Resident ready to share memories in pictures

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Judith McKee pointed to a photograph on thewall near the foot of her bed. In the photograph a red and blackhot air balloon sits tethered to the ground. The balloon looms highabove where the photographer stood and fills most of the frame.

    “This is from the balloon race in Natchez,” she said.

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    A butterfly balances on a plant in another photograph hanging onthe adjacent wall. The butterfly’s orange stands out in strongcontrast from the surrounding green.

    “That was taken out by Meadville,” McKee said. “I was driving whenI saw it. I stopped and got out and started taking pictures as fastas I could.”

    Photographs cover the walls of McKee’s room at Countrybrook LivingCenter, and McKee shot all of them, capturing the natural sceneryand landscapes of Lincoln and neighboring counties.

    The collection impresses family, visitors and Countrybrookemployees alike.

    On Thursday, the general public will have an opportunity beimpressed. Countrybrook will host an exhibition of McKee’s photosfrom 3-6 p.m. in Countrybrook’s front lobby.

    McKee remains resolutely humble, though. She does not believe herwork is of sufficient quality to be called “photographs.”

    “They’re just pictures,” McKee said.

    She also has another name for her work: memories.

    Memory describes several functions of her work. McKee remembers thelocation and details of where each photo was shot, from ponds inFranklin County to barns in Lincoln County.

    The pictures also act as an extension of McKee’s memory.

    She took most of her photographs during long car drives with hermother, Alma, who died 10 years ago. McKee explained that lookingat the photographs puts her mind back into those days.

    “She was a shut-in, but she loved to go driving. It enabled her toexperience the world,” McKee said about her mother.

    McKee and her mother would often leave on Saturdays about 9 a.m.and plan to be gone all day. McKee said they never drove far, butthey drove long.

    “We liked the country roads best,” McKee said. “We never knew wherewe were headed, we would just drive wherever.”

    Most of the drives occurred in McKee’s baby blue 1966 Ford Mustang.When she sold the car, it had almost 400,000 miles on it.

    From those 400,000 miles McKee has boxes filled with hundreds of4x6 snapshots.

    All the snapshots originated from film negatives taken with McKee’sMinolta camera. She has never used a digital camera and, though sheplans to begin photography again when cooler weather arrives, shedoesn’t plan to adopt digital techniques.

    McKee and her mother’s interests are apparent from different themesthat emerge in the photographs. Ponds and rivers are common sights,as are the flowers McKee’s mother liked best.

    McKee said she and her mother liked windows and pointed to aparticular set of pictures. One features a window from FirstPresbyterian Church of Brookhaven. In another, a long forgottenphotograph sits in the window of an abandoned photographystudio.

    “Windows” may accurately describe all of McKee’s pictures. Herroommate Helen Mason indicates as much. Over Mason’s bed some ofMcKee’s sunset photographs are on the wall.

    “Sometimes at night I look at that sunset, and I wish I was there,”Mason said.

    And, ultimately, McKee hopes her work creates a window thathighlights what the familiarity of the local environment mayobscure.

    “I just want to share what people don’t see. I want to callattention to what goes unnoticed, things you might not look at,”McKee said.