I’m very happy to introduce you to another amazing south Louisiana talent who graces each episode of A Cajun Murder Mystery Series with her colorful photography.
Having first met Christie Pepper while we both worked for a Sheriff’s Office, her attention to detail and an ability to see the potential in the seemingly mundane quickly demonstrated her talent. This Two Part interview shares a glimpse of the people and passion that make south Louisiana truly unique.
Scott – Hi Christie and thanks again for the interview. Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?
Christie – First and foremost, I am a very proud mother of 3 amazing children: Patience, Gracie and Nicholas. I am happily married to the love of my life, and my best friend, Nick Pepper. I was born and raised in Choctaw, LA and consider myself a Cajun — which I believe is a dying ethnic American group, that can speak their own version of French and cook some mean cuisine.
I have a full time job in law enforcement, and just recently started my own on location photography business. I always have a camera with me at the ready to shoot away. I enjoy staying busy and rarely have moments with nothing to do.
I am this year’s elected president of a local volunteer service league, Femmes Natales. I am an ardent believer of helping others in need, people who are unable to help themselves. Gestures as simple as a smile and a lending hand can go a long way.
Scott – I agree with the simple gestures, especially in a community environment such as ours. Which came first—photography or police work?
Christie – I would say that photography came before cop — I never once, while growing up, expected to end up in a career in law enforcement. Since I was a teen, I always had a camera with me wherever I went. My most prized gift (as an adolescent) was a 35mm Kodak camera back in the 80s.
In college I took Fundamentals of Photography and Creative Photography courses as art electives and knew that someday I would be grateful. Even though film developing is not common now, the actual stages of developing in the dark room correlates with digital editing, so I guess the dark room smell was worth it.
The law enforcement aspect came in later in my life. As a paramedic, I provided medical care for many victims of crimes through the job. So many times I went home wandering if the victim would ever have closure, would the perpetrator be found? I met my husband while working as a paramedic, he was a street crimes deputy at the time, moving into narcotics, and now works as a detective.
His passion for what he did radiated from him and eventually I was drawn in. I was hired at the local sheriff’s office and obtained my degree in criminal justice. I have worked in communications, the court system, and am certified through the FBI POST academy instructor course to teach POST academy courses.
I currently work as an investigator with the local DA’s office and could not be more content and intrigued with my full-time career.
Scott – The FBI Instructor Development course is a tough one, congratulations. I enjoy looking at your Facebook and website pages at the varied types of subject matter you photograph. Do you have a favorite?
Christie – I LOVE taking pictures of landscapes, nature, and historic structures in an effort to preserve their beauty and document our home and experiences for my children and whoever has an interest.
History has intrigued me since my early years, I guess that comes from my love for a good story. I remember the stories my mom and dad have told me about their childhood, and have few pictures to rely on to acquire a vivid image. I want my children to be able to know where I came from, want them to know the things I experienced as a child raised in the Sixth Ward area.
I am proud to be part of such a strong connected community. I have since taken pictures of places from my past that have “caught my eye” and told my children what is special about it to me.
Portraits came later. My second child has an interest in pageants and currently holds the 2014 Debutante Miss Lafourche title. With pageants, come lots of expenses, head shots being one of them. I decided that I would take her headshots myself to deter some of those expenses.
She has always won photogenic in every pageant she has been in. I am pretty active on social media and posted her pictures, sharing them with friends. A friend asked me to take her daughter’s senior pictures last year, and then another asked for me to take her daughter’s headshots for pageant pictures, and one thing led to another.
I now have an on location photography business, which is slowly growing. I am blessed to have been able to work with some extraordinarily beautiful, talented, and genuine teens which make the portrait part more rewarding than I first expected.
So a favorite of the two would have to be the portrait part at this moment. The teens tend to choose historic local venues for their photo shoots; therefore, I end up getting the best of both worlds. While on photo shoots, I randomly snap at certain images, sites, etc. that I see beauty in.
Scott – Have you ever used your photography skills to capture crime scenes or evidence. If so, what was the most interesting aspect between the two? If not, would forensic photography ever be an interest of yours?
