Author Archives: rkchurchill

About rkchurchill

I am a freelance photojournalist working in Sin City. I live to photograph the weird & wacky, and believe me, there is plenty in this town. You can see samples of my daily work for national newspapers, wire services and commercial clients at: www.rondachurchill.com or by simply typing my name in a search engine. Page views, reposts and comments are always welcomed and appreciated. Thank you for viewing my slice of images that made the cut.

“Unknown”

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I have always been drawn to cemeteries.

Perhaps the often-photographed location of a cemetery has always been ingrained in my photographer’s blood. Maybe the lure to explore them stemmed from my childhood memories of my mother speaking to her parents’ graves while we visited the quiet, tranquil space and my younger siblings and I examined the rows of nearby headstones. Above all, the way a community documents and celebrates the resting place of their loved ones is quite telling of the culture of its living population, and I always find myself  documenting these plots of lands.

Last week, forecasted rains dampened my Memorial Day weekend camping trip in Southern Utah. Before heading back to town, my husband and I stumbled upon a little cemetery near Mormon-settled St. George in the somewhat ghost town of Silver Reef. It was there that we found the town’s Pioneer Cemetery, a small cemetery declaring the land to have graves of both Catholic and Protestant faith. Inside the divided cemetery, among weathered headstones and blunt grave markers were 32 graves marked “unknown.”

I jumped out of the truck with my camera as wind whipped around us and dark clouds moved in upon the small plot nestled at the foot of a mountain and sprawling country homes built over a 19th century silver mining town.

Sadness was palpable as I shot frames of uniform white crosses with unidentified bones buried beneath them. The hand-crafted markers were a small forest in an ordinary field. I took my time and moved around the land, while my husband walked our dog along the perimeter, knowing I needed space.

Although only a couple frames made the cut, I would like to think of these images as a small tribute to the miners and their families that lay below.

“Unknown” is a part of an untitled and ongoing series. Follow photojournalist Ronda Churchill on Instagram @rondachurchillblog3road

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Fertility/Neplodnost

I have been silently struggling with infertility for the past 3.5 years. This sentence is hard to write.

Making images is easy. It keeps my world right.

The following frames were shot within several days of traveling and hiking in Croatia in January. The cost of hiking a bucket-list national park is minute compared to the colossal cost of treatment.

These images reflect my feelings with my fertility struggle.

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Series: Infertility/NeplodnostPhoto by Ronda Churchill
Series: Infertility/NeplodnostPhoto by Ronda Churchill
Series: Infertility/NeplodnostPhoto by Ronda Churchill
Series: Infertility/NeplodnostPhoto by Ronda Churchill
Series: Infertility/NeplodnostPhoto by Ronda Churchill
Series: Infertility/Neplodnost

Free admission

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Free Admission

A decayed water park
thirsty in the searing California desert,
is quenched by spray paint

Applied color,
of lines and shapes conveying
love, hate, pain, politics,
reside on the sun fun skeletal remains
a slide with no slide
a pool with no pool

“Freckle face”
“I’m a nurse; I do crystal meth”
“Leon loves Heather”
It’s a community poem,
the common thread: expression
I take my piece too
for my little blog post

The smell of spray paint hangs in the air
I am alone in this charged space
later frightened by an artist then two lovers
we find ourselves on this ride

Lake Delores Waterpark that once was wet
now flows with an artsy, niche vibe
where lovers and haters gather
to leave behind a permanent mark
on an impermanent, changing space

 

Lake Delores Waterpark, with slogan, “The fun spot in the desert!” closed its doors permanently in the late 1980s. Ronda Churchill is a freelance photojournalist available for hire worldwide. http://www.rondachurchill.com
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Intergalactic Art Car Festival

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On a very windy Saturday evening, a vacant lot in downtown Las Vegas was transformed into a futurist light and fire show. Members of the community were drawn to the event like bugs are seduced by lantern light on a dark, summer night.

For one evening, we had our own little Burning Man in the desert. Decorated cars and sculptures suddenly transformed and moved, all seemingly fueled by the surrounding upbeat techno music. Children laughed and pointed as parents and young lovers alike took photos and danced. People came as they were and left with a smile in their heart. That’s the funny thing about art; it moves you.

Photographer note: All images shot on iPhone X. Ronda Churchill is a freelance photographer based in Las Vegas available for hire worldwide.

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Grandma’s Camera, part 2

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Charlene Cecilia Wolf

(March 22, 1928- April 22, 2018)

Charlene, beloved mother of 6, grandmother of 13 and great grandmother to many passed away peacefully with family at her side. My mother, whose own mother passed away very tragically in a car wreck, was with Charlene as final breaths were taken. My mother knew her mother-in-law longer than her own mother. Charlene was “mom” to many.

Weeks ago, I wrote an unpublished blog post when I returned from Illinois after spending quality time with my grandmother. I have saved those words and will revisit them at a later time.

