Little Worlds - from Sodom to Marshall


Clinton Norton, Sodom, 1976


Clinton Norton, Marshall, 2019


When I started going up to Sodom to visit with Dellie Norton in 1975, I was initially drawn to the old people - their wrinkled and wizened faces, their knowledge, their many kindnesses - and I photographed them to the exclusion of everyone else. It was my friend John Rountree who suggested that I was missing a lot by just concentrating on the elders, focusing on a dying culture while mostly ignoring that culture’s evolution, as evidenced in its young people. It was good advice.

I first photographed Clinton when he was six years old. He was Dellie’s grandson, the youngest son of Dellie’s youngest daughter Mary, and her husband, AB. They lived right down the road from Dellie’s and Clinton and his sisters and their cousins were always around the community and at Dellie’s. I photographed them a lot. Even then, it was evident that most of the young people had inherited the music and storytelling genes. They have the gift.

Clinton lives in south Asheville now with his wife and five-year old son. He has three daughters from a first marriage. We don’t see each other often. So, I took the opportunity the other night to go to a local restaurant to hear him play with his band Shooting Creek who play a nice mix of vintage country covers. Clinton has traded his guitar for a drum kit, at least with the band, but sings and plays acoustic guitar when he does solo gigs around town.

We had a nice catch-up visit, talking about our kids, wives, work. “I’m gonna be fifty years old this July,” he said. “I’ve been doing this music thing for a long time.”

“I know you have,” I said. “I’ve got the picture to prove it.”


I’m so proud to be a part of this remarkable exhibit of Southern Photography at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. Some absolute luminaries of Southern imagemakers.

This is my photograph titled, “Cricket’s Birthday Party at Old Ground Farm, Big Pine, Maeison County,, NC

We Are All Local - Little Worlds - A Garden


Kate Picking Beans in Granny Faye's Garden, Valdese, NC 1994


Somewhere, sometime, I read a quote from someone, I can't remember who. It goes something like this - "Growing a garden is the most radical thing a person can do in this life."

I've thought about this a lot over the years and have come to believe the statement's simple and eloquent truth. 

A garden connects us with the earth, the soil, the dirt, the stuff from which we are made. To have our hands in this most fundamental ingredient of our lives, to which we are returned upon death, to smell it, to taste it if you dare; these are gifts a garden offers.

A garden gives us something real in our everyday worlds of plastic and electronics. In our lives of daily exhaustion, of noise, and crowdedness, and anxiety, a garden offers refuge.

A garden empowers us. It encourages us to take some measure of control over what we put into our bodies. It allows resistance to the mainstream culture and the junk it wants us to eat.

A garden requires faith. Faith the seed will germinate and grow. Faith it will produce a harvest that will nurture us and help us grow. Faith it will provide seed to start the process another year.

A garden provides us with memories - of earlier times, of our parents or grandparents, or of gardens we, too, have grown in our past.

I remember my first garden. It was my first taste of fresh spinach. Not the Popeye variety, in a can and cooked to death, but fresh crisp leaves that left your mouth feeling fresh and crisp. Swallowing, you could feel its goodness going down and know, from that day onward, it would be in your life every spring.