Christie – I have not had the opportunity to use photography on the law enforcement side. My positions within the law enforcement field never reached into that aspect of it.
I do find forensic photography fascinating, and truly believe that it takes more than an officer just showing up on scene with a camera.
The crime scene photographs are triggers that will assist both witnesses and investigators to reconstructing the crime.
The photographs can later be called upon in a trial to show to the judge or jury as support to both verbal and physical evidence that is presented. They then become emotional triggers, making the crime real, giving it depth that may not have been there before.
Dependent upon the crime, they may be more graphic and brutal than most people have previously witnessed in their lifetime and beyond what their imagination may have led them to without the photographs.
I feel that the true art of forensic photography is catching the little details, catching the crime from the victim’s point of view (lighting, angles, etc.) exposing their feeling of helplessness at the time.
Christie, again thank you for taking the time from being mom, cop and photographer to answer a few questions. I’m so appreciative of your contributions to my Cajun-based mystery series and your keen editor’s eye.
BOLO for Making the Picture Count \ Christie Pepper / Part 2
Please LIKE and SHARE Christie’s Facebook page. Her work is amazing.
Making the Picture Count \ Christie Pepper
Last year I began a weekly series chronicling my efforts to reclaim a healthy lifestyle while even in a stress filled occupation. I’d set defined goals and developed a plan to accomplish them.
With the help of great friends and folks who signed on to share their knowledge, experiences and challenges it was a success.
I might have a slid a bit on the weight goal – let’s call it ice cream, but now I’m knocking on 50’s door.
I’ve got clear goals to accomplish by the time I kick right through that half-century mark. I’m not sweating it. I’m embracing this good-bye to 40’s tour.
I also want to be realistic about the challenges and blessings of moving forward in a healthy lifestyle.
One goal is to make each week my #FitBy50 Friday. I won’t bore you with how many reps or miles or the cool WOD at crossfit. This will be a smart approach that you can share, comment, contribute or join with your own health goals.
Whether you’re turning 50 or 15, we all perform better with a clear goal, proper instruction, and peer support/participation. Let’s just begin with this intro and a commitment to set a few attainable goals over the coming months.
Next #FitBy50 Friday, we will begin to put those goals onto paper and into action.
Lock and Load – who’s with me?
Posted by my Brother in Blue from across the Pond – Nathan Constable
It’s not like me to struggle for words when it comes to writing a blog but on this occasion I really am.
This blog is primarily meant to be about UK COPS, the superb work it does and the phenomenal strength shown by the survivors.
And yet – there is a theme around this that I am finding hard to verbalise. A theme I am almost uncomfortable in raising but raise it I will in due course.
Yesterday we gathered at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire for the major event of the UK COPS schedule.
It is such a wonderful, fitting venue. There are various sections within it for the different armed services but there is also “The Beat.”
This avenue of trees, within about 50 years, is going to look incredible. It is here that each force has its own tree alongside individual trees, planted by surviving friends and family, for many named officers who have lost their lives too soon.
Even now, in its relative infancy, when you look down this space and consider its scale and its simple beauty ….. Well, it couldn’t be more suitable nor more aptly named.
This year everything, including the trees, was a little bigger.
The Police Unity Tour who had cycled from London to Staffordshire, raising £40,000 for the charity, was at least twice the size it was last year in numbers.
The Blue Knights – well, their convoy just didn’t seem to stop.
The turnout – UK COPS say it was their biggest ever and I think a couple of the organisers were surprised and delighted in equal measure.
During the service we heard from several survivors, each giving a different perspective on their tragic experience, the loss of their loved one and the gaping hole left behind.
Then there was hope in their stories as they recounted how the charity had supported them and how it continues to support them.
How they have developed a network which allows people to support one another.
They cannot replace – but they can rebuild.
Once again it was the voice of youth which carried louder and stronger than anything else.
Last year, Nathan Dent’s words reduced those gathered to tears.
This year, a remarkable young lady – Vicky Moore spoke bravely and eloquently and gave us all serious food for thought.
