1. Yes. Nashville. 

    Many have said, “everyone’s moving there now.” Yes, this year it’s the fastest growing city in America. Many of my friends have moved there, people I love, people that encourage me, uplift me, challenge me to be the man, the artist, the human that I know I can be. 

    But that’s not why I’m moving there.

    When I was driving on my way to Nashville last month for 10 days, I told myself, “I’m not going to Nashville to find out if I’m to move there, and I’m not going to think about it.” That should be when you get the hint that the opposite will occur. 

    In past years, I’ve tried moving to three different cities (Louisville, Portland, Charlottesville). Louisville was a 3-time attempt, Portland 2-times, and Charlottesville once. None of them worked out. And though I love each of these places, they weren’t meant to be. 

    After the first seven days in Nashville, I was consistently taken back by each encounter, each conversation, and the feeling of my presence in the city. Every time I turned around, memories, ideas, dreams, passions, callings, all came flooding back. 

    It got to the point where I was like, “God, what are you doing? I didn’t come here to find out if I’m going to move here. Why are you consistently tossing all of these things into the mixture of my mind and heart?” 

    So I thought about it - not too much, as I’ve found thinking can lead down some indecisive paths, usually leading me to change my mind to something else. Instead, I continued listening to my divine intuition, and to the Spirit. 

    I’ve struggled a lot in my life with indecisiveness, with making decisions, with being confident and not changing my mind every two seconds (thanks modern society and this technological age). For me, I’ve only really planned for 1 month in advance - maybe three, but no more. That’s just what comes naturally to me. 

    One morning in Nashville, peace and a intense confidence just rested over me. I looked over at my friend, Taylor, while sitting at Crema coffee and said, “I’m just going to say it, Taylor (pause for reflection) - I’m moving here. Period.”

    The next morning, I roll into Crema again for my morning coffee. I sat down in the corner spot in the back of the room by myself, taking in the desaturated light and sweet aroma of Crema coffee, while sipping on my Americano.

    The next second, I see a friend I’ve made, Monica (who works at Crema), come over and hand me my muffin and then strike up a conversation with this guy (Jacob) sitting next to me who also works at Crema (which I didn’t know at the time).

    They were talking about roommates and looking for housing, and trying to figure it all out, and I just looked over to this guy and was like, “I’m looking to move here… You looking for a roommate?” His answer, “Yeah man.”

    A couple weeks later, we chatted and decided to room together, and 5 days later secured a place that I have only dreamed of. The next second, all the work I could need, and more, to provide for the rest of the year came in. All the money, all the work, all the peace and knowing that I’m in the right place.

    This year, I’ve been fairly nomadic; traveling a lot around the country and the world. It’s been incredible, and it’s what I set out to do in January. I have absolutely no regrets. 

    But now it’s time to find some structure, find community (and keep pursuing it even though it may be uncomfortable - because it’s easy to be alone, and I know that feeling pretty well, as it comes naturally in my life, plus as an artist). 

    This year, I’ve made it my goal to be as unstructured, in the “where” I reside, as possible, and as my work takes off more and my heart yearns for connection to community, I find it vital to be rooted in one place; to be challenged, encouraged, organized, accountable, and blessed to do the things I’m looking to in the future.

    I’ve been so blessed to have had the opportunities to travel and experience the world this year. I couldn’t be more grateful (and it’s not over). 

    Appalachia - you’ll always be my home. Your mountains and shallow valleys and vast forests and kind faces - your familiarity I will miss, your deep roots I will never forget - they are ingrained within my very DNA. I’m not done with you.

    For you West Virginia - I’m not done with you either.

    Stonestreet Creative will be based out of Nashville, TN and Charleston, WV. I look forward to doing work within both of your beautiful states, and beyond. My Appalachian roots will always reach deep and stay strong.

    I’ve got a place, I’ve got a roommate, I’m packing up and will be off October 21st driving south towards those beautiful Tennessee fields, rolling hills and golden sunsets. 

    Can’t wait to take in your sight, Nashville - all those friendly faces, great coffee, incredible Mexican food, farm potlucks and Huck Finn vibes. I’m stoked.

    See you soon, Tennessee.

    - Stephen

     
  2. ‪#‎WeAreCoalCountry‬ | Meet Shannon Cook and her daughter, Brookelyn. Shannon is an active volunteer with local foods initiatives in Mingo County, WV, helping build a healthier community in Appalachia.

    "I’m passionate about educating people and raising awareness about eating healthier and growing local foods. I’m a volunteer with the mobile farmers market and help fundraise for the Growing Warriors program coming to Williamson. I really just want to encourage people to live healthier lives. The community has been doing a whole lot more recently than ever before. It’s really exciting and encouraging." - Shannon Cook

    These are some of my favorite captures from my time in Williamson. Shannon, her daughter, and all the people of this region are the real heart of the Billion Dollar Coalfield.

     

  3. Taylor Napier / Photographer, Filmmaker & Musician

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    There is no other person who knows Stonestreet Creative and our work more intimately than photographer, filmmaker and musician, Taylor Napier. Throughout the last two years, Taylor has been a part of nearly every major project we’ve worked on.

    From the beginning of our work until now with the health & sustainable initiatives in Coal Country, to documenting people with disabilities being empowered through employment throughout the state of West Virginia, to informing me (Stephen) of UpWorthy’s share of our documentary, “A Gateway to Sustainability in the Heart of Coal Country” that then received nearly 56,000 loads on Vimeo, to composing several brilliant scores for our videos — Taylor has been a consistent collaborator who is always working hard, inspiring new levels of creativity and challenging everyone to strive for creating the highest quality of work possible (she’s also consistently the chillest person in every setting).

    Thanks Taylor for your commitment to seeing Stonestreet Creative grow and flourish. We are proud to call you friend and collaborator.

    - Stephen Stonestreet

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    Here are some portraits of Taylor while we were working in Williamson, West Virginia on health initiatives for Williamson Health & Wellness Center and it’s partnering organizations in the Heart of the Billion Dollar Coalfield.

    We are excited for future collaborative work with Taylor. Go over and check out her other work here.

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    Photographs by Stephen Stonestreet.

     

  4. Ian Randall Thornton / Musician / Part II

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    In August, I had the pleasure of capturing Ian Randall Thornton at J. Percy Priest Lake right outside Nashville, Tennessee. Along the way, there were many laughs (much thanks to the dry humor of both Isaac and Ian together), good conversations, exploring and swimming. 

    Ian is currently on tour across Europe, playing shows in homes and venue’s from Hamburg, Germany to Oslo, Norway to Bradford, UK and beyond. He’ll be back in the states soon and will continue to tour, mostly playing in intimate settings to create family (as he puts it).

    Special thanks to Isaac Gill for suggesting J. Percy Priest Lake and assisting me. 

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    Take a listen: Photographs & Illustration by Stephen Stonestreet.

     

  5. Suspension / / Ian Randal Thornton

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    Full post on Ian Randall Thornton, Part II, coming this evening (See part one here). In the meantime, here are some fun shots of Ian in the air. 

    Captured at J. Percy Priest Lake outside Nashville, Tennessee / August 2014.