Photographer documents Gatlinburg wildfires in creative way


GATLINBURG (WATE) – A photographer is putting tragedy in a different perspective by having families who lost everything in the Gatlinburg fires lie on a mattress in the place where their bedroom used to be.

Jeremy Cowart has taken portraits of some well-known celebrities, including Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson. In Gatlinburg, he is doing something different. He is finding a beautiful way to tell the stories of the victims of the Gatlinburg wildfires.

“If you use creativity and good ideas, you can keep the world interested in a cause,” said Cowart, a professional photographer.

Cowart is showing that creativity with a drone and a mattress. He puts a white mattress on the foundation of destroyed homes in Gatlinburg. It shows the contrast of what’s left for some of these families. Christen Compton and her family participated in the project. They lived on North Mountain Trail in Gatlinburg.

“This is where one chapter ends and a new one begins,” said Compton.

More coverage: East Tennessee and Gatlinburg Wildfires

The idea of the project is to show strength. Cowart had the Compton family lay where her nine-month-old baby’s nursery used to be. She said it was a very moving and emotional experience. Cowart thought it was necessary to drive from Nashville to take these pictures for Gatlinburg families free of charge.

“I’m here to literally act as a microphone to share their needs,” said Cowart.

Cowart was a microphone for Mayor Mike Werner and his family, who lost their home and business in the fires.

“Their daughters had not seen the home until today so to be with them during that moment, as you can imagine, they were all crying there were a lot of tears,” said Cowart.

They all agree it’s a way in helping to tell their stories. Compton said it’s helping her family get their story out there to show others they are surviving on hope and faith.

“We come together as a community. We survive. Please come back to Gatlinburg and visit because that is what Gatlinburg is all about,” said Compton.

After Cowart takes the photos, he posts them on his professional Facebook page with a link to the family’s crowd-funding page if they have one. He hopes the photos will be therapeutic for the families. Him and his team started taking photos on Wednesday. They plan to stay in Gatlinburg until next week.

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