CHARLESTON -- The thoughts Chris Rankin shared about working out of his home included "it will consume your living space" but you also get to be your own "best boss."

Then there's the evaluation from Naya Eddings, the succinct but enthusiastic advice to "Go for it!"

That's a "resounding theme" Melissa Harden said she heard from the variety of home-based workers that are part of her latest project.

Harden is a professional photographer with a studio in Mattoon who says she fits the bill herself.

For the project, Harden not only took still photographs of her 10 subjects but also included videos and interviews to show what they enjoy and the challenges they face.

The medium for displaying her work is unusual but thematic.

Ten laptop computers, one for each project participant's story, are hanging on the walls of Jackson Avenue Coffee in Charleston.

For the rest of the month, the shop's visitors can take in the slideshows of photos and information.

Dano Reible, owner of the coffee shop at 708 Jackson Ave., called the display "fantastic" and said it's already drawn a large amount interest. Customers see the laptops and want to know why they're there, he said.

"It's a working art display," Harden said of the laptops' use. "I wanted to give it more justice."

After spending time with each participant, she said she couldn't pick just one photo that told each story. The variety of the presentations give viewers a better understanding of each person's work, she added.

Harden calls the project participants and the display "Working Wonders," keeping with a pattern of earlier public displays of her work.

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But it's different from any project she's done before, she said, and came from the suggestion of a friend, Evan Kubicek, a business instructor at Eastern Illinois University.

Harden said she discovered that the participants -- home-based entrepreneurs or "remote" workers -- have a range of feelings about the way they work.

They said they love being at home around their families and pets with minimal distractions but there can also be a lack of feedback and other obstacles, she said.

"They're not around their peers, they're not around their supervisors," Harden said. "There's not enough face time."

There can also be technology problems when the person who handles them is hours away, she said.

"It's lonely at times," she added.

Harden said the 10 subjects for the project came from social media recruitment, suggestions from others and some volunteers.

The participants' jobs range from the self-employed to workers for government agencies or corporations. Rankin, for example, is a land surveyor and Eddings is a disc jockey and karaoke operator.

Others are Blake Leitch, Department of Veterans Affairs field examiner; Jeanne Dau, planning and marketing consultant; Nick Taylor, metal worker; Wendy Lawson with Plexus weight management and nutrition; Jodie Davidson, health coach and personal trainer; April Noel, virtual office assistant; Mark Bettinger, director of Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship; and Brandy Will, Consolidated Communications account executive.

Harden's earlier display projects had similar themes but were strictly print photographs.

Two of them, "Bearded Wonders," photos of 25 bearded men, and "Tatted Wonders," photos of five "extremely tattooed" people, were previously displayed at Jackson Avenue Coffee.

The other, "My Pet Project," photos of pets, was displayed at the former Bidwell's restaurant in Mattoon.

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Contact Dave Fopay at (217) 238-6858. Follow him on Twitter: @FopayDave



Dave Fopay is a reporter for the JG-TC who covers Coles County, the local court system, Charleston schools and more.

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