In Illinois, I photographed my grandmother on a day that she felt well. We looked at my prints from a previous trip that I exposed with her mother’s camera, ate popcorn, talked about grandpa and his visits in her dreams, and exchanged stories about his “pennies from heaven.” I even witnessed my grandmother’s very first manicure. She chose an electric teal that a nurse named “I’ve-never-done-this-before Blue.”

In the photograph, one of two frames I took on the 100-year old Brownie, tiny paper hearts hang in a tree behind her. The hearts revealed handwritten notes to loved ones of past and present and were left over tokens from Valentine’s Day at the care center.

In the image, my grandmother wears one of her favorite shirts, her hair is full, her nails are painted, and she has a slight smile. I know today that her smile is huge because she is no longer in pain, is not afraid, and is reunited with the love of her life.

Thank you, grandma, for being you. You will be missed by your big family.

Author’s note: See previous blog post for Grandma’s Camera, part 1

Grandma’s Camera, part 1

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Brownie 120 film: ocotillo cactus in Baja California, Mexico

I will always remember the first photograph I developed in a darkroom– the U.S. flag flapping in the wind before the St. Louis Arch. The photo, which I shot on my parent’s Minolta camera, popped to life in the developing solution in the soft red light before me. I was immediately hooked. Photography has always been in my blood.

Before the Minolta, I grew up around the fine arts of music, drawing, painting, writing and dance. Even though I was playing impressive six-page sonatinas on the piano in middle school, my first formal photography class wasn’t until my first year of college. It so happened that my favorite drawing class shared the same hall as a photography class. My attention kept driving me to the photo class’ open door.

Well before college, I had begged my parents for a Polaroid camera, which would be the very first camera that I owned. I still have hoards of Polaroid photographs of my stuffed animals, best friends, siblings and vacations. That camera was the first of many cameras.

Several years ago, my grandparents moved out of the house where they raised their six children, and my grandmother gave personal items she wished to pass on to her 13 grandchildren. I wasn’t surprised to find that she gave me a compact Kodak No. 2 Folding Autographic Brownie that exposed 120 film through its nice bellows. Included with the camera was its original instructions manual complete with a $3 price tag. I kept the treasured camera within a collection of other old cameras I had accumulated as gifts from family members. This sort of collection is fairly typical of a professional photographer. All who have “the eye” are really drawn to the history of our passion.

However, it was not until my grandmother fell ill last month that an intense need to shoot with the camera grew within me. I wanted to take photos to show her, and I desperately wanted to make her proud. When I told her of my plan, she informed me that the camera was her mother’s, my great-grandmother’s, and that the camera that I held was approximately 100 years old.

So when my husband and I planned a five-day road trip, a trek that would take us south through the desert of Southern California and into Mexico along the Sea of Cortez, there was no question that I would include the Brownie in my arsenal of film cameras for the trip. Along with the Brownie, I chose to bring a plastic $30 Holga camera I had since college, including a partially exposed roll of 120 film inside it. I also chose a 1970s 35mm Canon AE-1 with a fixed 50mm f1.8 lens. I was set with these three film cameras plus my iPhone and a digital Sony mirrorless. To say my husband is a patient travel companion is an understatement.

All the posted images were shot on one of three film camera bodies. All frames are scanned prints with minimal toning. Imperfections in the prints are due to several factors such as: age of the film, light leaks, dust (especially on my grandmother’s Brownie), and wear/tear of cameras.

Next month, I have a flight home to St. Louis to visit my grandmother and to celebrate her 90th birthday. At this time, I truly hope we can have a lovely discussion, and I will take the prints with me, although she’s a hip lady and will most likely already see these digital prints here. Lastly, I plan to make a portrait of her with the third-generation Brownie. After all, my camera was designed for this very thing.

Ronda Churchill is a freelance photojournalist living in Las Vegas. You can follow her on Instagram @rondachurchill

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Brownie 120 film: Cadrón cactus in Baja California, Mexico

 

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Holga 120 film: sunset near the Sea of Cortez in Mexico (l). A home in Bombay Beach at Salton Sea, California (r)

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Holga 120 film: Double exposures at Kelso Dunes, California

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Canon 35mm film: Playa Hawaii in Baja California, Mexico (top & bottom left); Bombay Beach in Salton Sea, California (top right); Detail of sand at Kelso Dunes, California (bottom right)

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Canon 35mm film: Ocotillo Cactus in Baja California, Mexico (l), dunes at Glamis, California (r)

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Holga 120 film: East Jesus, Slab City, California (l), Bombay Beach in Salton Sea, California (r)

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Brownie 120 film: Sea of Cortez at sunrise

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My great-grandmother’s Kodak No.2 Autographic Brownie (l), a portion of my film camera collection including the Brownie, top right, and instruction manual (r)

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My grandmother Charlene with me and my brother (l) and her with one of her many great-grandchildren (r)

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Portrait at the Salton Sea (l) and working at Kelso Dunes (r). Photographs by my husband Jim on my iPhone.