Like many whose talents and interests are diverse, Kristin Moore wasn't sure exactly what she wanted to do with her life.
Graduating from Johnston City High School in 2007, the multi-talented Moore took classes at John A. Logan College while working various jobs in the hospitality industry.
Even though those jobs satisfied the "people person" part of her, Moore knew there was something more she needed to fulfill her destiny.
Already an accomplished artist and musician, Moore finally decided to enroll in the Art Institute of Tennessee in Nashville, a branch of the Atlanta Art Institute to pursue a degree in photography.
That proved to be a life-changing decision, not only for Moore, but also for hundreds of homeless and less fortunate people in the Midwest.
"I had a teacher in college, Tom Griscom, that wouldn't let me just do the glamour shots and portraits," she said. "He pushed and pushed until I started doing what I do now."
What she does now is make a difference.
"My camera is my universal language," said the 28-year-old who uses her talent as a photojournalist stringer for the Marion Republican. "My teacher pushed me past my boundaries. He encouraged me to never meet a stranger."
Moore said that as a result, she's met "hundreds and hundreds of amazing people" through her camera.
Her senior final exam project is the one defining moment, though, that changed not only her life, but also the lives of many she has looked at through her lens.
Moore was photographing the homeless in Nashville when one of those she met told her about the bridge ministry. "He said I should go check out the bridge on Tuesday night."
Moore did just that and found that something she had been looking for. "It definitely changed my life," she said.
"When I first started I would tape up a white background and take portraits," she said. However, she found that the results were not capturing what she wanted. Some of the people would just cover their faces, she said. "The photos looked like mug shots."
"I got a remote for my camera and started just talking to the people, asking them questions and shooting photos as we had a conversation."
Moore said that was the breakthrough. "There was a guy in the library in downtown Nashville," she said. "I took his picture then sat and talked for about 45 minutes, things like 'tell me about that tattoo'. Then I asked him if could take his picture again."
Moore said seeing the difference in those two photos taught her the most important lesson not only in photography, but also in life.
"I got to know him and he me," she said. "We were more comfortable."
Moore said it taught her not to assume anything about people. "Don't judge," she said. "A lot of people think if I give them money they'll go buy beer. But the real question is do you want to help or not."
She also said that people, especially those that are used to being ignored or looked down upon, often just need someone to listen. "Sometimes that's all they need," she said, "just a smile and for someone to listen to them."
Moore said she prints pictures of those she photographs and gives them back. "A lot of those people carry those photos," she said, "and they don't carry much with them.
Since returning to southern Illinois, Moore wanted to continue to help not only her friends in Nashville, but also those in need in this area. She started "Scarves in Southern Illinois" to collect winter wear to distribute to the homeless and anyone in need.
"We have several places collecting," she said. Those area businesses include Complete Family Eye Care in Marion and Carbondale, Marion Toyota, Teddy's in Herrin, Pookies and Fowler Heating & Air in Marion, 17th Street BBQ in Marion and Murphysboro, and Andy's Hot Rod in Mulkeytown.
Anyone wanting to donate items like scarves, hats, gloves, new socks, or coats, can do so any of these locations. Those in need can also contact these locations or find Moore on Facebook and she will deliver.
This is the second year for Moore's project and it is one she plans to continue. "It's part of that lesson that pushed me out of my comfort zone," she said.
But to her, the lesson is more about life than photography. "The end result is really to just take care of each other and fight for humanity as a whole."