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Cory Green

GOD’S LOVE SEEN THROUGH HAZEL EYES: MEET CORY GREEN

By: Angel Charmaine

Photography: Hazel Eyes Photography 

April 28, 2023

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It is the characteristic of the magnanimous man to ask no favor but to be ready to do kindness to others.  – Aristotle

Angel:
Cory, first, just let me say thank you for saying yes to doing this interview with me and being a part of the very first SpeakUpSis! Magazine edition that will feature men on the cover and throughout the magazine. When I asked you about being a part of this, what were your thoughts?

Cory:
No.

Angel:
Your first thought was, no?

Cory:
Yes. 

Angel:
You’ve got to tell me why.

Cory:
As a man, you want to have that wall up. You don’t want everybody in your business, so I guess that's the vulnerable part of us. 

Angel:
What turned the No into a Yes?

Cory:
In my business, I have to be inviting to people, so I’m trying to stop being so tough. It’s too tough to always be tough.  

Angel:
Oh, that’s good, and what is your business?

Cory:
Photography.

Angel:
Are you a full-time photographer, or do you also work a traditional job?
Cory:
I'm a truck driver by trade.

Angel:
How long have you been driving trucks, and do you drive locally or long distance?

Cory:
I've been driving trucks for 25 years, and I pretty much drive regionally. I usually work third shift.  When y’all are up and going to work, I’m just getting home and going to sleep.  That's why I only work with Hazel Eyes Photography on Friday and Saturday. That's it. I drive Sunday night through pretty much Friday morning.

Angel:
Wow! So, let me get this straight. You’re driving on the road throughout the week, and on your days off, you're taking pictures and videos. You are in high demand here in the CSRA, so I know you are doing a significant amount of work during the weekend too. 

Speaker 2:
Yep. Yep. 

Angel:
My goodness, Brutha. All of that takes a great deal of diligence. How did you go from truck driver to photographer, and why do you love it so much that you spend your off days doing it?

Cory:
I started about four years ago with a gospel group called Bless-ed. I wasn't thinking about photography or videography. I had one video camera and started videoing them. The first time I recorded them, it was ugly, but they accepted it. They never said a word.  Every time they went after that, I kept going with 'em and going with 'em.  They never told me that I couldn’t go because the videos didn’t look good. They just kept inviting me along; I kept going, and that's where I got my start. Bless-ed gospel group out of Appling, GA.

Angel:
Did the group ask you to come take pictures for them?

Cory:
Oh no, no, no. I went to them. I went to a show and saw them perform.  I looked around and noticed nobody was recording, and it was a good show. That's what made me buy a camcorder.

Angel:
Oh, so you started videoing first, not taking pictures.

Cory:
Yeah. I started recording video.
Angel:
They probably liked the fact that you were recording their performance even if it wasn't the best quality. 

Cory:
Even to this day, they're really the only group that I don't charge to do anything for because that's where I got my start.

Angel:
And that, Cory, is commendable and speaks volumes about your character because most people will not do that. How did you get better at your craft?  Did you take classes?

Cory:
No classes at all.

Angel:
Oh wow. Really?

Cory:
Not one class. I wouldn't say I'm perfect. I'm still learning. I don't know it all, but I learn a lot by talking to and watching people. I tried the YouTube thing, but my attention span is about the size of a fingernail. I don't have an attention span at all. I cannot sit and listen to somebody talk for long. On YouTube, they talk for twenty minutes and give you only two minutes of good content. I just can't do it. I watch other photographers, and what I see them doing gets stuck in my head. Then, I go home and utilize what I saw. I build off what I learn in order to get what I like. I don't want to be like them, but I want to use what I see them do to make myself better. I still learn like this to this very day. When I see photographers and videographers, I just watch them. I don't care where I am. If I'm at a show, I'm probably paying attention to them. I'm watching whoever is recording and taking pictures. I watch what they are doing, how they’re doing it, what angles they’re at, what the light is like. I bring what I saw back home, and I use it to make myself better. I'm still learning but not with classes. Everything I do is from sight.

