(Grayson, Ga) “We’ve been through some challenges and our faith’s been tested but we’re together and we’re stronger than ever,” begins Keisha Cameron as she smiles across the room at her husband, Warren.
Keisha sees things through the lens of the world as one extended neighborhood and Warren sees things through the lens of his camera as he records the adventures of their family. Together, those lenses create a blend of a life simplified through a series of challenges and joyful experiences.
The couple met on a dare from Keisha’s boss. Keisha was working at a makeup counter in an upstate New York department store when a man she describes as being “cheeky” came along and was flirting with her despite her wishing he would go away. “My coworkers were teasing me about him and my boss quipped that I was ‘on a roll’ and could pick up anybody. She then dared me to pick up the next guy that walked through,” says Keisha. Warren laughs and says, “I was that guy and we are still on a roll today.”
The pair only spoke briefly, but began their friendship a month later, when Keisha spotted Warren who had returned to get a watch sized. “We were just friends and neither of us were interested in anything else,” says Keisha. Keisha remembers thinking that Warren was alright because he was a good friend AND started going to church with her on Sundays. “Everybody, and I mean everybody that knew us, including the preacher told us to ‘take it slow’,” says Keisha. “WE INSISTED we were just friends and not dating.” People would just smile at us and nod.
The Wednesday following Sunday’s church service, Keisha could not get Warren out of her mind. She thought to herself that she was becoming overly emotional, perhaps influenced by the constant comments of others and she was afraid that things could head in the wrong direction. “I kept thinking that I didn’t want to disrespect our friendship by confusing my feelings toward him,” says Keisha. “I called him on Thursday and told him we shouldn’t talk and that maybe I would see him again Sunday.” That lasted about 24 hours and by Friday, Keisha was thinking about him a LOT. “I finally broke down and called him after work.” Warren, who rarely went out with “the guys” and doesn’t drink at all was at a happy hour with buddies, which instantly annoyed Keisha. He hurried out of the bar and headed to meet Keisha, where the two talked until the wee hours. “I put myself out there and used the “L” word --- and he didn’t respond,” recalls Keisha. “I was so embarrassed, I wanted to curl up and die.” The next day, Warren called wanting to hang out. He finally got to have his say. Warren asked her, “Do you remember what you told me yesterday?; Yeah, I was glad about that.” Keisha told him, “Oh, no! You have to say it.” So he told her he loved her. The next day at church, when confronted about their relationship they admitted their newly realized feelings for one another. Afterward, Warren drove Keisha back to her apartment. “When we got back to my apartment, he proposed and I said yes. It’ll be fourteen years in May.” They set the wedding date for almost a year later. “We chose a later date since we hadn’t really dated,” says Keisha. Warren smiles and adds, “That is exactly how it happened.”
Today, the family lives on a small farm in Grayson; their journey getting there has been filled with ups and downs. Raised in New York and England respectively, Keisha and Warren took a leap of faith and moved to Atlanta for a great job offer, while they were also expecting their son Abraham. “We thought we were living the ‘dream’,” says Keisha. “We eventually had all of the things we thought we were supposed to have-including the McMansion.” Like many people, having stuff was an outward symbol of a successful career for both Warren and Keisha. Then, everything changed. Change can be good and change can be bad, but getting laid off from a great job was not in the plans for Warren who was a software engineer. “We really thought we were doing something,” says Warren. “It looked like it anyway.”
During the time the Cameron family was “reinventing” itself, Warren began shooting. “I laugh, but I would tell Keisha I was going to ‘shoot some people’,” says Warren. “I began to learn more about photography by using my camera.” Later, in a meeting that would change everything, Warren learned about how to turn his hobby into a something more. Warren joined The Atlanta Photographers Guild where he found the support he needed to take photography to the next step.
While Warren was discovering his talents in photography, Keisha had decided to find her own place in the broad arena she calls “neighborhood.” “If my heart and arms were the same length, I could wrap my whole neighborhood up,” says Keisha. Warren smiles, nods and says, “She has this aura about her; people like to talk to her.” Keisha began to pursue her dreams in cultural anthropology and established The Exchange- a center for multicultural exchange. “This is where we start, with a love for people and an acknowledgement that history and heritage combine to shape our individual stories, perspectives, and experiences,” says Keisha. Since every picture tells a story, it became evident to the couple that their talents and dreams were complimentary. Keisha was unearthing and amassing tales to be told and Warren was alongside her documenting the action with his cameras. What more could they want? Oh yes… a farm.
The sign reappeared on the tract of land with the house you couldn’t even see from the road. Keisha took her car right up the long and rutted out drive to find her farm was just waiting for her. A foreclosure, nothing like her former homes, the homestead was waiting for the Cameron family. They bought it and prepared to make it their own. Then, after another lay-off from work, the loss of Warren’s father and an unscrupulous logger who scraped every tree from the grounds leaving behind mounds of trash, Keisha and Warren called upon their faith and held tight to the love of their family and their dream. They and their three boys pushed on, determined to simplify life and be grateful for the joys of home.
Today, Keisha and Warren have an active blog on their complimentary websites: www.exchangemc.com and www.5acrestudios.com with a “He said-She said” theme. Their farm has horses, several chickens that are never boring and seem to make trouble enough for some hilarious postings on Facebook, and kids who prefer the outdoors to spending time facing a screen of any sort. “The past few generations have lost so many skills in exchange for increased technologies. We love technology but we are hoping that our kids will make use of both. They should learn by watching their parents do something,” says Warren. “I learned by watching my father.” He goes on to describe how he takes advantage of the technology in order to develop and put into practice newly learned skills. “I call it “YouTube University.” We have learned about sustainable gardening, animal care and household maintenance,” says Warren. “We aren’t afraid of hard work and the boys have also learned those things by watching and helping us.”
The dream to embrace a wider and more culturally diverse community has become an active reality. Keisha and Warren’s love story is one of deciding on a dream and moving forward together with faith, love and family at the very core. “My advice to anyone is to marry their best friend,” says Keisha. “Be invested in each other and wants what’s best for the other person. A sense of humor is a must, they should also make you laugh.” They intend to continue their simpler home life, sustaining themselves as much as possible from their farm and continuing to invite the “neighborhood” over for the sharing of stories, forever preserved in words and photos by a couple who have made it their dream to share the experiences, good or bad, that life sends their way.