Growing up in a large citrus farming family, Sue Thompson of Winter Garden quickly grew to appreciate the beauty, richness and complexity of the land and people around her. “My earliest memories of West Orange County include wandering through the orange groves and the long walk home from school,” she says.
Now an accomplished artist, international photographer, and founder and president of the Global Peace Network, Thompson has traveled the world photographing social conflicts and civil unrest to raise awareness and compassion for those who are struggling. “I want to spread hope,” she says. “To let people know that someone cares. It matters that each of us find whatever gift or talent we can share and that we do it. And no matter where you want to go, you can get there if you work hard enough and want to bad enough.”
Sue Thompson’s resolve has allowed her to photograph White House civil rights events; the female Peshmerga military forces by invitation of Iraqi Kurdistan officials; famed civil rights leader and attorney Fred Gray of Alabama, a defender of Rosa Parks and the men exploited by the Tuskegee Syphilis Study; and peaceful Sanford, Florida leaders after the death of Trayvon Martin. Thompson’s most memorable moments were meeting Dr. Joseph Lowery, renowned American civil rights leader, social activist and minister in the United Methodist Church, at the 50th Anniversary March on Washington and being the first American to visit with Fidel Castro’s brother, Martin Castro, at his historic family compound in Cuba.
Locally, visitors to Winter Garden Village at Fowlers Groves can enjoy Sue Thompson’s famed “Orange Crate” statues located around the plaza. “I came up with what I thought was the common denominator on how to represent each group of ‘citrus people’ in the art,” she says. “As a child, each of us had a special purpose for the old wooden orange crates. I witnessed a million uses for them, including bookshelves, forts, or even a desk. How versatile they were for all of us children of the citrus industry.”
Thompson was thrilled to be able to showcase her young granddaughter as well.
“When the statue of my granddaughter, Haley, was chosen I felt a special kind of satisfaction,” she says. “I could show through my art that we are created perfect as we are. Haley, who was born with cerebral palsy, was a perfect choice with her crooked little legs and her heart. She is beautiful, loving and strong, and I am a proud grandma to see her likeness standing at the entrance circle.”
Looking to the future, Thompson hopes to continue her work bringing peace and hope both locally and worldwide. “I have an amazing, fulfilled life,” she says.
“Many people appreciate my gift and my work. They know that it is from my heart. My photography has brought me the greatest reward. Bringing awareness, inspiration and assistance to others has brought me more joy and fulfillment than anything else I have accomplished.”