Angel:
I think it’s amazing to be self-taught at anything. 

Cory:
I play bass too, and I’ve never taken a bass class or music lesson in my life; it’s all off ear. 

Angel:
I'm going to pivot a little because I think it's interesting that you drive trucks for a living, but it sounds like you're a creative at heart. You're a musician. You're an artist with a camera. What was your childhood like? Where did this creativity come from, this love for the arts?

 


Cory:
It's crazy because both me and my brother can draw. When we were younger, he drew way better than me; he could draw people, and I drew cartoons. We would sit and look at something and draw it. As a child, I drew a little bit, but our main concern was playing outside in the dirt. I was not a house body. I did not stay in the house.  <We both laugh>

Angel:
Were you a tough kid, or were you more of a quiet child or gentle child?

Cory:
I was an outgoing child with too much energy. I stayed into stuff.

Angel:
Mischievous.

Cory:
Yes, very. I got a lot of spankings. 
Me and Belt had a personal relationship. <We both laugh> 
Yep. I stayed into stuff. If I got in trouble and was sent to my room, I'd be in there singing, beating on the wall, making music, playing, and doing whatever. No one could make me be quiet. I was going to be doing something. I'm still like that. If it gets too quiet, I start knocking on stuff, making music, making sounds, start humming, doing something. It’s difficult for me to sit still.

Angel:
Driving trucks keeps you moving, but do you think you'll ever stop driving trucks and focus solely on photography & videography?

Cory:
I would love to, but I’m not sure about this area.

Angel:
You don't think you would earn the kind of money here that you need to earn in order to sustain your livelihood?

Cory:
Not around here, no. It fluctuates too much.  It’ll be good until maybe June or July. We’re booked up to the end of June, right now. Then, it'll fall off for two, three months, and it kind of picks back up around Christmas, but I'm quite sure if I put myself out there and go full throttle and start working with businesses too, I’m sure I could.

Angel:
I’m sure your prices would have to go up if you're doing it full time. 


Cory:
Yes. That's the problem, and see right now, I don't do it for money because I got a job. So, when people come to me now, my prices are rock bottom. People will ask how my prices are so low. They are so low because I work, and this is an art; I just like doing it. About 90% of the equipment we have, I bought out of my pocket, not with what I made from taking pictures or videos. I bought everything I would need first and then I started profiting.

Angel:
Do you have clients you work with who complain about the work you do even though you have quality work at super low prices? If so, how do you feel about that considering you do it because you love it while also knowing they will be hard pressed to get your quality at your price anywhere else?

Cory:
I don’t have that problem often. In fact, I only had one client like that this year.  It was a group, and they hated their pictures. Like I said, the price was absolute rock bottom. I gave them a lower price, but I knew their platform could bring other clients. I repeat, they absolutely hated the pictures I took.  They came to me for a refund. I refunded half the money after we went back and forth. To answer your question, yes, I felt some type of way because it's my art, my craft. Even though they hated them so much, they put my work on a billboard in the city.

Angel:
Oh, my goodness. They hated the photos, but the photos were good enough to be placed on a billboard.

Cory:
Amen.

Angel:
Okay. Gotcha. So how did that make you feel?

Cory:
It hurt while I listened to what she said to me because it’s like a slap in the face. It was more about the way they came to me about it. They didn’t say, “We don't like this, so let's try to redo them.” They went straight to, “I think I need a refund.”  I thought to myself, oh, off the muscle they are asking for a refund. To me, it looked like that's what they originally wanted - free work. So yeah, that really made me feel some type of way. I was going back and forth with them, and I had to catch myself. I'm thought, you know what? They ain't worth it.  I’m just going to give back this money and cut ties. I'm not doing anything else for them. Have a nice day. Then, I saw where my photo, the one they hated so much, was on a billboard.

Angel:
Wow!

 

Cory:
There were about ten of them in the group, but only three of them were like, “Oh, I don't like this. I don't like that.”  The same three are using my picture as their profile picture on social media.

