Saturday, August 30, 2008

Yearning For Zion FLDS Part 1

On my third trip to Texas I was granted access to the Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado, Texas. The second half of our story was to show a family who had returned home. Because the FLDS dress differently it is easy to "use" them for a photo. What I mean is, use their image as the main component of the photograph. Their clothing and quiet subdued demeanor can fill a photograph well, but I was beginning to see that in many of my photos it was not doing them justice. I tried to stay away from shots that I expected myself to shoot. I didn't know when I would ever get out there again so I was very pleased with the thorough tour given by Edson & Zavenda Jessop (above) and our guide.

This is Anne, the Jessop's youngest child. She is probably the cutest kid I have ever seen. She was making eyes at me from walking in the door and after she figured out I wasn't with CPS she was really sweet. She would sneak further down the dinner table and shyly give me frozen grapes from a small plastic bag, then scurry back to her mother's dress. I was happy with this photo because it seemed to show at least one aspect of what growing up on the ranch is like. All the headlines aside, Anne seemed pretty happy to be back home, little windswept hairs escaping her tightly done braid while she stood from the back of the truck and looked at the cows near the dairy.

From the highest point, Edson showed us the orchards, rock quarry, water treament ponds, farm land, and temple. From the top I felt how believable their utopian dream must be at the ranch. Everyone working together, building, helping. Just put my opinions and judgements on the whole story back even further. You could never accuse the FLDS of is being lazy, unresourceful, or lacking in vision.

Zavenda pulled four loaves of caramel colored bread from the oven shortly after arriving. The smell was wonderful. As we walked through Edson's workshop and watching him work, Ephraim or Russell Jessop would bring us sagging pieces of honey laden bread. Coincidentally small tumblers of fresh milk would follow; milk & honey.

Self sufficiency was obviously the name of the game out at the ranch. Edson is a carpenter and turned every one of these posts on a lathe in his workshop. The grain elevator where the bread I was eating stayed a spell on it's journey to my mouth stood a few hundred yards from Edson's workshop.


One of the boy's favorite activities is sliding down sand hills on cardboard boxes. Thats probably the only reason they were glad we showed up, anyone who gets a tour gets to go near the gravel pit, and that means they can disappear and get dirty.

The family is still awaiting word from CPS, as many other FLDS families. The good news is that at least the four Jessop children are starting to return to normal after the ordeal of being taken, staying at Concho, put in a home then returned to the ranch. Soon school will start again and some semblance of normal life on the ranch will return.

In no way do I feel like I have photographed a comprehensive report on life at the ranch, nor do I feel you can really come to a conclusion on a peoples way of life merely from pictures of one of their families. Although for this story, the writer and I were hoping to show at least a slice of what pulls these familes to "yearn", why the ranch is so important to them. Thanks to the Jessop's for their hospitality and open doors. Dinner with you was the best meal I had in the nearly two weeks I spent in Texas.

5 comments:

Alma Naylor said...

Mike,

In looking at these photos, it seems that you were working on a different wavelength that day. That one of Anne in the back of the truck, and the one with the little boy looking at the alphabet on the wall are my favorites. They do a great job of capturing the intangible, and they have a deep sense of feeling about them. Nice work. Really nice work.

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