ROUND ROCK, Texas - A visual inspiration.
“I shoot for stories I don't just shoot for pictures.”
Melissa Fontenette-Mitchell has lived in Round Rock for decades. A wife and mother of two, she was working full-time in tech when she was laid off.
Without perseverance we can't learn we can't grow we can't explore
She says when she was laid off for the third time she realized she needed to focus on what ignited her passion and purpose.
Photography spoke to her and years later she was granted a once in a lifetime opportunity to photograph former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama at the inaugural parade.
Shortly after Fontenette-Mitchell was asked to photograph slave quarters in Gonzales, Louisiana.
“That’s when I knew the essence of this entire collection and how can I share it.”
This month the Round Rock Public Library has a collection of six of her photos on its main floor. It's titled “The Struggle in Black and White" beginning with photos she took in Louisiana.
Fontenette-Mitchell walked FOX 7's Destiny Chance through what she felt while shooting these photos.
She says it begins with feelings of sorrow and frustration,
“A degrading sense of not feeling like a human is what they felt on a daily base during slavery.”
Which turns into perseverance.
“If you look down the middle of the alley you'll see light, that represents life on the other side. And really what was on the other side, slaves were running down that alley thinking that they would be free but on the other side was the Atchafalaya River filled with alligators and slaves couldn't swim,” Fontenette-Mitchell said. "So that was death, not death so much as dying but death as freedom to able to live free from the struggle.”
“I love me some Rosa Parks. She’s a woman of courage, black girl magic. When she sat on that bus and recognized today is not the day, it represented a woman who had a voice when it wasn't even heard and embodies what I am as a woman,” Fontenette-Mitchell said.
“This photo was taken in Memphis and it’s actually a statue to depict the period when Dr. King helped organize strikes for sanitation workers fighting for rights. It says I Am A Man, which means I’m human, I want vacation, and benefits and to spend time to provide for my family, treat me like a man,” Fontenette-Mitchell said.
“My parents never thought they’d see the first black president of the United States. They lived to see that. It’s so incredible to have captured these photos,” Fontenette-Mitchell said.
“Each individual that stopped by here and spoke to me they felt they were in that moment when I took the pictures and that's the way I want my work to look, storytelling that you've actually been a character in each one of my pieces of work,” Fontenette-Mitchell said. "This collection is to educate it's to bring awareness and most of all it's to not forget history.”
To check out "The Struggle in Black and White" you can visit the Round Rock Public Library during regular business hours. The collection will be there until Saturday February 29th.