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  • Odd Couple: Rita & George

    The first time I saw Rita was in the communion line. She is a striking woman with soulful blue eyes, a kind smile, and of course, there are her tattoos. Even though she caught my eye what really fascinated me was that the man holding her hand, her husband George, had no tattoos. I do love a good contrast! I thought they were perfect for my Odd Couple project and after months of seeing them, I finally asked a friend for an introduction. Rita & George © Kaylinn Gilstrap Rita was 52 when she got her first tattoo and now at 67, she has spent around 100 hours in the chair. She has geishas, a skull on a roller skate for her roller derby daughter, DeathSkull, a portrait of her dad, dragons, flowers..... George just shrugs whenever someone points out the contrast. He loves the woman and all the artwork that goes along with her. But I was literally only getting to the surface of the story and these two people. I have been told, if you’re living, you are a survivor. It's not a question of if we're survivors, it's a question of what we've survived. So when Rita started opening up to me as we sat on her front porch I should have been prepared but I wasn’t. Rita and George have weathered some major storms. In 2004 their son (stepson to George), Chris (Christopher Paul Caldwell) disappeared off a cruise ship. In 2008, George was diagnosed with stage four tonsil cancer which was a fight for life and marriage. In 2010, they lost their daughter (step-daughter to George), Stephany to a drug overdose. There is no preparing for any of these events let alone a series of them. Rita's tattoo is in honor of her son, Chris. Shortly after getting the tattoo, her husband George was diagnosed with stage four tonsil cancer. © Kaylinn Gilstrap Rita is completely transparent about her grief and also how she survived it. She describes in vivid detail driving down the Oklahoma turnpike when she received the call about Stephany and hearing in the background the emergency crew trying to bring her back. Rita remembers almost a year after Chris disappeared telling her doctor if she didn't help her, she wouldn't be around the following month. She also recalls George's intense fight against cancer with thirty-seven rounds of radiation and two rounds of chemo but is so grateful that he's had seven years now cancer-free. Rita doesn't deny or hide the dark, low places grief and trials can take us, and acknowledging them lets in some light. Rita & George will celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in April. © Kaylinn Gilstrap She still misses Chris and Stephany. That never goes away. She just does her best to memorialize them by releasing a balloon with a note every birthday and keeping them present in her home. Besides that Rita embraces every day she has with George, her other two kids, twelve grandkids, and two great-grandkids because she knows there is no guaranteed amount of time for any of us. Rita and George just keep moving forward; scars, tattoos and all. "If you banish the dragons, you banish the Heroes" Andrew Solomon Rita and George met on the dance floor. They still spin each other around whenever they can. © Kaylinn Gilstrap Odd Couples is a study on how opposites attract and how social views are not the deciding factor in connection.

  • Odd Couple: Alice & Jody

    A while back I was asked to speak to the ATL Photo Nite community about my work. For me being asked to speak in front of a crowd is stress-inducing, I often joke that I’m better one on one. However, it is such a great opportunity. Not only can I introduce myself to people that don’t me or my work but it gives me a space to practice vulnerability. I’m still learning how to do this but it’s work with doing. One of the projects I spoke of that night was “Odd Couples”. Odd Couples is a study on how opposites attract and how social views are not the deciding factor in connection. At the end of the evening, someone asked me what I learned about love through this project. I wish I had dug deep but I said something self-deprecating and funny. I’d like to try again here. I learned that we all are looking for a sense of belonging and acceptance. That what works for one person, won’t necessarily work for another. That love is and always will be a bit of a mystery. It’s what makes the pursuit of it (and the projects studying it) so wonderfully intriguing. And the ultimate truth that loves is something that you have to maintain and nurture, even when you’re lucky enough to find it. Here’s the story behind how I met one of the couples featured in the project Photo: Alice & Jody © Kaylinn Gilstrap The first time I met Alice and Jody was at a storytelling event in Atlanta. A girlfriend and I had both recently went through a breakup and we were helping keep each other's spirits up. We spotted a couple of empty seats at a table where two other women were sitting so we quickly headed over. We exchanged names and then Jody asked "How are you doing?". Having had a good day and feeling upbeat I responded "Great!". Everyone then turned to my companion. She was not in high spirits and was giving Eeyore a run for his money. She sighed deeply and said "Fine". Alice and Jody, noticing the gloom, started asking her what had her so down. I jumped in not wanting to start the evening outgoing further down that road with, "It's a man. Isn't it always a man!?". I still remember the edges of their lips slowly creeping up into a smile and Jody's chuckle, as Alice simply said "Not for us.". We still laugh about our first meeting and my bull in the china shop introduction. We all have an idea of how love should look. There I was that winter evening right in front of it and for a brief moment, I didn't recognize it. When we have set expectations or don't allow time to truly see others we're at risk of missing out on meaningful interactions and experiences. Luckily, Alice and Jody have kept me around (probably for comic relief) and I have witnessed time and again their love for each other and those around them. I was an honored guest at their wedding and years later they were able to keep my spirits up when I could say again "It's a man. Isn't it always a man!?". #lovewins I photographed Alice & Jody for my Odd Couples project. Alice identifies as a beatnik and Jody is an Episcopalian priest.