Vicky’s father, Bryan, was a Leicestershire officer who was killed by a drunk driver in 2002. Vicky was ten at the time and she told us of that fateful night when she learned of the news and how she had then spent the rest of her childhood without him.
My son is ten. He and the rest of my family joined me for this years service and he heard Vicky speak.
He got it. He understood – as well as any child can – what Vicky was saying. He had made the association in his head that she was his age when she had lost her father. When he started asking me questions afterwards it sank in even further for me as well.
Then it dawned on me – this theme I am struggling with and it was this…
There should be more people here.
Vicky said that she didn’t understand the hero her father was and regrets that it is now too late to tell him how proud she is of him.
Vicky then said this:
“It shouldn’t take stories like ours for other people realise the sacrifice in police work.”
This struck me hard and I dwelt on it.
The service later heard from Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer from Cleveland who said that although she had sadly lost colleagues and friends during her service “to my great shame I just assumed that the families were supported.”
CC Cheer spoke of the work of the charity and how, unfortunately necessary but essential it is.
It hit me again – there should be more people here.
I have spent the last 24 hours wondering why there weren’t more people there and I think there are a few reasons.
First and foremost is lack of awareness. Lack of awareness of the charity and its work but also lack awareness of the events which necessitate it’s existence.
We should all be grateful for the fact that the death of a serving officer, on duty in the United Kingdom, is a rare event. Rare enough for very few of us to have experienced it in our service.
But it is not so rare that there are not many people who are struggling with the aftermath of exactly that event.
UK COPS exists solely to support these families but I am going to be blunt:
The POLICE family needs to step up to the plate.
It has become almost unfashionable to talk about “the police family.”
The police, as an entity, has taken a sustained reputational beating for the best part of two decades and has spent so much time looking outward that it is in danger of forgetting to occasionally look inward.
We should all strive to uphold and maintain the Peelian principle that the police are the public and the public are the police but we must never forget that there are some who are prepared to put on a uniform and who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for doing so.
Putting on that uniform makes you stand out. It means you can’t run away from trouble – you run towards it. It is a vocation and a calling.
We should never put on that uniform without remembering what it means, what it represents, who it protects and why it is there.
But we should never put on that uniform without remembering that others have put it on and paid a heavy price for it. They are our family.
And we should never forget those they have left behind. They are our family as well.
In her oration, Chief Constable Cheer said “I ask colleagues to ensure that we actively spread the word about COPS and fully support the charity.”
Over the course of the next twelve months and every twelves months after that – we must rise to that challenge.
It is the duty of each force to promote the work of the charity and ensure it’s long term survival.
It is the duty of each force to ensure that COPS can continue it’s essential work supporting the families of those who have worn their uniform and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Those families have paid the ultimate sacrifice as well and need and deserve that support.
However, it is also the duty of each force to support the work of COPS and indeed the PD Trust and Police Memorial Day by reminding serving officers of those who have gone before them.
The military gets this right – I am not yet convinced that the Police are in the same league.
It is right and proper that a senior ACPO officer from each force attends the COPS service and pays respects on behalf of their force. This should never change.
But wouldn’t it be fitting if each force could send a small contingent of regular officers, special constables, PCSO’s and – absolutely – Cadets to attend the service.
Wouldn’t it be fitting if the Police Federation could gather it’s Rep’s on mass – in uniform – to support the cause.
Would it not be helpful for each force to publicise the event on whatever internal communications systems it has and invite officers to attend and represent that force.
If each force sent a carrier with 7 people in it that would be over 300 officers for a start.
Wouldn’t it be brilliant if we could actually encourage our officers to attend and support the event.
We can mobilise officers to deal with anything the world can throw at us.
It should not be beyond us to mobilise for this.
Social media is a powerful tool but it is not enough. This needs active drive from the very top.
We need to promote the charity, it’s work and it’s events. It should be something we just DO.
We should do it and we should not feel guilty about it.
These were our colleagues – they left behind their families. Those families are our family. The police family.
The UK COPS service is a wonderful event which is going from strength to strength.
