By HANK MURPHY
Two Mineolans have embarked on a mission that, they believe, will offer insights into the interconnectivity of lives.
Amanda Duncan and Joshua Pogue are working to complete “Eye See You for You,” a publication that will combine photographs of subjects’ eyes with words straight from their hearts. They hope to have a book out early next year.
“We feel like the eyes are the window to the soul, and potentially you can see the struggles, trials and tribulations that these people have been through, as well as the hope and inspiration they have,” explains Pogue, a 29-year-old native of Alba and proprietor of County Road Film Company.
The concept for “Eye See You for You” rests on letting people tell their stories anonymously. Only an image of the people’s eyes, captured by Pogue or Duncan, will be shown.
Duncan, a native Louisianan who moved to East Texas about 10 years ago, acts as the conduit between her subjects and the words as they will appear in “Eye See You for You.”
Behind the veil of anonymity, she interviews people young and old from all walks of life in this region. Some of their stories are long, some are short. “They vary depending on how open someone is and what they want to talk about,” Duncan says. “The anonymity gives people the freedom to open up and starting talking a lot more about things they typically wouldn’t. So it’s very personal, it’s very intimate. I don’t change their story in anyway.”
Along with lengthy and brief first-person accounts, the book’s visual element will consist of as many as 300 to 400 pairs of eyes peering from the pages, according to Pogue.
Duncan says she’s interviewed about 50 people so far. Some find it liberating to talk to someone – someone who truly wants to listen – about their lives, about their triumphs and joys, their hardships, heartaches, regrets, fears. She believes readers will relate to those stories – that they’ll find comfort in knowing others persevered through similar life experiences and similar emotions.
“We tend to believe we’re an island and that we’re dealing with things all on our own, says Duncan. “That just really is not the case.”
The seeds of this project were planted about six years ago when Pogue and Duncan had a chance encounter at the old Henry’s House of Java on Broad Street in Mineola.
Pogue noticed Duncan snapping pictures of people’s eyes, and it piqued his curiosity. She described to him her vision of a collage comprising many pairs of small eyes coming together as one large eye. For various reasons, however, the project fell by the wayside.
Then in September 2018, Duncan and Pogue bumped into one another again at a different coffee shop – the Speakeasy Coffee House in Quitman. The two were “both coming out of some low points in our lives and looking for some hope and inspiration and something to focus on,” Pogue recalls.
He asked if she’d ever completed the collage project – a question that set wheels in motion.
“We got to talking about how each eye is so unique,” says Duncan. “No one else has your eyes, and each one tells a story. As we were talking about that, this whole project developed.”
Both love to brainstorm, but “I don’t have a lot of stick to it-ness. I tend to have a lot of great ideas all the time, so I run from one thing to another,” Duncan confesses.
Asked if Pogue serves to anchor the project, she replies: “I don’t know that he’s the anchor; I just think that together we’re holding each other accountable.”
“She’s the brain, so I guess I’m the face,” interjects Pogue with a smile.
It’s Pogue who promotes the project and makes initial contacts with people and businesses.
“He’s much more personable than me,” Duncan says laughing.
“She’s really good with the one-on-one and getting the in-depth stuff, and I’m kind of breaking the ice with people,” Pogue notes.
Duncan, a wife, mother, step-mother and grandmother of soon-to-be six, runs a natural remedies and expressive arts business (Peaceful Warrior Creations) from her home. At age 42, Duncan has outlived the average life expectancy – age 38 – for a person with cystic fibrosis. It dawned on her last year that she’ll probably live a good deal longer than expected, she notes.
And for the foreseeable future, much of her time will be devoted to “Eye See You for You.”
“The main focus of this project – the main focus of our mission is connection. That is what we’re about. It’s connecting people with each other – with struggles, with hopes and perseverance and overcoming,” she asserts.
Pogue and Duncan speak of being humbled and moved by other people’s stories.
“She’ll sit with the people and then come out all teary eyed,” says Pogue.
“And then I’m crying while writing,” adds Duncan. “It’s very emotional. It’s very raw.”
It’s a product of connecting.
“When someone is looking in their eyes and they feel like they matter, they will open up,” she says, later adding, “We need to feel heard.”