  • Piñon Canyon

    This is my very first billboard from about thirteen years ago. Image courtesy of my mother, Nora Gilstrap. Billboard on I-25 in Colorado. After being in Atlanta for about 6 months, I had a phone conversation with my dad. I had heard murmurings about an army base plans to expand near my hometown. I called him up with the expectation he would tell me it would be okay and he wasn’t worried. I called him up so he would comfort and soothe any fear I had. He couldn’t do that. In 1983, the United States Army established a base in South-Eastern Colorado with land acquired through purchase and eminent domain. The Army promised they would never return for more land but in 2006 they began plans to expand the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site by nearly half a million acres. They claimed the land was empty. Citizens that were displaced the first time and ranches that had been handed down from generation to generation were being threatened. Descendants of the Duran Rodeo Ranch - Kaylinn Gilstrap © 2006 Thus began a project that consisted of eleven trips back home when I was just getting my footing in Atlanta. I joined forces with a local grassroots organization, PCEOC (Piñon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition) to photograph the ranchers and private landowners whose land was not for sale. It was the first major project I took on, one that relied on me solely finding the visuals to aid the fight. There was no PR or marketing agency on retainer, just a group of small-town folks that prefer to be out of the limelight. It still feels like some of the most important work I’ve ever done. Parishioners at the Branson Community Church. Kaylinn Gilstrap © 2009 When I first began showing my portfolio around I left out my connection to this story. That my childhood home, where my dad has lived nearly all his life, is about 37.5 miles (as the crow flies) from the maneuver site. That the army base was established the year I was born and I was unaware of its existence until 2006. The funny thing about roots is when things are good you forget they are there. You don’t feel them tethering you to a spot until there is a disturbance. Family portrait. Kaylinn Gilstrap © 2017 In 2013, the Army abandoned the expansion plans which was largely due to the efforts of opposition groups like PCEOC headed by Lon Robertson (RIP) and Not 1 More Acre headed by Kimmi Lewis (RIP). The people down there know what hard work is and can put up a hell of a fight, these two people specifically were forces to be reckoned with. We continue their watch. My dad’s shadow on a trailer with an aging No Expansion of Piñon Canyon bumper sticker. Kaylinn Gilstrap © 2019

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Pages (11)

  • Kaylinn Gilstrap Atlanta's Story Photographer

    Tell Your Story. Atlanta Photographer Kaylinn Gilstrap is Your Visual Voice. How did 2020 changed your story? Commercial photographer specializing in portraiture & thoughtful storytelling. View Projects Meet Kaylinn Artful and imaginative, Kaylinn Gilstrap climbs inside of your story to tell it from the inside out. Coming from humble Colorado roots, she made it to the big city and works with some of the biggest names. Read More Featured Project Piñon Canyon Out of gallery Corporate & Editorial Magazines Editorials Beautiful cover photography and the perfect images for your cover story. Kaylinn will capture your audience's attention. Read More Design Creative Solutions STOP MOTION In Your Face Portraits Out of gallery All Portraits Work With Kaylinn Meet Schedule a call or virtual meeting to get started. Tell us about your project. Plan Kaylinn & her team will send over a customized proposal with all the details. Shoot The shoot happens safely on location or in our new Atlanta studio. Results You will receive your finalized digital files delivered on a silver platter! Contact Kaylinn Contact Us Anytime Contact Us First Name Last Name Phone Number Email Leave us a message... Submit Thanks for submitting! Out of gallery

  • History Preservation | Kaylinn Gilstrap | Atlanta Story Photographer

    Preservation We all have stories and heirlooms we want to preserve and hand down to future generations. When you have a collection or a story you’re afraid of losing, contact me. My team and I preserve more than what you look like, we preserve who you are as a family. History The first step is talking over your story and your family's needs. Let’s start today. Schedule a Call Storytelling Great Grandma Zita is my own preservation project connecting family stories, heirlooms, and home. View Project Out of gallery Package Information Make Your Heirlooms Story Worthy. Our Beloved Toys & Stuffed Animals The Most Loved Series Inspired by The Velveteen Rabbit Order Form Out of gallery

  • About | Kaylinn Gilstrap | Story Photographer

    About Kaylinn Hi. My name is Kaylinn. I was raised on a ranch in Colorado and now my home is in Atlanta. I’m a little bit country, and I hope, a little bit rock and roll. My country upbringing made me understand the importance of community and trained me to be a fantastic problem solver. When you’re 60 miles from resources, you learn how to plan and how to get yourself out of a bind. Atlanta has given me the opportunity to learn from some of the best and then connected me to communities that have become, crew, clients, and often friends. I’m interested in editorial work that explores contrasts, family dynamics and the pull of roots. I love working with companies highlighting their product or service through the people doing the work or the story that brought it to be. I also specialize in people that hate getting their photo taken if what you seek is a corporate portrait. If any of these fit the bill or you just need help finding the story, I’d love to talk about it. My personal projects are my own struggle to understand and be understood. Right now that means working on a project on family and roots, which I’m calling Digging up Roots and two ongoing projects: Odd Couples and 18:An American Survey. You can see these projects and my process on IG. Education: Art Institute of Colorado Let’s Work Together First Name Last Name Email Message Thanks for submitting! Send

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