With some solid support from all quarters and if CC Cheer’s request is acted upon by her peers then the event, like the trees which line “The Beat” at the Arboretum, will grow and mature into something truly magnificent.
Pictures courtesy of NPAS Ripley and “Bullshire Police”
A second, shorter blog on the Guard of Honour and #100Cops will follow in a few days
UK Cops – From Small Acorns Do Great Oaks Grow
Fortunate to live in south Louisiana’s Cajun Country, I’ve come to know many amazing people from every walk of life. A long time cycling friend and all-around Renaissance man, Shannon Atkinson is one of those people.
I was captivated by his photography during this year’s Mardi Gras. Growing up with the annual carnivals, I’d seen the sights and images over a lifetime. His eye-view and imagery exposed a side of the season I’d never known—or imagined.
My crime fiction episodes, A Cajun Murder Mystery Series are set in the deep South’s bayou land. Shannon’s art captures the raw, gritty genre of the classic noir mystery thrillers. It was a perfect match.
A giant big bayou favor – go to Shannon’s Facebook and mash the LIKE button.
Scott: Shannon, thanks for your time. How about sharing a bit about yourself?
Shannon: I’m Shannon Atkinson, and a Louisiana based photographer focusing primarily on concert and street photography. I’ve photographed live promotional images for artists including Plain White T’s, Percy Sledge, Louis Prima Jr., and Marco Palos in addition to other international acts.
My work has been published in regional magazines and websites as well as Yahoo Sports. Although I continue to develop a diverse catalog, my true passion is street photography, “I have always gravitated to Environmental Portraiture. It is not uncommon for me to shoot other genres, but the streets are where I feel most at home with a camera in my hands.”
I’ve photographed throughout the United States as well as Central America. Currently, I’m working on a photographic series documenting the decline of Louisiana’s indigenous population and loss of culture. My work can be viewed at www.shannonatkinsonphoto.com.
Scott: Your passion is obvious in your art. What ignited your flame for photography?
Shannon: My dad was the family photographer when I was a kid. He had this wonderful, shiny, 35mm that I used to secretly sneak out of the house and experiment with when he was away on business.
Eventually he gave in and allowed me to borrow it when I wanted. I fell in love with the ability to take a subject and capture it in a way unique to my vision. I’m still in love with this.
Scott: I love the black and white urban-scape photography featured on each A Cajun Murder Mystery Series’ cover art – what drove you to focus on that motif?
Shannon: Black and white resonates with me, it has soul. I started in the days of film and spent a lot of time in the dark room working in B&W. Removing color from the image allows me to focus on shadow and form which is what I’m very much drawn to.
I do shoot color, but the color has to be a major part of the reason I’m making the photograph in the first place. As for the Street photography genre, I’ve always been an observer of people. Human beings are bizarre and interesting creatures… especially when they have no idea they are being observed.
Some people give off a certain something that can’t be put into words. I’m drawn to these people and interested in seeing how this translates into a photograph. The same goes for certain places, they just have soul.
Scott: Kinda of cliché, but I’ll go for it. If you could photograph anyone from any period of time – who would it be? Why, and how would you set the shot?
Shannon: This is a tough one. The tendency is to choose someone that would be a bit obvious. I could pick JFK or Marilyn Monroe or maybe Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Theresa.
The problem with these choices, although tremendous subjects, is that they are not that personal to me. So if I have to choose a subject just for me, then it’s simple… I’d choose jazz great Miles Davis. From the late 1950’s, the Kinda Blue era.
He had an ultra-cool vibe that I’d love to explore and capture. I’m thinking in a dark jazz club with a cigarette and lots of backlit cigarette smoke. Real harsh and grainy with lots of his coolness.
Scott: Miles Davis sounds a lot like you. You’re also an excellent musician and cyclist – what other acts of awesomeness do you regularly demonstrate?
Shannon: I involuntarily wake up 1 minute before my alarm goes off… every day. Other than that, I’ve got nothing.
Another chance to do yourself a favor – go to Shannon’s Facebook – mash the LIKE button.
B&W – What’s it good for? | Shannon Atkinson