'Baby Smiles'

Andrews' joyful image captures The Photo Fence's inaugural People's Choice Award

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Enjoying the spring-like weather Thursday, Teagan Bedford visited downtown Cartersville and curiously eyed a younger version of herself. Displayed along the iron fence near the railroad tracks was an enlarged image of the 15-month-old Dallas toddler at 6-months bearing a “contagious,” award-winning smile.

Captured by amateur photographer Heather Andrews, the “Baby Smiles” image won The Photo Fence’s inaugural People’s Choice accolade. The photograph garnered the majority of the contest’s approximately 300 votes.

“I was very surprised to find out that my photograph won the People’s Choice Award for The Photo Fence exhibit,” Andrews said. “There were lots of amazing photos submitted by some very talented photographers, so I feel extremely honored to have won. The honor means a great deal to me. It has given a little push to keep pursuing my photography dream.

“Honestly, I went back and forth on entering the contest. A sweet friend of mine that I was blessed to meet through my photography tagged me in a post about the contest. I thought it was a great idea, but I didn’t think that I would have a chance of making the fence [exhibit]. It took me a few weeks to muster up the courage to enter. I actually submitted my photos with only a few hours left before the deadline. I decided to give it a chance, following advice from my husband — ‘You’ll never know if you don’t try.’”

Taken with the Cartersville resident’s Nikon D3200, “Baby Smiles” was captured during a photo session to mark Teagan’s 6-month milestone. Wearing a hot-pink headband, she is smiling gleefully while sitting in a metal container.

“Her mom is a dear friend of mine, and I have been blessed to watch this sweet family grow over the years,” Andrews said. “I have been blessed to capture some important moments in their lives, so it was an honor when her mom asked me to capture Teagan’s 6-month photos.

“The photo shoot was held at my house in a little studio that I set up. We were having the hardest time getting little Miss Teagan to smile. Her mom and I had tried just about everything to make her laugh. We were dancing around, making faces and playing music but nothing seemed to work. We finally asked her sweet brother to stand behind me and make silly faces. Finally, that did the trick and she smiled.”

She continued, “… Teagan’s smile is contagious in this photo. I hope that the photo brings a smile to the viewer’s face. There’s nothing sweeter than a happy smiling baby. I hope it reminds people to stop and smile from time to time. Oftentimes, we get so caught up in the day-to-day life that we forget how our attitude affects other people. Sometimes, a simple smile can change the course of your day or someone else’s day.”

Echoing Andrews’ comments, Teagan’s mother, Morgan Bedford, also was delighted to see “Baby Smiles” chosen for The Photo Fence’s first exhibit and People’s Choice Award.

“We were so excited Teagan’s photo was selected,” Bedford said. “Heather is such an amazing person and great artist. I wasn’t really surprised one of her photographs was selected.

“I was more surprised that it was my daughter’s photo. To see her photograph posted for the whole Cartersville to see was surreal. I still can’t believe my daughter had a picture displayed for the public.”

Spearheaded by Cartersville residents Barry and Lynn Henderson, The Photo Fence’s first installment was displayed along the fence at Founders Oak Plaza in downtown Cartersville in October. Officially ending Jan. 20, arts initiative featured the theme “Joy and Happiness” and showcased more than 20 images that were selected by three judges.

“We were pleasantly surprised at the response from Cartersville and surrounding areas,” said Mrs. Henderson, coordinator of The Photo Fence. “Individuals of all ages and photography experience submitted up to four images each, which netted us about 280 digital images to review. Everyone loves to ‘show their photography.’ It was interesting and funny that some people were so anxious to share that they didn’t read the instructions well enough to realize there was a theme of ‘Joy and Happiness.’ Our intent was to receive images that would make the viewer smile, which I believe so many of them did. Also, the quality of the majority of the images surpassed our expectations.

“… We want the public to recognize photography as one of the many art forms. With the current effort to bring public art to Cartersville, I wanted to be sure photography was included. The fact that the work had to withstand the outdoor elements made it even more challenging. From this project, I learned that there are excellent materials capable of withstanding the sun and the rain — we had a lot of rain this fall. The prints have held up perfectly and many have sold either to the photographers or public. Contact [Cartersville Downtown Development Authority] if you are interested in purchasing a photograph.”

Looking ahead, Mrs. Henderson hopes the arts initiative will continue to showcase and bring awareness to photography.

Along with the Cartersville DDA, The Photo Fence also is supported by the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“The Public Art Project hopes to have another fence project displayed this spring,” she said. “If the project receives funding, the next plan is to have a curated exhibit showing the inspirational work of two or three photographers. The fall project will return to entries from the communities.

“As a serious hobbyist photographer, I want to inspire others to this art form. Digital photography has made it … very affordable to pursue. There are so many wonderful sites around Bartow County that are just waiting to be photographed. The Downtown Gallery is a fine place to share the images. As one of the founders and president of the Booth Photography Guild, I want everyone to embrace this hobby.”

Like Mrs. Henderson, Andrews also is looking forward to seeing future photography exhibits downtown.

“I would say that I am an amateur photographer,” Andrews said. “It is very much a hobby that I would, hopefully, like to turn into a profession in the future. For now, I enjoy holding sessions for friends and family and feel honored when they allow me to capture important milestones in their lives. 

“For me, photography is a hobby/passion that I inherited from my mother. She was always taking photos of important moments throughout our childhood. I love that by taking a photo of something, you are able to freeze and capture a moment in time — a memory that can be looked at forever. Long after memories in the mind fade away, photos will still be there to look back on and cherish.” 

She continued, “It has been very exciting to have my photo included in the exhibit. I have thoroughly enjoyed looking at the exhibit each time I pass downtown Cartersville. I have also enjoyed family and friends sending me pictures of themselves standing by my photo. I think The Photo Fence as a whole was such a great idea. It was such a beautiful collection of photos that truly brought joy to our already charming downtown area. I look forward to checking out their next exhibit in the coming months.”

Additional details about upcoming art projects can be obtained online by visiting Cartersville DDA's website, downtowncartersville.org, then opening the "Art" tab. The Photo Fence’s “Joy and Happiness” exhibit will be dismantled Monday.