The Montevallo effect

As I mentioned in my first post, I go back and forth between Florida, where my job is, and Montevallo, Alabama, where I'm in my last year of undergraduate. I'm gonna put it bluntly- Montevallo is weird. It's the mess that results from taking a quintessential Southern town and placing the most liberal university in the state smack-dab in the middle of it; as you can imagine, the city is full of plenty of colorful and diverse characters. There's a mix of fire-hooping hippies, flamboyant thespians, and artists in addition to the more traditional small-town Southern kids from neighboring cities and the local "townies" who either want to party with us or save our Bernie Sanders-loving souls.

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But it's not just the people; if I'm being honest, there's something a little off the place itself. Sometimes Montevallo is enchanting and nostalgic in the way that small towns often are, but often it's just ominous. Decrepit is probably too generous when describing the buildings here; they're falling in on themselves and many are centuries old. Unsurprisingly, there's a ghost story to accompany every landmark. Time moves differently here and this little city feels like it operates on a completely different plane of existence than the rest of the world. Once you've spent enough time here, it's difficult to leave, so there's a running joke among my group of friends about how if someone actually manages to graduate, they can't go far. They'll probably just end up living in the woods making art or hula hooping or gardening for the rest of their existence instead of actually re-joining society.

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In other words, it's Alabama's version of the twilight zone, and sometimes it's  little suffocating. I've been here for 4 years and it feels like I've met everyone and seen all that there is to see (and trust me, there's not much to see). I'm very familiar with the ins and outs of daily existence in Montevallo, and for the sake of my sanity, I can't go more than a few weeks without driving back to Florida or New Orleans or Huntsville, where my parents live. But yesterday I ran around with a few of my friends to take photos, and I couldn't stop thinking about how I am going to be so nostalgic for this place when I graduate, even though most days I feel ready to leave. We explored the woods, waded barefoot in the creek, picked wildflowers and berries, got partially devoured by mosquitoes, and watched the sun set. It was probably the most Montevallo-esque evening I've had since the semester started, and it was wonderful.

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We took these photos because I needed some shots for a black and white photography class, which is pushing me out of my comfort zone already- I've always identified my pictures with vibrant colors, and black and white photography just doesn't feel natural to me. I'm working on it; expanding horizons is what college is for, right? I don't take quite as many photos for fun anymore unless I'm traveling, which I guess isn't surprising considering I'm coming off a summer of shooting over 90 client sessions in a little more than 3 months. It's only when I get out with my camera that I remember how much joy it brings me and wonder why on earth I don't do this every single day like I used to; photography is what feeds my soul.

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Montevallo, you drive me crazy sometimes. More than once you've led me to question my sanity. Still... I think I'm going to miss you when I finally do end up leaving.