I Relocated To Central Kentucky, In Search Of Self, Community And Opportunity And Now I Live Among Settlers

Untitled Photograph – Steve Hoffman

Gavin was like most five-year olds. Happy go lucky. Adventuresome. Discovering anything within hands’ grasp.

In 2010, I was part of a group walking around town taking photographs as a community challenge to shoot and share pictures. For me, only a couple of weeks new to town, it was also a chance to explore the community and perhaps make some friends.

The town is located in rural, central Kentucky. For the small population of just over 15,000, it has quite a few amenities including dining, arts and history.

That day, I photographed a beautiful stained glass window that joyfully illuminated its denominational dwelling, a mosaic cobblestone sidewalk, handsomely displayed storefronts, and a few historic landmarks and statues. I also shot a time­worn and emotionless mannequin holding a sun faded beach­ball promoting equally faded healthcare uniforms, a vacant upper deck parking lot, and worn through signs of businesses from another time. I was searching for the perfect shot ­ to frame a composition for which, as a newbie to town, I would be recognised as making a discovery. I wanted people to recognise my artistic perspective, to like me and to welcome me in.

At one point on our late morning journey, my young new friend Gavin approached me and presented me with a flower he plucked from an historic neighbourhood yard, boasting a wooden garden club placard. The delicate yellow cluster of pollen was still erect atop its cotton candy petals. So simple. So beautiful. So honest.

Like this town, Gavin’s find represented life. Hope. Charm. Chance. The soft flower, no longer growing; starting its immediate decline away from its future, held in the gentle hand of another explorer in search of something. Perfection. Youthful spirit. Joie de vivre. Gavin thought enough of the flower to capture it. Yet he also thought enough of me, a new friend, to share it. A shared moment. A shared discovery. A shared treasure.

I had my camera. Ready to impress. Ready to revel. Gavin had his imagination. Ready to seize. Ready to pluck. Gavin plucked the flower, in the moment. I plucked the photograph, in the moment.

Nearly seven years later, I still run into Gavin in our town. When I say hi, he politely extends his hand and mumbles a response. A little more conscientious of his manners, disciplined in his role, aware of his ‘self’, he is quiet and more reticent. But then I see him take off by himself and explore, and I am rejuvenated that he continues to be ready to pluck.

Likewise, in the seven years I have worked and lived in this town, I have become more grounded. Acclimated. Comfortable. I relocated to central Kentucky, in search of self, community and opportunity, and now I live among other settlers.

With at least one firmly transplanted foot in the soil of my community, I am still an outsider wanting to be accepted. However, I have roots now that connect me to this place. This land. This town. I am established. Greeted. Included. And I always have a camera with me so that, in any moment, I am ready. Ready to discover. Ready to impress. Ready to pluck.

Steve Hoffman