Last Night with Eddie.

Going on internships is a bitter sweet time for me. I will be interning with the Charlotte Observer in Charlotte, which means I will be gone from my husband 5 days out of the week. I can’t really imagine what it will be like being away from my rock for so long. We have already picked out our meeting place…the only place in between Charlotte and Asheboro on 49…Bojangles or Subway….or McDonalds if we are really desperate. I have a feeling they will know us by name at Subway real soon. It will be sad not to wake up beside this guy every morning. But at the same time I am excited where this experience will take us within the next two months. Already looking forward to reuniting. This was our last night together. We spent it at Dilishi then watched Captain Phillips together. A pretty typical night for us 🙂

Dilishi-2 Dilishi


2013 Awards

I am beyond thrilled to have received Third Place for Best Feature for this year’s NCPPA annual contest and an honorable mention for the Southern Short Course’s Portrait/Personality category! I didn’t expect to win anything, so it’s pretty awesome to walk away with two recognitions. 


3rd place Feature – NCPPA
06ihtbh05Honorable Mention Portrait/Personality – Southern Short Course

Nothing like downing 5,000 calories and paying $5 to see ” Tiny Tim: the world’s smallest pony”

Oh the NC State Fair. It’s a magnet for every disease under the sun, the kind of people who think a pound of cotton candy in one night is normal, and kids who are somehow able to ride a mechanical bull for 10 minutes straight. With every step I took at the fair this year I could feel myself getting sicker and fatter. The State Fair is endearing, however, in all of its strangeness. I felt like I jumped into a world that hasn’t changed since the 20s. When our world turns to robots and flying cars, we will always be able to count on the State Fair to be running its 100% unsafe ferris wheel from the early 1900s and the greasy men with stained wife beaters serving oversized, hormone-infused chicken legs, only the legs will probably be twice as big. I wonder if everyone has the same moment of shock that I encountered when I went back to the fair 10 years after my childhood and suddenly all of the magic of the State Fair had vanished (except for that $6 Lemonade—now that will always hold its glam). It was so entertaining, though, that I quickly got over my “coming-of-age” moment and enjoyed the peculiarity of the whole affair. 

On the photography side of things: we are still honing in on event photography skills. We are using the five photo design, which includes an overall shot, a tight face, a medium shot of people, a detail, and a “wild card” or whatever I choose to use as my 5th photo. My biggest challenge was finding moments to focus in on within the neon, chaotic whirlwind. I was pretty overwhelmed with the number of potential photos hitting me at all angles and felt hindered by my inability to pick out the best moments or scenes within the event. You live and you learn, though. There will always be a next year.


Chandler: The Longboarder

I helped my friend, Aleece, with photographing senior portraits of a great lad named Alex this weekend in downtown Asheboro. His friend Chandler came along for support and entertainment. Chandler got bored so he grabbed a longboard and tied a shirt around his neck and started skating like a superhero because that’s what boys do. It was fun hanging out with these kids for an afternoon and photographing the beauty of youth.


Scotland County Highland Games

It’s event time in photojournalism now.  I’ve been learning a lot about photographing events for a newspaper. The “formula” includes a wide-angle that sets the scene, a tight face of someone enjoying an event, a medium photo of people engaged, an iconic detail, and a “wild card” of anything else that helps tell the story. Eddie and I went to the Highland Games in Laurenburg, NC this past weekend and it was swizzawesome. Kilts and funnel cake–yeah. We had a history lesson on Clan Leary, which is where the O’Leary’s come from, so that was pretty awesome. It’s nice to get in touch with my roots by marriage. I think we’ve started an O’Leary October tradition.

O'Leary_Event4_A O'Leary_Event4-B O'Leary_Event4-C O'Leary_Event4-D O'Leary_Event4-E

A story of waiting.

Ashley and Scott Mason are an awesome couple here in Asheboro. I work with Ashley at The Table and have gotten to know Scott from him hanging out at the restaurant. Scott and Ashley met each other at a Krispy Kreme 5k race, which led to a Krispy Kreme donuts cake at their wedding. They are two energetic, fun, and incredibly loving people. Unlike the typical married couple in America, Ashley and Scott have been facing immigration issues because Scott is from England. Because the government wants to stop transnational marriages only to gain citizenship, they must go through an intense, long process involving much paperwork, interviews (to ensure their marriage is authentic), and time. They have been in a period of waiting: waiting for their papers to get pushed, waiting for Scott to be able to legally work, waiting to sign a lease without the chance of deportation, waiting for certainty. They are currently living in a house with sketchy plumbing, no working oven, little furniture, and packed away boxes. In exchange of free rent, Scott and Ashley are renovating the house for their friend who is trying to flip it. As the two of them work through a time of uncertainty and learning to simply wait, I hope to capture their unique story within a larger issue of immigration and transnational marriage.



I haven’t posted any sports photos on my blog thus far, and it’s probably because I’m not the biggest fan of shooting sports. As a photojournalism student, however, I’ve learned to somewhat enjoy it. Football has been fun to shoot, despite all of my efforts since I was a young one not to attend football games (things have changed after getting married to a former football player). I’ve enjoyed the people watching and the exercise. I’ve learned that you have to move around a lot shooting football in order to get good shots. We’ve moved on to soccer this week, which I’m pretty sure I like photographing. It’s easier, its during the day for the most part, and the action continues rather than stops every 10 seconds. Here is my first take from my first soccer game EV-VER.

