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Savannah, GA

One Of Many - Photo Essay 5 of 12

Story by Wesley Verhoeve January 22nd, 2015

Introduction

What: One of Many is a monthly series of photo essays about twelve American cities and their creative communities.

Who: Designers, woodworkers, chefs, engineers, illustrators, writers and anyone else making something that moves people.

Why: To inspire, and be inspired by, the independent creative movement that is reshaping our economy and culture. To encourage others to make the leap. To empower those already there, and let them know they’re not alone.

Why Now: The growing creative independent movement, along with renewed interest in life outside the big cities, is rapidly reshaping our economy and culture. Read more at oneofmany.co and find below the fourth of twelve One of Many essays.

Many thanks to the good folks at Squarespace for helping make this project possible. I highly recommend using Squarespace to build your own website. Use the code “oneofmany” to get a 10% discount, and you’ll be supporting One of Many in a small way.

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Bright Lights

Born and raised in Mississippi, Brooke Atwood is a fashion designer and stylist inspired by rock ’n’ roll, adventure, and femininity. After graduating from Ole Miss with a business degree, she opened up a boutique in Oxford (MS), which she sold three years later to pursue a Master Degree of Arts in Fashion Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Her passion for live music inspired an exploration of leather, which became the main source material for her own line. She is currently working on her fourth collection. (Also pictured: Hank, the rescue dog)

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Back In The day

Cheryl and her husband Griff Day run the amazing Back In The Day Bakery and are currently working on their second cookbook. They started the bakery with a tiny budget and a huge binder full of heirloom family recipes. Ten thousand baby steps later, the bakery is being lauded on a national level for their commitment to food excellence, as well as the role they play in their local community.

Walking into the bakery, I knew right away it was going to be my Savannah office for part of the week I’d be there. It’s the kind of place that could have only been born out of pure intentions, blind faith, and a sense of empowerment. The atmosphere and staff were warm and inclusive, the decor comfortably beautiful, and the biscuits inspired involuntary happy sounds. (Also pictured: Kenyatta Hodges)

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A Welcome Extended

Cedric Smith is a painter and photographer whose work can be admired all over Savannah. Autumn van Gunten is a social media strategist and the owner of Socially Yours. Together, these partners-in-crime founded YoureWelcomeSavannah.com, where they shine a light on fellow small business owners in Savannah, including restaurants and creatives.

Upon first meeting them, Ohio-born Autumn is easily pegged as the fun-seeking chatterbox, whereas Philadelphia-born Cedric is the thoughtful observer. After spending some time with the duo, they both start bleeding beyond those simplified roles and present a unit that seems to both challenge and support each other simultaneously. A pleasure to witness and soak up.

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Lane Huertas creative life recently went into overdrive thanks to her new Play Hard: Superhero Kid’s Collection taking off. She was able to quit her bartending job a week before we met, and has since started the process of hiring people to help her create beautifully whimsical capes, helmets and more. It’s a scary but exhilarating time for Lane, but she is fully committed to taking the leap into being a small business owner.

Rebekah Campbell is a photographer and SCAD student who just returned from a second summer in NYC interning for Cass Bird, Ana Kraš and others. Rebekah’s portraits are dreamy little stories, touching on youth and strength and how those come together in her female contemporaries in Brooklyn and Savannah.

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Katherine Sandoz is an illustrator, painter and fiber artist. She works out of a red barn in Vernonburg, just outside of Savannah, GA. Previous to striking out on her own, Katherine taught illustration at SCAD for almost a decade. Her work uses upcycled and repurposed materials that contain their own meaning within the context of the piece.

Katherine is a storyteller and an observer. She never just looks at a person, she reads them. Most of my encounters with creatives during my One of Many travels last about an hour. Not with Katherine. We went out into the country to see her barn, talked about life, took a picture for a far away beauty, joined her two sons for a family jump into the river near her house, and shared a meal of freshly caught flounder at the family table. (The art work in the background is a detail of a larger fiber work called (Flower Power) Facade. Additional river jump shots here. )

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It Takes A Village

Ash Aymond is an earthen builder, and his next project is turning this trailer into mobile earthen pizza oven. Savannah has a curious law banning food trucks, but locals are hard at work trying to change the situation. When he’s not building, you might find Ash fermenting food, making beer and hanging out with his family and his frequent AirBnB guests. Ash and his partner Sarah live in a well-kept victorian house with their beautiful baby Maya. They are able to supplement a good chunk of their income by hosting guests from all over the world, and I was fortunate to be one of them. Sarah is a photographer, SCAD-trained educator, wellness enthusiast, and the most thoughtful conversationalist.

