It's making a comeback.
DO NOT LET IT.
We don't want it.
Love your neighbor.
IT'S THE AMERICAN WAY.
LIVE IT DAILY.
It's making a comeback.
DO NOT LET IT.
We don't want it.
Love your neighbor.
IT'S THE AMERICAN WAY.
LIVE IT DAILY.
I'm not exactly sure why, but this photograph seems appropriate for the New Year.
SO, HAPPY NEW YEAR.
So, we're getting new members of our community over here on PawPaw. David and Laura Cheatham and their daughter, Calla. I met them a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps you know them already. They're cutting the driveway now so it might be awhile before they move. But we are happy to have them as neighbors.
We've seen many people come into Madison County over our decades here. Many we've known for forty years, or thirty, or twenty. Some stayed but a year or two, quickly realizing it wasn't for them, but then we all learn soon enough that Madison is not for everyone. It takes a special breed.
I love it when people make a commitment to this place. They build a driveway or a home, plant gardens, raise children, become involved in the community; people who will be here forty years hence. We've been fortunate as a county in that regard. Good people seem drawn to this place and many have stayed.
But there is no denying that Madison is different then it used to be. I often find myself shaking my head in wonderment at things and people I now see in Madison County. Maybe disbelief is a better word. And I can't help but think if some of what Madison County has become is hard for me, then it must be truly difficult to accept for many born-in-county people.
Paul and I talk of what the county was like in the early 1970s - small and insular, but vibrant and alive in a purely local way. All of us early transplants were adopted by local families who included us in their lives. They showed us how to do things; how to live in a place that was not meant for everyone. Differences, be they political, or social, or religious, were simply accepted as part of our shared humanity and mutual love of place. Values that kept both Paul and i, and many, many others, here for a long time. As Steve commented after my last post, "You uns are local, now."
I SOMETIMES find arrowheads and pottery shards when plowing our garden spot next to the creek. I keep those pieces of evidence in a bowl in my kitchen and look at them when I’m thinking, or talking about, questions of status. At what point do you really become part of a place? When are you no longer “ain’t from around here?" When do you become a local? Does it take a certain amount of time? Does it take turning the soil, burying animals and family in it, stewarding it for the time you are on it?
I DON’T KNOW the answers. But I do know people have been migrating in and out of this region forever, some staying longer than others, most everyone leaving a footprint on the landscape. Now, in a time of great change, I wonder how we judge one footprint to be more native or true than another? Aren’t we all local?
I had the pleasure of spending last Thursday at Western Carolina University as a guest speaker in the Art Department. I especially enjoyed the time with students and photography instructor, Susan Martin, and Denise Drury Homewood, the director of the Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center.
While speaking with Susan in her office she asked if I was interested in taking some copies of a catalog the school had produced for my exhibit there in 1997 titled I-26, Corridor of Change. I had copies in my files, but gladly took a few more. I hadn't looked at it in many years and was struck by how early in the process of my documentation of I-26 that show and catalog were produced. Construction on the road continued for another six years, ending in 2003, and production of my book, The New Road, continued for another six years after that, published in 2009.
It's always interesting, and sometimes infuriating, to read what others say about your work so it was a real treat to revisit Mike Smith's essay in the catalog, which I enjoyed reading again. Everyone needs to know Mike's photographs. They are a true gift to our region's traditions of art and documentation. His book, You Ain't From Around Here, is simply remarkable. Mike and I both worked with the same publisher for our books, George Thompson. At the time George was the founder and publisher at the Center for American Places in Staunton, Virginia. He now heads GFT Publishing. Here are links to Mike's and George's websites. http://www.mikesmithphotographs.com/
I understand and accept the risk of publishing a praiseworthy essay about oneself. But I think Mike addresses questions and issues that are relevant to the photo community and the community at large. While we make over 2 billion photographs a day worldwide, we largely don't understand the power and the language of photographs. Mike's essay helps with that. It's a good read. Mike also mentions the great Czechoslovakian photographer, Josef Koudelka, who has long been one of my favorite imagemakers, certainly instrumental for me.
My book, The New Road: I-26 and the Footprints of Progress in Appalachia, is available for purchase on my website. http://robamberg.com/bookstore/the-new-road
Click on individual pages for larger photographs and sharper text.
Happy to be heading out to Cullowhee for a public lecture this week. Join us.
I was thinking after my last post of the profane from the Old Jail, it would be good for balance to show a bit of the sacred.
