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North America
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USA, Indiana, Divorce
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Through a combination of in-depth interviews and documentary images of people in all different stages of the post-divorce process, I hope to show how people rebuild their lives after divorce.
Kristen Schmid

2000 — student runner-up

For the past several years I’ve photographed my mother’s life since my parents’ divorce, and recently I’ve expanded my scope for my master’s project. Through a combination of in-depth interviews and documentary images of people in all different stages of the post-divorce process, I hope to show how people rebuilt their lives after divorce.
“It’s the death of a dream” my mom said, referring to my parents’ divorce. This theme has echoed through my interviews with other divorced people, but their stories in my project “After Divorce” are as much about rebirth as they are about death.
The daunting statistics are familiar. The National Center for Health Statistics calculated that as of January 1999 the U.S. marriage rate was 8.3 for every 1000 people while the divorce rate was just over half that, at 3.2. The frequency of divorce in our society masks its impact. Just because it happens all the time doesn’t make it any easier or less traumatic. In their book Second Chances: Men, Women and Children a Decade After Divorce, Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee state that “the men, woman, and children we interviewed were still affected by their divorce ten and fifteen years later”. I know from my own experience that divorce cause feelings of sadness and anger that do not go away until they are dealt with. I hope that my project will provoke discussion, as well as understanding.

Wallerstein and Blakeslee also state that “divorce is the only major family crisis in which social supports fall away”. A man told me his friends treated him like a pariah. “My whole personality completely changed,” one woman said - it was too much for her friends.

After divorce people get new names, jobs, spouses and homes. They suddenly find themselves in different economic and social circumstance. Some people change their bodies, some people change their religion. There are common themes, but everyone feels differently about divorce and handles it in his or her own way. One woman started dating again the day her husband moved out. Another didn’t want to go anywhere for two years.

I have spent the past few months researching this topic and developing local contacts through support groups, churches, and friends; I have begun interviewing and photographing several people in the southern Indiana area. I will photograph my own parents as well (my dad has recently remarried). My goal is to publish this project on the Web or in a local newspaper.

I hope that people will see themselves, their parents, their children and their friends in my pictures, and come to a greater, more compassionate understanding of what it is like to go through a divorce.

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Landy Cassidy is 35-years-old with three sons, ages 4, 6 and 8. She was married for 11 years. until her divorce six months ago, she had always been at home - first as a homeschooled child and later as a housewife who homeschooled her own children. Today Landy owns and runs a health food store with her mother. "Life can change almost overnight," she said.

Landy works out three times a week with a personal trainer and, before she bought the store, she was training for competitive body building. She never worked out before she got divorced. Her trainer and friend Jason Kluemper said, "Landy's the only one of my (divorced) friends in the country who hasn't turned to drinking. She's put it all into this (lifting)." Kristen Schmid/Alexia Foundation
Landy leaves her children with her ex-husband so they can go on a week-long trip to Florida. This was their first big trip without her and it was hard for her to see them go. She said that a year ago she couldn't even stand to go to the mall without her kids. Kristen Schmid/Alexia Foundation
Carolyn Christmas and Bill Williams met in the divorce support group Carolyn founded, Single Again. They have been dating for about a year.
Christmas, 47, is a life-long resident of Fredinand, Indiana. She is a credit manager and has two sons, ages 13 and 20. She was married for 18 years. After her divorce, she started the social group Single Again because she needed to surround herself with friends. "I did it because I needed to have someone to call on Friday night because I was losing it," she said. One of the group's main purposes is to give people support without trying to fix their problems.
Carolyn and Bill pause before heading to the floor at a singles dance. They also danced in a big circle with other Single Again group members. Kristen Schmid/Alexia Foundation
In the past five years, Carolyn has had to deal not only with a divorce, but also with her house burning down and severe eye problems caused by Grave's disease. Here she tries to decide how she wants the front steps and patio of her house to be built during a meeting with the contractor. "You have to know what you want and how to say it." Kristen Schmid/Alexia Foundation
Bill Williams was married to his first wife for 12 years. After being divorced for a year, he married his second wife. That marriage lasted seven years. Bill has two children from his first marriage, ages 20 and 22. He lives in Santa Claus, Indiana, and is an Information Systems computer specialist in Jasper, Indiana. In some respects, Bill says he is starting life at 44.
Bill says that although he has people he cares about and feels a sense of responsibility for, his priority is taking care of himself. "I do what I need to do to take care of me." Bill sits in his backyard after a Fourth of July barbecue. Kristen Schmid/Alexia Foundation
Carolyn's son Aaron and Bill discuss the guitar fingering for "Smoke on the Water" as Bill heads in the house to cook dinner. Aaron is living with Bill for a while, because Carolyn feels he would benefit from a male influence. Kristen Schmid/Alexia Foundation
Terri Alexander, 52, is a certified nurse practitioner who practices occupational medicine and some home health care on the side. She was married for ten years. Eight years ago she got divorced, sold her house, quit her job and came to Jasper. Her 18-year-old son lives with her but is soon headed for college.

Terri line dances every Tuesday at the Calumet Lounge. Here she rests during one of the songs. Kristen Schmid/Alexia Foundation
Terri chats with the other regulars at line dancing. Kristen Schmid/Alexia Foundation
Bob Fritz is a 48-year-old carpenter who has been in business with his brother-in-law for the last 21 years. He has custody of both of his sons, ages 23 and 16. He is a long-time choir member, Parish council member and lector of St. Martins Church in Siberia. Fritz is also on the Anderson Woods summer camp (for the menally handicapped) advisory board.

For a long time, Bob didn't want to attend any of the singles dances, but because other members of the Single Again group were going, he recently felt comfortable enough to attend his first one. Here he dances with a friend from the single's group.

Bob says he knows some people who socialize at a frenetic pace after divorce and he thinks they are suffering from a spiritual void. Kristen Schmid/Alexia Foundation
Bob and his son begin their Friday fishing ritual at a neighbor's pond. Bob says they throw most of what they catch back; mainly they just fish to have something to do together. Kristen Schmid/Alexia Foundation