Pictured next to Ash is Kobe, a very imaginative and creative young man that lives next door. His curiosity and hunger for knowledge was only matched by the mischief in his eyes. He took a liking to my camera and took some pretty nice shots. I hope to help cultivate this passion for creation in him, with the help of some local friends. More on that soon.

Jody Jenkins is an old friend of Sarah’s and a journalist/filmmaker of over thirty years. He currently works as a producer for SGTV, Savannah Government Television, which collects local independent films, music videos and other Savannah-related media for broadcast. He also edits a series called Engage, showcasing local talent and exposes different pockets of culture.

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Building, Re-Building

Ramsey Khalidi and his wife Pam are obsessed with sustainability. Their Southern Pine Company of Georgia turns reclamation into an art. Rather than operating as one company, Southern Pine is essentially an overlapping combination of three separate companies that create a synergy. From building homes, hotels and restaurants, to reclaiming materials from old houses torn down, to being landlords to a staffing agency, various startups, and even an 18-foot tall greenhouse. It all comes back to building and adding value to their community.

The smells and sights inside of their giant warehouse are awe-inspiring. Their commitment to their neighborhood and city are palatable. Starting a conversation with Ramsey is easy, keeping it focused on the topic at hand is a another story entirely. His brain seems to be constantly discovering new sparks of electricity that inspire new branches of thought. It seems to work out well for him, his company and all of those around, including the wonderful Evelena (pictured here) who has work for him since 1996. She started by removing nails from reclaimed wood, and has worked her way up to inventory, helping customers find what they need inside of the seemingly overwhelming amount of materials inside of their wood shop and storage facility.

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Boyz II Men Barbershop

Sharpie, pictured on the left, works at his cousin’s barbershop Boyz II Men alongside 18 other self-employed barbers that together with their customers form a strong community. Sharpie offered to cut my hair and I had no choice but to say yes. I learned about a few local slain rappers, about tractors that can go 120mph, which country music artists were Sharpie’s favorites, and Eric Clapton’s haircut was referenced multiple times by various people.

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Athon

I am incredibly sad to share with you that Jonathan Athon passed away from a tragic accident a few weeks after we met. He was 32 years old. My sentences will reflect this by using the past tense, but know that his presence is still felt in the creative community of Savannah every day.

Jonathan Athon was the bass player and vocalist for heavy metal power trio Black Tusk. When he wasn’t on tour, he would be holed up in his workshop hand-crafting gorgeous custom drums under the moniker 13 Star Drums. My time with Athon was inspiring. We sat on the porch with his beloved pup, looking out at the motorcycle he proudly displayed, and talked about the stories behind his many tattoos, his hopes as a musician, the physical realities of touring, and the pleasure that came with creating something tangible with his hands for others to use. It was clear that he loved being part of the creative community of Savannah, but I doubt he realized how beloved he really was. Athon was a special kind of guy. If you’d have run into him in a dark alley you might’ve wanted to run away from pure physical intimidation, but the guy had a heart of gold and it showed. He loved his dog, he helped his friends, he made music for strangers, and he was taken far too early. Rest in peace, Athon.

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A Colorful Outlook

Jill Jasper runs a ministry called Wings of Joy, through which she takes a group of exotic therapy birds to senior homes and schools. Before putting a bird to work, Jill first socializes them in Forsyth Park, where they can interact with curious passers-by.

Jessica Leigh Lebos is a writer and the community editor of local free paper Connect Savannah. For the past decade, shes also kept her personal blog Yo Yenta, writing about life, feminism and being (kind of) a bad Jewish mother. Jessica grew up in Arizona, and made her way to Savannah via Marin County CA.

Al Cobb has been in the collectibles business since he was eight years old and runs Cobb’s Galleries. From stamps, to coins, art pottery, silver, books, baseball cards, and so much more. Business is a little rough right now, with baby boomers passing and flooding the market with their stuff, but Al makes sure to stay on top on things online and in his gorgeous historic home-turned-gallery, right on 37th street. An incredible wealth of cool stuff, and a bit of a must visit.

