365 days of ‘wow’

Local woman takes away more than photos during course of project

ONEKAMA — “The green eyed lady.”

That’s what Lynn Brown fondly calls the north pier at the Turnaround (formally known as Captain John Langland Park) in Onekama.

“When the green light starts blinking, it just makes me happy,” said the St. Joseph native.

Nearly 365 days ago, Lynn Brown was having a bad day and spent some time at the north pier at the Turnaround in Onekama. She decided then to continue visiting every day for a year, taking a photo during each trip. Oct. 6 will mark the end of her personal and photographic journey. (Courtesy photo/Lynn Brown)

Nearly 365 days ago, Lynn Brown was having a bad day and spent some time at the north pier at the Turnaround in Onekama. She decided then to continue visiting every day for a year, taking a photo during each trip. Oct. 6 will mark the end of her personal and photographic journey. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

“There’s just something special about her. So many people come down here for that,” she says pointing to the pier.

Now a resident of Onekama since the late 1990s, Brown was a professional, full-time portrait photographer for nearly 10 years.

Having always lived near Lake Michigan, Brown found comfort near the water when she needed a break from life.

“(Oct. 7, 2014) happened to be one of those days. I was a little overwhelmed with everything,” she recalls. “I came down here. I told myself I need to do this more often. We all get caught up in the rat race of living. I decided to continue it and come down here every day.”

However, she hesitates to call it her “photo project,” instead labeling it “the best bad day I had.”

“The more I go through it, the less it becomes a photography project but more of a getting back to basics, getting back to simple,” she explained.

And while she takes a photo every day, after nearly 365 days, Brown has taken away a lot more than images.

“The people I’ve met, I could just go on and on,” she said. “It’s made a difference. I think everyone should just step back from the daily running, running, running. Take a little break and let life happen.”

Her best friend, Kim Hull, has been with her every step of the way, and has been the subject of a few photos.

Hull said that Valentine’s Day (day 131) was the worst.

“There was a big storm, and we were waist deep in snow to get our picture taken on the pier,” Hull recalls. “That’s dedication.”

Brown says on that day, she had her husband drive the two of them out to the pier

“We should not even have come down here. It was dangerous to drive,” she said. “When we turned the corner it was just white.”

She and Hull braved the elements to huddle together and hold a little red heart for the photo.

“I’m quite proud of her. She’s done a lot better than I could have done,” said Hull. “She’s very dedicated because of it. The ways she talks, it seems that she’s grown (over the past year).”

Hull said that the project has affected Brown’s relationships in a positive way.

“Meeting new friends, going out to the pier every day — she’s met several new people not from this area,” said Hull.

Valentine's Day (day 131), with Kim Hull.  (Courtesy photo/Lynn Brown)

Valentine’s Day (day 131), with Kim Hull. (Courtesy photo/Lynn Brown)

The project has affected Brown’s personal life to some degree. Making the commitment to go to the pier and take a photo every day, means holidays as well and no vacations longer than a day.

“There will be some people who will be really happy that this project is over because I have had to turn down different things that required being out of town all day or going away for the weekend,” said Brown. “There was one day that I didn’t get here until it was pitch black outside. It was in December.”

She said her family will be glad when the project is over so that she can travel, even though many family members came to visit her and also experienced the view at the Turnaround.

The new bride, formerly Lynn O’Connor, was married in August and spent part of her wedding day (day 313) at the pier with her husband, Scott Brown.

“My husband has been the most amazing person through this,” said Brown. “Our honeymoon was at the pier, for 20 minutes.”

Brown has several stories behind the photos she’s chosen for each day.

On day 1, her first photo was of a fisherman. He called her a “bad luck charm,” saying he hadn’t caught any fish since the first day he saw her.

“The one day he caught a whole bunch of fish, and we were friends,” she laughed.

The day after her wedding, Brown’s cousin became day 314.

“(My cousin) had no idea that Dave was going to propose to her,” she said. “My cousin has been a huge support for me in this. She’s like my sister. It was really hard to keep the secret. It was spectacular, because she’s one of my favorite people and this is my favorite place.”

Then Brown’s face becomes sober as she tells the next story.

Colin was from Onekama, and the mother of four remembers the teen from when her kids were in high school.

"The proposal" day 314 (Courtesy photo/Lynn Brown)

“The proposal” day 314 (Courtesy photo/Lynn Brown)

“He had a smile that lit up the world. I never spoke to the young man, but he was a magnet,” she remembers.

After he died, Brown reached out to his mother and told him how she felt.

On Colin’s birthday this year, the two of them went to the beach and wrote his name in the sand.

“It meant a lot to me, almost like ‘thank you for touching my life,'” Brown said. “It was my thank you to Colin for being that light.”

She recalls one day when she only took one photo.

“There’s one that’s a horrible picture, and I got annihilated by water,” she said. “I always watch the waves … I don’t stand where they’re going to break. One stray wave came and broke differently. It was my only photo and it was just awful.”

She went home immediately after. “I was completely soaked,” she said.

By Christmas Brown hopes to have gathered each of her 365 days worth of photos into a single book.

“Originally I was only going to do one book, just for myself,” she said. “But in sharing the project with people there’s kind of a following behind it.”

Brown also is sharing her project by inviting anyone who wants to participate to meet her at the north pier at 4 p.m. on Oct. 4.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to just invite anybody (who has cheered me on) or who just loves this place to come down and be one of the days in the year,” she explained. “Ideally, I would have loved for it to be the last photo, but the last day lands on a Tuesday (Oct. 6).”

She said the photos of people she’s met at the pier are what she’ll carry in her heart the most.

“Those conversations, and that bonding to be down here, and just for a minute to forget everything that’s past the parking lot. Those will be my favorite out of all of them. Adding to that by having a big group will just make my day.”

“Just be” is the lesson Brown has learned from this experience.

“My whole point is I want to inspire people to make time, take time,” she said. “It’s a lesson I hope I don’t forget.”

JUST BE

As she nears day 365, Lynn Brown invites everyone and anyone to be a part of her project in which she’s taken a photo every day at the north pier at the Turnaround in Onekama. After hours spent and meeting many new people, it’s become more of a life project for her. Join Lynn at 4 p.m. on Sunday for day 363.

Lynn Brown owned a portrait photography business for nearly a decade. This spring, after traveling on a personal journey, she dissolved the business. However, she still loves photography and two of her favorite girls to photograph are Julia (left) and Jayden Girven, who presented her with ferry wands for her garden recently.  (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

Lynn Brown owned a portrait photography business for nearly a decade. This spring, after traveling on a personal journey, she dissolved the business. However, she still loves photography and two of her favorite girls to photograph are Julia (left) and Jayden Girven, who presented her with ferry wands for her garden recently. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

 

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Posted by Michelle Graves

Michelle is the managing editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3106 or mgraves@pioneergroup.com.

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