A camera, plus passion and big dose of people equals award-winning creations for photojournalist Aaron Thompson.
This photo, taken by photojournalist Aaron Thompson, is one of many that will be on display beginning Monday, June 17, at the Arts Center of Cannon County in Woodbury, Tenn. (Photo courtesy of A. Thompson)
“Ever since attending the nation’s top photojournalism school at Western Kentucky University, it’s people who trigger my passion for photography,” Thompson said about his life’s work, which will be featured in a one-man show starting Monday at the Arts Center of Cannon County.
“To meet and photograph everyday people, and tell their important life’s story, that’s the most satisfying aspect of my photography,” he said.
Some of Thompson’s work has been viewed all around the world.
“We’re honored to have Aaron Thompson’s acclaimed body of photojournalism hanging in the Arts Center for the viewing public,” said Arts Center folklorist Evin Hatch. “His photography, which has been viewed around the globe, is another example of the talented artisans located throughout our region.”
You may think you haven’t seen Thompson’s magic with a camera, but you would be wrong.
It was a somber day throughout Middle Tennessee in April 2007, when then Thompson, who worked for The Daily News Journal at the time, was assigned to cover the funeral of Marc Golczynski, a brave soldier from Rutherford County who volunteered to serve in the Iraq War.
“I’ve never felt comfortable covering funerals, but as a journalist, I understand the news value,” Thompson said. “When we got notification that Marc had perished in Iraq, we went to his parents’ (Henry and Faye Golczynski) home in Murfreesboro. After being made to feel welcome and comfortable from the family, I was OK with covering the fallen soldier’s funeral.”
But what happened at the gravesite changed Thompson’s world.
“Without debate, without doubt, the top photograph I’ve done is the (one) of Marc’s young son, Christian, being presented the flag that had draped over his fallen father’s military casket.”
The raw moment of that scene impacted not only the world, but the photographer personally.
“Tears were streaming down my face too, as I focused on the scene with young Christian receiving his father’s U.S. Flag,” Thompson recalled. “I knew instantly, as a journalist, I had something special that would touch people’s hearts.”
The classic photograph, which captures the human-drama of American families losing loved ones in the Iraq War, instantly went global through modern-day media outlets. The picture remains regularly viewable today through the Internet and Facebook.
Journalism photography can instantly take news professionals from peaceful and picturesque nature scenes to danger on the streets.
“The most danger I ever felt was down on Murfreesboro’s State Street, where authorities were having major problems with gangs,” Thompson said. “I was photographing street signs to show location, when this lady in the community warned me to get out of the community, to which I responded I would, as soon as I took my photographs … after two or three warnings from her, she threatened to get her gun.”
Fortunately, the danger passed without serious incident and Thompson continued his career journey.
“I’m honored to be asked to display my photography at the nationally recognized Arts Center in Woodbury,” Thompson said about the center that is also home to his newest art, cooking. “Some of my photographs have been in the newspaper … some have never been viewed by the public. Some pictures I make just for myself, mom and dad, Donnell, and my brothers, Paul and Nathan.”
His love for photography began back at Oakland High School, under the tutelage of educator Eileen Haynes, when the photo industry was still using film.
“My first camera was an old Canon SLR, and after taking two of her photography classes, I was on my way, and when I got to Western Kentucky, I was thoroughly hooked. I became passionate about photojournalism.”
Showing his photography at the Arts Center could be considered a natural step. Thompson changed careers to work as co-proprietor with his mother, Wanda Thompson, at The Blue Porch Restaurant at the Arts Center.
“Even as a photojournalist, I shared food-catering services with my mother,” Thompson said in reference to stepping away from the publication. “I love cooking and preparing food.”
Whether your taste is professional photography or Short Mountain Distillery’s moonshine-laced bread-pudding dessert, Thompson’s work – in the kitchen or behind the camera – makes a trip to the Arts Center a fulfilling pleasure for all.