Two Bluffton women have created something that will fit in perfectly next to the jar of seashells and sandstone coasters on your coffee table.
It's a book of stunning photographs, complete with stories and quotes about Bluffton, titled "Changing Tides." The 136-page treasure is photographed by Marge Agin and edited by Charlene Gardner, owner of Four Corners Art Gallery and Framing in Bluffton. The Bluffton residents met shortly after Gardner opened her gallery seven years ago. It is their first collaboration together.
A book release party and signing is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at the gallery. Many of Bluffton's longtime residents instrumental in the town's history, whose stories are chronicled in the book, plan to be in at the event.
Gardner and her husband, Michael, have lived in Bluffton for more than 25 years, relocating from upstate New York. Agin and her husband, Norm, moved to Palmetto Bluff six years ago from Santa Barbara, Calif., after living in Vail, Colo., for a short time.
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"Charlene has just a great understanding of Bluffton and the sites," Agin said. "Being a newcomer, I really didn't have that. I knew what I wanted to do but I wouldn't have known who to contact. The book wouldn't have been done without Charlene."
The project began to take shape about a year ago after Agin heard Mayor Lisa Sulka speak at a women's meeting at Palmetto Bluff.
"She was so enthusiastic about Bluffton," Agin said. "Afterward, I said to her, 'I'm going to write a book about Bluffton.' And, of course, she looked at me as if to say, 'Yes.' "
Agin also composed a book of photographs in 2008 on Palmetto Bluff. Her career began in her native Southern California where she worked as an event photographer, a photographic illustrator for a publishing company and a portrait photographer who specialized in outdoor photography.
The cover of her latest project is an image of the May River, looking upward from the Bluffton Oyster Co. at Wharf Street.
"We decided on that (cover photo) just because it was a 'wow,' " Gardner said. "We were looking for something that would immediately strike our customer. When we saw this one, the color, the tone, the river, it spoke to what most Blufftonians have at their heart."
Throughout the book project, Agin captured thousands of images from thousands of angles. Her artistic technique encompasses the use of digital camera equipment and computer capabilities that allow her to create impressionistic photographs.
"Changing Tides" is more than photos of Bluffton's historic landmarks and picturesque places. It's also about the colorful people, many of whom contributed to the book by telling their stories.
Emmett McCracken, a third-generation Blufftonian and town politician wrote the preface. McCracken gives a detail account of the many stores and merchants that made Calhoun Street a bustling town center.
Others in the books who made significant contributions to Bluffton's history include the late Tommy Heyward, Mary O. Merrick, the Toomer family, Babbie Guscio, Mary and Jerry Reeves, and Jessie Hancock.
"You can flip through books, but this really speaks to the endearment of the area with a little bit of the history. We're losing people who were movers and shakers of early Bluffton," Gardner said.