or direct individuals with my documentary work,” she says. “This takes away the individual's authentic moment and identity.”
These photographs are a series from a rediscovery. In a printing frenzy Leigh Ann remembered she had put away an old hard drive from eight years prior that she thought had been destroyed. To Leigh Ann’s surprise the hard drive was intact, and the files were untouched and unedited. This photographic series shows intimate encounters between photographer and musician, husband and wife, with art as the loving thread that ties them together. Leigh Ann has selected some choice picks from the past, and includes some of her current work to show the journey of her life as a photographer married to a professional musician.
When people find out that Leigh Ann is married to a working musician she usually receives one of two comments: ‘how fun’, or, ‘that must be hard.’ Leigh Ann has found that it is both challenging and rewarding. The lack of money, long hours, late nights, and travel that are often required can be taxing, even with the strongest of relationships. She feels that when you marry a musician, you marry the music too and that she cannot separate his love for music and his love for her. “Music is part of him. It lives within him and without it, he is not complete.”
Leigh Ann has found their photography and music can exist separate from one another, allowing for independent work, giving them the freedom to grow as individuals. Their art also creates a bond between them. This is the glue that holds their marriage together, where many have failed. For Leigh Ann and Gary, their art is not something that they do for fun, it is a part of who they are. This understanding and tolerance of unforgiving schedules helps them find balance and fills them with satisfaction and pride, and a whole lot of love. Leigh Ann says that finding the separation between Gary’s working nightlife, and having a homebase is very important, and she is thankful that he desires the same things. Stability in their relationship comes from being able to disconnect and get away from it all. When they are not performing they escape to a small community just outside of Alabama where home sweet home is all that is desired, and where music and photography are some of the many pleasures they share.
Leigh Ann admits to being intimidated at first going on the road with an all man band. She didn’t know what to expect, tried to be inconspicuous, and blended in with the band. The band at times even forgot she was traveling with them. For Leigh Ann, a female photographer in a male dominated industry, being next to invisible is important. To capture the reality of any situation she tries hard not to call attention to herself. She also feels that being a woman in a man's world comes with some perks. She is quiet and soft spoken and reserved by nature, and doesn't get into the other photographers' spaces, which makes her feel accepted and welcome. Leigh Ann says ”Photographing others should be about the experience and connection you find with someone, not just about the image.” Her visual journey has become more about connecting with others and gaining their trust, so when they let their guard down the shutter releases, and the result is an authentic and honest image. “Becoming a professional musician is like that of a photographer,” she adds. “It is a life choice that requires dedication to the skill, faith in your talent, and courage to continue with no promises or guarantees.”
Leigh Ann enjoyed reliving these moments as she sorted through the old images and found herself reflecting on the younger woman she once was. It has reminded her of the years that have passed and how she and Gary have grown into a comfortable older couple, who love to stay home and cook dinner anytime over a night on the town. These images represent her dedication to her photography, and to her commitment to Gary Edmonds, and to Gary Edmonds’ commitment to his music, and to his dedication to the love of his life, Leigh Ann Shaw.
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