O'LearyA_Soccer1_A O'LearyA_Soccer1_B O'LearyA_Soccer1_C O'LearyA_Soccer1_D O'LearyA_Soccer1_F


This week’s theme for our photo-a-day project is shadows. I’v been trying to avoid the typical long shadow on the ground photo. I’ve always loved photos where the subject straddles the hot light and the shadows. Shadows create dimension and focus within an image that you just can’t beat. I’ve bombed a few days with awful photos from either lack of time or lack of creativity, but I’m kind of a big fan of this photo.

Sierra Leone photo essay

I traveled to Sierra Leone, West Africa with Eddie to document Safie and Mohammed Braima and their mission in their home village, Yiehun, about a year and a half ago. Safie and Mohammed are two of the most incredible people I know I will ever meet. Living with them for two months and witnessing the deep love that they have for their people changed me forever. Sierra Leone is now 10 years out of its decade-long civil war and it is still in a place of recovery and rebuilding. Yiehun, Safie and Mohammed’s home village, was the base for the Revolutionary United Front rebels during the war. There were more atrocities committed there than anyone wishes to imagine. Safie and Mohammed have moved back to the village from the U.S. to help rebuild their village. They have built a library, a church, a secondary school, and are now building a senior secondary school (high school). The impact they have had on their community as well as neighboring villages is exponential. I could write a book on the numerous people who have been effected by their love and help.

While over there, we interviewed many villagers who survived the war and listened to countless stories of how people escaped death’s door. Although there is a sense of brokenness within their voices, there is also a feeling of resilience and thankfulness for the gift of life. Listening to the adults who lived through the war, I could see within their eyes that they had seen death face to face. They were filled with a calm heaviness as if saying, “I’ve seen the end of my road so now I can walk through anything.”

What intrigued me greatly was the difference between the generation that lived through the war and the rising generation that will only know about what their parents, grandparents, and country went through from stories and from the aftermath. As Sierra Leone rebuilds itself, its new leaders will deal with the effects of a war that they never knew. I decided to put together a picture story in this light, focusing on the children of the village of Yiehun.

sl_blog-1After more than 10 years of fighting and violent corruption, the Sierra Leone civil war (1991-2002) left the country destroyed and its people devastated. Today, 10 years after the fighting stopped, Sierra Leone is still rebuilding itself and villagers continue to slowly come home. Yiehun is the village the Revolutionary United Front rebels seized and used as their base. As Yiehun works to rebuild itself, a new generation is rising to help that never saw the war– only the harrowing effects on its parents, grandparents, and village.

Abbi_OLeary25Abi, who was born into the civil war, carries her son, who will only know of the 10-year devastation of his country through stories passed down.

sl_blog-3The few students that do travel to senior secondary school walk 15 miles every week and come home only for the weekends. Yiehun is building a new school to help lessen teen pregnancies, dropouts, and missing children.

sl_blog-4Two kids take a break from gathering sand for their new school and play. Over 200 students help bring sand to the school site, eager to be able to finish their education in their home village. As the generation before them struggle to forget the past, the children of Sierra Leone struggle to create a promising future. They are faced daily with the shadow of a war they never knew.

sl_blog-5A girl gathers water for her family in the village. Yiehun is one of the only villages in eastern Sierra Leone that had a water pump during the war, which was a key reason why the RUF rebels made their base there. The lines are broken now, so children have to go to the river for water.

sl_blog-6A fire set to clear land for a rice farm encroaches on the village’s primary school, mirroring the violent landscape of the war. Many schools were burnt to the ground during the war along with entire villages. Yiehun had to rebuild all of their schools and almost all of their mud houses, save for the few with lines of bullet holes from executions and RUF graffiti.

sl_blog-7Alpha Korima studies for his final exams outside of the secondary school. He is one of the children who is helping build a senior  secondary school so that he does not have to walk far and live away form his family once he graduates from secondary school.

sl_blog-8Children gather wood for their first school meal. The older generations of Yiehun walk around the fields in the village quietly talking about executions, mass burials, and brutal violence that occurred in specific places. When the children hear their stories, they listen intently on what happened on the land they now live and walk on.

sl_blog-9Women and children were left stranded across the country for years during the war. Women had to raise their children constantly running from gunfire and moving from one village to another as the rebels took over. Many children were separated from their mother’s for months and even years. One mother, MJ, tells of how her sister was separated from her children for years by running in a different direction into the bush as the rebels came through the dirt road firing.

sl_blog-10Mami plays outside after school. On the weekends the children go into the bush with their parents and work on the farm from sunrise to sunset, sowing and harvesting their land.

sl_blog-11Sierra, 6, plays with her adoptive family. Sierra lived through a war of her own when her parents believed she was possessed and left her to die. Safie and Mohommed Braima heard that someone found a starving child and decided to raise her. After 3 years, they are still trying to adopt her legally.

B.Ball Action.

Looking for a compelling photo to take every day can be challenging. My days can feel pretty repetitive and mundane as a student, as much as I would not like to admit that. I drive down the same roads, stop at the same stop lights, pass by the same fast food restaurants, walk through the same fluorescent-infused hallway, sit down in the same chair, and stare at the same instructor—every day. Much of searching for an interesting photo deals with me trying to break out of my daily landscape and experience something new. Much of looking for a good photograph is also trying to see my world around me in a new way. Here is a visual ode to the beautiful, fleeting moments that I more than often miss.