The Daring Dozen – Hilton Kelley
In early September of this year, we received a call from Caitlin Peters at AARP Magazine to be part of the 2011 Inspire Awards, a year-end collection of inspiring people who have changed the world. Over the course of six weeks this assignment took us from Texas to Arizona, Washington DC, New York City, Chicago, Wisconsin, Miami, Tennessee, and Vancouver. Aside from making photos of the award winners, we were lucky enough to experience their greatness and learn what they had to share with us. Over the next few weeks on the blog we’ll be sharing photos and stories from this adventure.
Chris and I arrived in Texas not exactly knowing what to expect. We knew that Hilton was an environmental activist and that Port Arthur was a city down on it’s luck, but the harsh reality didn’t fully set in until our rental truck rolled into town late on the evening prior to our shoot. On the way into Port Arthur, we had to pass through a seemingly endless city of oil refines and chemical plants. As far as the eye could see was industry – smoke stacks and oil derricks dominated the landscape. It was a sight unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. Keep reading for more of the story about the next day and our shoot with Hilton Kelley.
We couldn’t have asked for a better time than what we had working with Kelley in his hometown. Although he works tirelessly fighting for a better future for Port Arthur, Hilton gave us an entire day to work with him and make photos. During the shoot, we traveled all over town, becoming engrossed in the challenges the city faced and learning what could be done to help.
A view from behind the camera looking towards a tiny portion of the industry and refineries that surrounded Port Arthur. This scene stretched on for miles in each direction.
A bit wider angle from Chris’s camera.
Another shot of Hilton, seated at the counter of his wife’s local restaurant Kelly’s Kitchen which serves not only as a cafe with delicious southern foods, but also as a gathering place for the local community.
We ended the day shooting Hilton on a set of train tracks that ran from the refineries straight through the center of Port Arthur. You may remember this set of tracks from a previous blog post – yes, we did almost get run over by a train at the end of the shoot.
Despite the initial distress we felt in that place, we left with a renewed sense of hope thanks to Hilton Kelly – he’s an advocate like no other, and although he’s up against giants of industry, he won’t back down.
Last but not least, I had to include at least one ridiculous picture of Chris from the shoot – the maestro at work directing our subject.