Angel:
This situation lends itself to the theme of this magazine edition.  I really wanted to tap into the idea of men being both courageous and vulnerable, and what I heard from your share is a man of valor saying, “I am taking my leisure time to perfect a craft that I love and to offer it to my community, a community that I know needs what I have to offer, so they can get what they need at an affordable price. However, I have feelings, and my feelings can be hurt too.”  To put yourself out there only to be smacked in the face. That's vulnerability. Sometimes I believe people approach women slightly differently in situations like the one you shared because they don’t want to hurt our feelings or have us think or feel some kind of way, but when it comes to men, that concern seems to fly out the window. Maybe the thought is that men can handle the smack and shouldn’t feel any way about it. Hopefully, the more men speak up and share their stories and experiences, we all will begin to acknowledge that men feel too. 

Cory:
Oh yeah. At the end of the day, I tell women all the time, when they say men are so tough and all this stuff, we come from y'all. Everything you feel is now in us. We’re just taught to have a shell around it. That's all.

Angel:
Ouch!

Cory:
Everything a woman feels, men feel the same way. Simple. We just hide it more, and we have to be tough. That's the only difference.

Angel:
Speaking of women, I’ll get back to the “tough guy” topic in a moment. I've heard it said that behind every great man is a supportive woman. Is your wife, Anita, supportive of your photography and videography career?

Cory:
She is very supportive. She helps me especially when I have to deal with women. She does a lot in this thing too. A lot of the stuff that people see in the pictures or people do in the pictures is her standing behind the camera telling people what to do. I don’t pose people. I couldn't tell you how to stand, sit, squat or whatever. She does all that. When she's not around, I catch Sam Hill trying to get people to do it. She’s my support. She looks through the phone researching and finding all types of stuff to do. I may take the pictures, but when people see the pictures, she is the one getting people in the picture to do what needs to be done. She’s not just supportive; she helps and works right along with me.

 

Angel:
I like that. It takes us back to, what I think is a false idea of, the man having to be strong in everything. Clearly, you share in the growth of your craft with your wife. Do you have a problem with always being considered tough? Would you prefer to not have to be tough?

Cory:
It is a problem and I would prefer not to be. But the world makes you tough. Because if you come off as weak, people will use you until you have nothing left to use, and you'll be done for. You’ll be running around here weak for real. 

Angel:
If you say, I prefer not to be considered tough all the time. What is a word you prefer to be considered?

Cory:
I prefer to be respected.  So many people, even other men, don’t have respect for other men, especially not for black men, we wear that toughness to say, “Don’t bother me.” Even though on the inside, we might be big, old squishy teddy bears. There is more to us than most people care to know. You know, my life goes deeper than all of this.  

Angel:
And what do you mean by that?

Cory:
I did cocaine for 16 years straight, strong.

Angel:
Whoa! Really? I wasn’t expecting you to say that.

Cory:
I'm talking about a $500 to $1000 a week habit for 16 years. I stopped about 15 years ago. Cold Turkey. Before I met my wife. 

Angel:
So how'd you find yourself with a cocaine habit?

Cory:
People. Wrong people. That's it. Wrong people. I stopped cold turkey. No help. No nothing.

Angel:
What led you to the place of saying, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Cory:
I got sick of it. That was it. I just got sick of it. I was done. And that was all she wrote.

Angel:
Were you what they call a functional addict or were you one of those people who were strung-out out there?

Cory:
I was very functional. I worked; I paid all my bills. Never went without. My household never heard it. Everything was taken care of. I’d stay out and drive trucks two, three weeks straight to make sure everything was taken care of and come home, just get high.

Angel:
Did people know that you had this habit? 

Cory:
Other than my wife and maybe a couple other people, this is the first time I’ve openly told anybody else.

Angel:
I tend to have that effect on people. <We both laugh> 
I'm sitting here attempting to wrap my head around this. First, thank you for sharing such a personal experience with us. It proves that men, too, have life experiences they keep to themselves of which they don’t speak up and discuss.  Second, I know you said you were introduced to cocaine by hanging with the wrong people. Do you believe there were underlying issues that sort of kept you in that place for 15 years?

Cory:
It was the feeling. It felt good at time.

