During my first photo class at Penland School of Crafts in 1984, I began photographing six-year-old twin sisters from the art community of Celo in the mountains of Yancey County, North Carolina. I have continued to document moments in their lives for 32 years, forming an almost familial bond with Hannah and Molly Levin. This body of photographs not only chronicles the twins’ relationship as they move through childhood into adulthood, motherhood and artistic careers of their own, but also my photographic journey and the transition from film to digital.
I was introduced to Wanda, the mother of the twins, by my photo instructor. When I asked permission to photograph the girls, her reply was gentle and thoughtful, “I will ask them and see how they feel about it.” I met the twins at their home in Celo on a chilly autumn afternoon. After photographing Molly while Hannah slept, Wanda asked me to stay for dinner. The story began. The bond between the twins, their family and me evolved and the girls began to refer to me as ‘Other Mother.’ These children are now women. Molly has children who she nurtures as she and Hannah were nurtured. Hannah is an accomplished artist. These images subtly blend documentary and portraiture, are rich in history and are a soft representation of these women’s seemingly timeless lives. This is a rare story.
Durham, North Carolina-based photographer, Marthanna Yater, whose work has been honored with the highest achievements in black and white photography, specializes in capturing elements of the earth and storytelling images in organic settings. Yater’s evocative photographs awaken a longing to return to a simpler, more grounded life. She delights in seeing and photographing children in their element during moments of discovery. Yater describes her journey of self-discovery, “While studying education, I exchanged the confines of graduate school for the classroom of the world. During my travels, I experienced an epiphany in the Australian Outback at Uluru / Ayers Rock. After a brief rain, the evening light burst through the gray clouds, striking the rock. The sacred monolith was set ablaze into a fiery red display. As a double rainbow poured over Uluru, it was revealed—there was an artist within.” Upon her return to the United States, Yater pursued photographic study at Penland School of Crafts in the mountains of North Carolina. Once again, Yater was surrounded by what she loves: nature, creativity and those close to the earth.