I spent some time these last two weeks with Josh Copus as he began demolition of the old county jail. The structure was built in 1906 and finally went out of commission in 2012 when Madison opened its new jail out on the Bypass. Josh, along with other partners, have renovation plans, perhaps a B&B, maybe a restaurant and bar. My interest was making photographs before any of the major destruction took place. Here is some of what I saw. More to come soon.
So very pleased and honored to be included in this exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh with some of my absolute favorite North Carolina photographers - Elizabeth Matheson, John Rosenthal, Jeff Whetstone, David Simonton, Titus Heagins, and Caroline Vaughan, among others.
There was a moment in time recently when it hit me. I was at the Marshall Fashion show, photographing a swirling group of young people, modeling clothing made by other community members. So beautiful, and assured, and clearly in control. It was sweaty hot, the audience was packed, cheering wildly, moving too to Erich and Danni's driving beat. I thought, "I am really old and this is no longer my world."
I've had more than a few such moments of clarity lately; brief flashes of understanding in a world gripped by transition and disruption. As if to say, "So this is what the world will look like."
There was the bittersweet moment of Jamie's leaving. But, today, gone a week, he called and we chatted long, our normal weekly update for so long now.
The melancholy of my own children - the eldest clearly, and happily, on his own path in his own place. Child #2 taking the necessary steps we all know toward her own world. But me, thinking of times not long ago when it was the four of us here, always. And missing that.
Fay, the kindest of mothers-in-law, on her own journey, sometimes here, with us, but more often in her own world of increasing darkness.
The loss of relationships, once close, that have fallen victim to our disjointed times and a sense, an acceptance really, of who I am as a person. "How," I wonder, "did we ever stay friends so long?"
At Matt and Taylor's wedding party, it's light passing through a dress that first catches my eye. Like a moth, I'm drawn to such things. It blends with the flowing arc overhead, framing the music, highlighting the party. And then the gift arrives, the moment of clarity. It comes from stage left. Comfort for an old person that life will not only continue, but a particular community and way of life will also move forward.
It's with a healthy mix of sadness and excitement, joy for the possibilities coming his way, and acceptance of his need to move on, that we bid farewell to Jamie Paul. After a seven or eight year stay (even he isn't quite sure how long) in our area, Jamie is moving to western Massachusetts.
He's accomplished much since he's been here. With his music he's produced a superb CD, Let It Mend, with another coming soon, played many a gig at area venues, and broken many eardrums playing drums with the metal band Crook.
He's experienced much of the best of what western North Carolina has to offer, from hiking trails in our National Parks, to watching the sky on a clear, fall night, to listening to the sounds of screech owls and falling snow and mountain language. He's broken many a heart along the way.
He's been a bit of a godsend for me. He arrived at my studio, via my daughter, at a time when I was transitioning from analog to digital and he proved to be the perfect person for the task at hand. Smart, curious, and geeky enough to figure out the ways of photoshop, squarespace, mail chimp, and innumerable other technical issues that were far beyond my geezer capabilities. He's helped me become a better writer, a better printer, and a better person.
After living in Madison County for forty-three years, I've long recognized this place isn't for everyone. I've seen many people come and go. I've seen many people stay forever. For Jamie, the call north is clear and irrefutable. It involves climate and work and landscape and culture, and yes, a girlfriend. I've urged him to go, knowing from personal experience his time is now, and from knowing him that he will not be satisfied unless he does. He understands he can always come back and be welcomed like he's never left.
I spent much of my time from the mid 1980s through the 2000s traveling through the rural southeast. I began as a freelancer and then staff person with the Rural Advancement Fund and then with other farm advocacy organizations and philanthropic foundations. I call this work the Vanishing Culture of Agriculture. This photograph was made in south central Alabama on a self-generated trip to poultry and cattle farms. You can see more work from this project at: http://robamberg.com/vanishing-culture
I will be participating in a group show titled 2 Squared at the Caldwell County Arts Council in Lenoir, North Carolina, from October 7 to November 18, 2016. The opening reception for the exhibit will be on Friday, October 7 from 5-7 pm and is sponsored by Foothills Performing Arts. The exhibit will also include work from artists Mercedes Jelinek, Jon Sours and Tamie Beldue.
Throughout my career I have mostly focused my work on people and culture. For this exhibition I’ve chosen photographs representative of man’s relationship with the land itself. I will be showing images from my three Madison County projects: Sodom Laurel Album, The New Road, and Little Worlds (a work in progress.)
Please join us if you can. This promises to be an exciting show.