Friday Night Lights in Fuquay-Varina, NC
By Christine Delp
This semester I documented the fall 2012 season of the Bengals, Fuquay-Varina High School’s varsity football team.
I graduated from Fuquay-Varina High School in 2011. When I was in high school, I went to only two football games, both during my freshman year. I’m not exactly sure why I stopped going to the games, but it was probably because, retrospectively, I was too absorbed in my own academic life to make time to go to a game, and when I did have free time, I didn’t want to spend it watching high school football. That is why my decision to return from college eight weekends to photograph my high school’s team both surprised and amused my friends, my family, and myself.
Returning to my high school after over a year of being gone was, at first, very strange. There were some familiar faces; old teachers, church friends, parents of my friends with younger siblings still in high school, and a few younger students I knew from when I was in high school remained, but most of the faces were new. I struggled at first with having the confidence to photograph strangers, and my first few shoots reflected my hesitations with lifeless photos. However, I soon found that talking to people, and learning about their family, their stories, and their connections to FVHS football gave me the edge I needed to take photos that captured these stories and relationships. After all, in the South, friendships are formed on conversations about shared experiences, and as a FVHS graduate, my subjects and I already shared an important thread.
As I kept shooting at games, I began to realize the impact of this project on my own understanding of my high school experience, memories, and sense of home and community. There is always a distance between a photographer and his or her subject as a picture is snapped, but the moments of interaction and observation before the picture is taken contribute crucially to the way that the photographer chooses to take an image. For me, the moments between photos allowed me to build and rebuild relationships with my fellow communities members that would have otherwise drifted with time and distance, while the moment of actually taking photos created space for me to notice important details about my community I once missed when I was once too young and too self-absorbed to understand the greater importance of high school football.
In some ways, I now regret missing out on so many memories from going to football games when I was in high school. However, this project gave me the invaluable opportunity to relive missed experiences and reconnect with my own sense of self, both as Southerner and as a Fuquay-Varinian.