Community Q&A with Photographers Phillip and Eileen Blume

Meet the artist: Phillip and Eileen Blume

Check out their website:

Tell us what you do:  As wedding photographers, Eileen and I (Phillip) get to serve engaged couples not only here in Athens, but all over the world — from New York and London to Antigua and Manila. Over the years, we’ve received many honors and awards. But the greatest honor we ever receive is the enormous trust couples place in us to document such historic days. This genre of photography requires a deep sense of humility, to create a perfectly blissful experience for every couple rather than play the “prima donna” art director role. We also believe strongly in the power of photography to give identity and to connect us with our heritage. So we aim to create imagery that is timeless and that relates new family’s story authentically and proudly. From pulling the trigger to hand-binding a finished wedding album, we create heirlooms that our couples’ grandchildren one day will pull out of the attic steamer trunk and gain a whole new insight into their roots.


Tell us about your history: You could say we fell in love — and into our profession — quite unusually. Eileen and I met in Tokyo, Japan. Sparks flew, but only later did we discover that our families lived within one hour of each other back home in the United States. We spent just a single day together in Tokyo, but stayed in touch after I returned home to Athens and finished my studies at UGA. Eileen remained in Japan for work and — as it turned out — her family began to “date” me on her behalf. You can’t imagine my nerves when it came time to meet her enormous filipino family all on my own! Six months later, we decided to meet for a mutual friends wedding in San Francisco. There, on our official first date, I proposed. She was crazy enough to say “yes,” and the rest is history.

We were both amateur photographers when we married, and I had photographed a few friends weddings during college to help pay tuition. When a newly engaged friend asked to see my portfolio to consider for her own wedding, Eileen did more than “post some pictures online” as I had asked her to do. Instead, in her classic overachiever style, she built a full website to display the images. Soon, we began receiving calls about wedding photography from complete strangers. The demand grew, and we soon were able to leave our jobs to pursue photography full-time.

We couldn’t have anticipated what came next. Within three years, our work was becoming widely published, couples were flying us out for their weddings overseas, and we received invitations to speak at some of the world’s largest photography conventions around the country. As a former high school teacher, I’ve loved marrying art with education — even if it is sometimes a challenge to juggle work along with our two daughters and an ongoing adoption process. We now enjoy instructing other photographers — both amateurs and professionals — through our weekly newsletter, my column in the popular Shutter Magazine and workshops everywhere.

Tell us about the importance of your work: The importance of our work with engaged couples and families (we also take on newborn and family portraits when time allows) goes beyond the artwork we create for them. Our primary goal is to serve our couples and impress on them the importance and beauty of their marriages. Outside our usual “studio hours,” our most important work consists of personal projects to improve the lives of children living in extreme poverty. Among smaller related projects, we produced a feature-length documentary film, “Lost Boys of Paradise,” which we released in 2011 at Athens’ own Cine theater. The film went on to tour venues around the United States, helping to raise awareness and support for children surviving in Guatemala’s post-civil war slums. The experience of filming and sharing those children’s stories was life-changing, and the power of visual media to give voice to the voiceless impressed us deeply.

Tell us why you live in Athens: I (Phillip) was born and raised in Athens, with the exception of a brief but memorable stint near Philadelphia. Athens has it all! It’s all the amenities of the city, but with an eclectic small-town feel. Since moving here, Eileen has become obsessed with our classic city as much as I am. We love the community and seeing people we know when we go out. Yet it isn’t so small that everyone’s “in your business.” You know what I mean? Between the two of us, Eileen and I have studied and lived in maybe 30 countries or more. We consider ourselves citizens of the world. But Athens is always our home base.

Describe your favorite things about this city: This could become a long list. But the first things that come to mind: We love the Twilight Criterium, Georgia game day (the atmosphere even more than the games), and cuisine from Last Resort Grill, to Etienne, to Five & Ten. We love the ever-increasing attention to historic preservation, the good ol’ Southern charm and the wealth of cultural diversity that the University fosters. We love you, Athens!



Community Q&A with Artist Laura Deems


Meet the artist: Laura Deems

Check out her website:

Tell us what you do:  I recapture memories by returning to the buildings and homes in which they were made. I use a technique I learned in a drawing class to portray the nostalgia and whimsy of each building by highlighting the features that sometimes go unnoticed. It is my desire to capture the aura of the building and preserve the sweet memories made there

Tell us about your history: I was born and raised in the one stoplight town of Taylorsville, Georgia and am currently pursuing a degree in Fabric Design at the University of Georgia. I am also a product designer for Magnolia Lane, a leading distributor of hand painted, collegiate licensed items, picture frames and sentiment plaques. And recently a new artist for The Broad Collective.

