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If a picture is worth a thousand words, Abby Coffell has produced enough to fill a library.
The Elizabethtown resident takes photos of Central Hardin High School wrestling team members on a volunteer basis during matches and tournaments. This year alone she has taken in the neighborhood of 16,000 photos.
“We did not miss one tournament this season,” she said, noting she took photos of matches even when her son was not competing.
In the process she has been sweated on, bled on and nearly trampled, but she hasn’t been deterred.
Unless it is a tournament, Coffell is at the edge of the mat taking photos.
Once, when a Central Hardin wrestler had a facial injury and stepped off the mat near Coffell, holding his hand to his bleeding injury, the photographer found herself a little too close.
“The blood came through his fingers and right on me,” she said.
But Coffell seems to shrug off the hazards of the work. Having had two sons involved in various sports most of their lives, including Central Hardin wrestling, she has evolved into her current photographic role.
Coffell creates collages for seniors on the wrestling team and also provides photos to the coaches and school yearbook. She creates compilation discs of photos for coaches and discs specifically for seniors with all their photos included.
“I kept it at seniors because that is the moment that they’re about to transition into adult life,” she said.
As she shoots her photos, she strives to capture the wrestlers’ special moves and the moment they get a pin, which she has learned to anticipate. Her motivation, she said, is to capture moments in time the students will want to remember.
“It feels good to know I caught that moment for them,” she said.
A native of the Philippines, Coffell married a military man and lived in Alaska for a while. They were stationed at Fort Knox from 2002 to 2004, then moved to Bowling Green where they lived from 2004 to 2006 before returning to Alaska.
They returned to Hardin County on Dec. 24, 2009.
Throughout the moves, her sons have been active in soccer, football, wrestling and cross-country. She has photographed much of their sports-related activity.
When she began taking photos in 2002, she used a 35mm camera, getting film developed and making prints. She started creating scrap books.
“It was expensive,” Coffell said.
Now using a digital camera with rubber grips displaying obvious wear, Coffell carries extra batteries, memory cards and flash drives at every wrestling event.
With her oldest son, Nick, out of high school and her youngest son, Jared, in his senior year, Coffell isn’t sure what her future with photography holds. She said she thinks she still will take photos, maybe not as many as this past season, though.
A mixed media artist who paints and makes jewelry, Coffell also is taking college courses online toward a degree in health information management.
While Coffell is comfortable living in Hardin County and wants to stay, she’s not sure whether or not the U.S. Army will ask her husband to relocate. He has less than two years to serve.
Parents and staff at Central Hardin have expressed their hope she stays, she said.
Jami Larkin, whose son, P.J., is a senior and on the wrestling team, said Coffell is such a staple at wrestling events some parents didn’t take cameras to matches this season. They knew “Abby had it covered,” she said.
“Abby and her camera are just a part of the wrestling season,” Larkin said.
She described Coffell as “amazing,” not only in her dedication to taking the photos but as an artist, student, “incredible mother and a great friend.”
Husband, Ronald Coffell, extolled her passion for taking photos and giving students and parents gifts of memories.
“And it’s all of her own good will,” he said.
Until Jared graduates, her plate is full with plans to create collages for the 14 senior wrestlers, the culmination of this season’s work that she takes seriously.
“I know once that picture snaps, the moment’s gone,” she said.
Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or email@example.com.
PINNING DOWN SOME FACTS ABOUT ABBY COFFELL