Jules de Jesus Fritz is the founder and CEO of makeup and education company Dollface by Jules. In 1997, Jules started her beauty career as a Clinique consultant in a Florida mall, and 17 years of goal-setting and hard work later she runs a small business which employs seven people and trains many others. When Jules talks about her business she doesn’t discuss mascara or lipstick. Instead, she focuses on creating a community of confident women with tools, knowledge, and an eagerness to spread both.

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Welcome To The Dollhouse

Peter Mavrogeorgis is a musician, producer and a kind soul. He is the proprietor of Dollhouse Productions, which is a recording studio, production space, and a 300-person venue in a 1940’s factory in the outskirts of downtown Savannah, GA. Peter was born and raised in Syosset, a few hours outside of New York City on Long Island. After moving to the city to pursue a music career, quite successfully, he toured the country before settling down in Savannah with his partner. The amount of space he was able to secure to build out his studio and event space is quite something and hard to imagine as a possibility in most big cities.

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A Well-Considered Collection

Kyle Hinton is the founder of Prospector Co., a beautifully considered store that also produces a full range of grooming products that are sold nationally at places like J. Crew and Barney’s. The store itself also sells accessories, reading materials and home goods from other brands in a well-curated selection. Also pictured are Anthony and Chad, both SCAD students that are employed by Prospector Co.

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Perc Coffee

Philip Brown is the founder of roasting company Perc Coffee. In a past life, he was a successful touring musician based out of Athens (GA), until he was a little tired of lugging drum kits all over the country and took a job as a barista and coffee shop manager. Fast forward 11 years, and Philip thought it time to start his own coffee company after an apprenticeship at a roasting facility. Athens seems to have a sufficient amount of roasters, so he decided on Savannah after falling in love with his new home town on a vacation.

Right beside him is his proud mother Nancy, who works for the company as well, handling part of the administrative tasks of running a business. Nancys eyes lit up speaking on how wonderful it was to get to watch her son work hard at something he passionately loves.

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A Legend And An Upstart

Bobby Zarem is a legendary movie publicist. He has represented many an icon, including Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Sylvester Stallone and many more. Bobby also boasts a list of classic movies for which he handled publicity, from Scarface to Saturday Night Fever, and from Rambo to Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. He was also the mastermind behind the famous “I Love New York” campaign, showcasing his affection for the city that was his adopted home town for many decades. He moved back to Savannah, GA almost five years ago and helped run the Savannah Film Festival for a considerable run. Listening in on the dozen or so business calls Bobby made while I was in his company, was akin to watching a great athlete play his favorite spot. It seemed like an effortless dance, arranging and sharing information, making sure the right people knew all the right things. Once Bobby put the phone down he’d pick our conversation back up, and confess that even after all these years of success, he still felt anxiety with every new gig. And it’s not that he doesn’t know he’s great at his job, it’s just part of his nature. He is able to turn that anxiety into a motivator, working hard until he knows the job is done properly. Bobby is currently working on an autobiography. Im putting in my pre-order now.

Lauren Davis is a bit of a quadruple threat. From her work as a stylist, to coaching runway at Halo Models and Talent Agency, to being represented by the same company as a commercial model who recently graced her first magazine cover. And all of this while still working towards a degree at SCAD. In the future, Lauren hopes to combine all these elements into a career as an art director, handling all the creative work that goes into putting together photo shoots. (Additional outtake of Lauren)

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Epilogue

|| More To Read and See ||

|| Visit oneofmany.co for the story behind this project, and information on upcoming cities and essays.
|| Find more photos on Instagram and by searching the hashtag #oneofmanySavannah
|| Find outtakes on Tumblr and Ello, published on a regular basis.
|| A list of my favorite restaurants and shops in Savannah is available on Foursquare.

PREVIOUS ESSAY: Portland, OR - Published December 19th, 2014
NEXT ESSAY: Madison, WI - To be published February of 2015.
NEXT TRIPS: Austin TX - Feb 24-31 || Portland ME - Mar 3-10 || Salt Lake City UT - Mar 24-31 || Please drop me a line if you have recommendations for creatives I should meet up with!

Follow along in real time via Instagram. Many thanks to the good folks at Squarespace for helping make this project possible. I highly recommend using Squarespace to build your own website. Use the code “oneofmany” to get a 10% discount, and you’ll be supporting One of Many in a small way.

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Footnote: Many thanks to Monty Wolper, Seine Kim,Taylor Pemberton, Victoria Wright, Ben Fahlren, Sterling Eason, and especially Sam Wilds.
Savannah, GA, United States