When I am not dying fabric, you may find me jogging around Athens listening to Spirit Family Reunion, hanging out with my Young Life team at Clarke-Central High School, or learning the secrets of the culinary arts from Ina Garten on the Cooking Channel.

Tell us about the importance of your work: It all began with one simple, handmade gift for a friend.

My artwork reflects what I am drawn to in everyday life… discovering color and beauty in unexpected place. I recognize basic shapes amid the seemingly complex, and am reminded of the childlike joy that often comes from familiar places that feel like home. My art attempts to capture the secret whispers of sacred moments in treasured places.

Tell us why you live in Athens: I am a full time student at The University of Georgia.

Describe your favorite things about this city: The intimacy in the smallness. The familiar smiles, a known name, and the history associated with the buildings, those are a few of my favorite things. Athens is a little treasure box if ya ask me.



Community Spotlight: Rachel Bailey of Taste of Athens


The 22nd annual Taste of Athens is just around the corner on Sunday, February 22 at the Classic Center in downtown Athens. The event has been given a complete makeover and we spoke with Rachel Bailey, the new director of Taste of Athens, to get all the details. After being hired in September, Rachel’s passion for representing the Athens food scene has quickly evolved into her dedication to making this year’s Taste of Athens event more special than ever.

Rachel’s love of the Athens food scene and her focus in writing and media have helped her on her path to where she is now with Taste of Athens. In addition to her background in the service industry, her position as Communications Manager at 5&10 has helped her land her position as Special Events Coordinator for Community Connection.

“I’ve always been interested in the world of food and media so being able to combine those has been incredible,” Rachel said. She has been able to use her expertise and knowledge of the Athens food scene to create the most dynamic taste of Athens yet.

The first change to the event includes a more “chef-focused” approach to highlight the individual talent of the people actually creating the “taste” of Athens. In addition to the food, they have outdone themselves by adding wine pairings by Stephen James of 5&10 and Award-nominated sommelier Steven Grubbs. Taking it a step further, there will be the first-ever, already sold-out, “cocktail competition,” representing a signature drink from 8 local bars.

Rachel hopes the event will represent just exactly how versatile the Athens food scene really is, with each restaurant bringing something different to the table.

“The enthusiasm that people have shown for this event just reaffirms the quality of the food and people in Athens,” she said.

The event itself is a fundraiser for Community Connection, a nonprofit working to support and aid the needs of the Athens-Clarke community.

According to Rachel, “It’s pretty unprecedented to have an event like Taste of Athens operate as a fundraiser for a nonprofit. It is truly a reflection on the generous and collaborative spirit of Athens.”

The willingness of the chefs and people involved in the event to devote their time and energy without direct compensation is the reason why Athens is the way it is.

“This event would not work the way it works here anywhere else,” Rachel said. “The people of Athens are more than willing to support events like this simply for the sake of helping their community. That is part of what makes me so excited to be working for this event, and I am really looking forward to sharing it with people!”

Taste of Athens has been scaled down from 2,000 people to 750 this year in hopes to create a more intimate experience. The event itself has been moved from the Grand Hall of the Classic Center to the Atrium with music from DJ Mahogany and Caleb Darnell. Only 130 tickets remain so don’t miss out on the opportunity to partake in this the collaboration of Athens talent while supporting the amazing community that made it possible in the first place.

Written by Meg Taylor.

Community Q&A with Artist magic8ball_athens


Meet the artist: magic8ball_athens

Tell us what you do: I am a free artist in the city of Athens, making a themed body of work with a familiar image that is then broken up into individual parts and hidden throughout the city (parts of the city I can get to on a bike).

Tell us about your history: I started doing this a few months ago. I have a lot of respect for the strong and growing free art community in Atlanta and I wanted to try to bring that to Athens. The anonymity of the work is its strong point in my opinion, and I wish to remain anonymous as an artist because I think that divulging my identity would detract from the work itself while remaining anonymous will give this work in this specific medium a life of it’s own. That detail is just not important.

Tell us about the importance of your work: This project started very small but I have found myself putting more and more time into it every day and I am excited to see where it can go and what it could do. Using social media (Instagram specifically) as an interactive outlet has a lot of possibilities and I would like to see what power this symbol could hold of it reaches enough people within the city or beyond. I would like for it to represent Athens pride and its uniqueness as a city with a life all its own.

Tell us why you live in Athens: I have been in school at UGA for 2 years. I am from Midtown Atlanta.

Describe your favorite things about this city: I have found in the last few months that my favorite things about the city of Athens are the unique, hidden gems throughout the city, big or small. I enjoy the sincerity of the restaurants and businesses in the city, as well as the diverse range of neighborhoods. I have lived in Normaltown for the last year, and being in that spot has made me feel like more of a part of the vibrant Athenian culture.