Photographer Jessica Tanner has made a name for herself taking adorable pictures of sleeping newborns and smiling children.
So, imagine Tanner’s surprise when she was asked to create a photo series that featured a young woman and her late husband.
Ashley Scruggs lost her husband Jarred in a motorcycle accident near Athens last September. He was 26.
“This project kind of spun my creativity a bit and allowed me to think outside of the box,” said Tanner, who first met Ashley through her mother, a neighbor. “It was really a tough subject because [Ashley] was still so fragile. I didn’t want to overreach or overstep.”
Ashley, of Jefferson, got the idea from a similar photo spread she saw on the Internet.
It was a way to honor their love, she thought.
“I wanted to feel Jarred is still here, watching over me,” said Ashley, 24, who works as a unit assistant at a hospital and is studying to become a nurse.
The two met at Oconee County High School and Ashley said it was love at first sight. They became inseparable. “Even with a few ups and downs” they always worked things out and she “never loved anyone else.”
On April 14, 2013, the couple tied the knot, thinking they had a lifetime together. They had a new home and a Maltese and Yorkie mix puppy named Molly, who shares a birthday with Jarred. They planned to start a family this year.
She was the football fanatic. He loved taking care of his fish in two large aquariums. Jarred loved his job as a Publix meat department manager in nearby Athens. He also enjoyed playing video games with his brother, sometimes for hours on end.
But Jarred also had a hankering to own a motorcycle — something that greatly worried Ashley, who was concerned about his safety.
He had driven dirt bikes, but never a motorcycle. However, his brother owned one and Jarred looked forward to the two riding together. And it would certainly save on gas costs. He already had a Dodge Ram truck that cost a lot to fill up.
It was while shopping for motorcycles that a dark blue $15,000 Triumph caught his eye.
“When he saw that motorcycle, his face lit up,” she said. “I couldn’t say no anymore. I wanted to make my husband happy and he would do the same for me.”
He caught on quickly and at times even convinced his wife to ride with him.
He rode the Triumph the 30 miles one way from his home to his job.
That September morning nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Jarred usually got up before daylight to get to work around 6 a.m. Ashley was usually still asleep when he left. But that day, she was up. They didn’t talk much but before he left he told her he loved her.
A few hours later her doorbell rang. From the top of her steps, she could see two police officers. That’s weird.
With each step, her heart dropped a little more.
Her husband had been in an accident, they told her. He didn’t survive.
Ashley dropped to her knees and wailed.
Ashley said his motorcycle was hit by a pickup truck and he likely died instantly.
A few months later, Ashley started thinking of ways to immortalize their love.
After she was contacted by Ashley, Tanner reached out to Scott Greene, the Scruggs’ wedding photographer, to retouch some of his images.
The black-and-white photos are striking.
Tanner and Ashley returned to the Braselton Stover House, where the couple were married. There is a photo of Ashley looking in a mirror with Jarred in the reflection. There is another of Ashley and Jarred walking hand in hand and Jarred’s image is faded.
Tanner also shot new photos. There’s one of Ashley in the garden reading love letters from Jarred and another of her holding the black helmet — with scrapes still visible — he was wearing the day of the accident.
The helmet scene was significant to Ashley, who wanted to let people know her husband had been in a motorcycle accident. “I wanted people to be aware that motorcycles are everywhere and you don’t see them,” she said.
She hopes it will help other young women who have lost their husbands.
“It’s just comforting to be able to see that he’s still with me,” she said.