Angel:
What's interesting about what you're saying is that most of us think people who do drugs, of any sort, were abused, had a lot of traumas, has all these life issues they’re trying to escape and there's something lingering behind the drug use. But you're saying that wasn’t the case with you.

Cory:
No.  Nothing forced me to go that way or to lead me that way. I just went, and when I got there, it felt good, and I stayed. 

Angel:
Earlier you said, you got tired. What did you get tired of?

Cory:
Getting high.

Angel:
If it felt good, why would you be tired of it? Who wants to stop feeling good?  I have to say that’s not registering well with my brain. 
Cory:
That's what happened. My son was born and then I just got tired and stopped cold turkey. I had like $300 plus worth of it.  I put it in the toilet and flushed it.

Angel:
There’s got to be more to this.  <We both chuckle>

Cory:
That's it.  One day in the toilet, flush, done. Never went back. Thank God. Never went back, and about eight years ago I stopped smoking. Cold turkey after 25 years.

Angel:
Wow. I have said wow a lot during this conversation. <We both laugh>
I am simply in awe of this part of your story. The strength it takes to do what you’ve done is more than many people can comprehend.

Cory:
And that’s why I say all the time that I thank God for a strong mind and willpower.

Angel:
Have you ever had therapy?

Cory:
Never talked. Anybody

Angel:
What do you say to people who say, I think you need some therapy, and you just don't know you need therapy?

Cory:
You don't know what you're talking about. <We both laugh> 
I’ll tell them, you may need therapy, but thank God I don't need therapy. He gave it to me to know me, and God has stayed in me, with him, and told me I don't need to talk to nobody else to help myself. I believe it is possible for me to be the first person to help myself. I have always had a strong head on me. I'm bullheaded. Once I make my mind up on something, I do it. I've always been like that since I was a child. I'm glad it stayed in me because I made my mind up to stop doing drugs, and I just stopped. That was it.

Angel:
I appreciate that you trust my platform to share your story because these are conversations that must be had. I think people need to understand that everybody has been through some things and have their own stories to tell. Our journeys may be different, but they’re ours respectively and respectfully.


Cory:
That's it. That's what it is all about. Respect.
I was born and raised in church. I believe in God.  I know He’s the reason I stopped doing what I was doing. That's the only reason I keep getting better at what I'm doing now. I don’t put nothing before Him. Anytime I go to take pictures, the first thing I do is say, God please give me an eye. I don't just walk in there like I know what I'm doing although I know what I need to do. Sometimes, I’ll pull up somewhere, stop, sit in the car, and I’ll ask God to just give me an eye. Show me a vision, so I can do this. I sit there with my eyes closed and look around for a minute, get out and go at it. Here’s something most people don’t know.  Our photography company is named after my wife’s mother, Hazel. She’s not with us anymore, but she was a God-loving woman who sang with the Georgia Mass Choir with my mother, so I guess when you look at Hazel Eyes Photography, you’ll always see God’s love. 

Angel:
I absolutely love it. You have such a calm disposition even as I've seen you out working with all types of people.  The work that you've done for me has been phenomenal every time. He has surely given you a good eye. I want to wrap our conversation by giving you the opportunity to encourage someone, especially a man, who is reading this interview.

Cory:
Go for it. Don't let nobody hold you back. Don't let nothing stop you. Don't let nobody tell you that you can’t. I was told I can't. When I started taking pictures, I was told I couldn’t. I was told I was wasting my time. I was told I was wasting money. Look at us now. Yeah. Don't let nobody stop you. I don't care who it is, not even family. They say no; you make it yes. Whatever you feel, you go for it and lock your mind into it and do it. 

What a perfect way to end this conversation. Thank you so much Cory for taking time to talk with me and share a bit of your story with our  SpeakUpSis! Magazine readers. It is my hope that someone will read about you and know that they too can do whatever they believe God for and whatever they set their mind to do. I pray you have enjoyed meeting Mr. Cory Green. 

Cory’s Contact Details:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HazelEyes706
Instagram: @hazel_eyes_photography_llc_706
 

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