Invisible Memphis

It's easy not to see places you "see" every day. Not so for Amie Vanderford, the photographer who created "Invisible Memphis."

Since age 11 and her first Polaroid camera, Vanderford has been obsessed — perhaps possessed, even — by her view of life through the lens. "I'm a military brat, and we lived overseas when I was a child: France, Germany, Switzerland. And here I am photographing the Eagle's Nest [Hitler's hideout in the Alps] and doing things that kids my age aren't doing, seeing things that I'm lucky to have seen," she explains.

But moving around so much makes one feel, as Vanderford says, "rootless." When she came to Memphis, it felt right. "Even though I'd never been here, I'm a fourth-generation Memphian, so I had a history with the city before I ever arrived. Memphis has been the biggest inspiration to me as a photographer by far. I heard so much negative talk about the city, and yes, there are bad things here — but that's true of any city."

She set out to redefine what others might view as ugly, and found plenty of hidden gems along the way. "There are some things you can't change," Vanderford says. "Graffiti, for example. You can take it down and it's coming back. I choose to view it as someone else's art — how they're expressing themselves just as I am when I photograph it. You have to change the way you see things, your perspective. Otherwise, you can miss the beauty in front of your face. You can choose to see an empty building or a piece of art. I choose the latter."

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