I-26, Corridor of Change


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.


Ponders Chapel

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.

Ponders Chapel, Marshall, Madison County, NC 2016

In the Old Jail

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.


Moments of Clarity


Fireworks, Matt and Taylor's wedding, Old Ground Farm, Big Pine, Madison County, NC 2016

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.


At Matt and Taylor's wedding reception, Old Ground Farm, Big Pine, Madison County, NC 2016












A.J. Burnett, Marshall, Madison County, NC 2016


Taylor, Kate and Holly at the Fashion Show, Marshall, Madison County, NC 2016