Some Pictures - Graffiti 2

REVOLUTION, Naples, Italy 2017

FIGHT, Naples, Italy 2017


MARCH, Rome, Italy 2017


I don't see much graffiti in Madison County, which might serve to explain my fascination with it. Italians, at least those in the cities, seem to believe every available surface is just another pallet, made to carry a message. Often, the language is political and speaks to dissent; there is clearly a sense of darkness somewhere below the surface. I wonder who paints them, and mounts these posters, and why? And I marvel at their existence alongside the Italy of light and color, that of gelato and high fashion. 

Some pictures


I made a lot of photographs on our recent trip to Italy. Some were bad and immediately tossed, others were nice and coherent and offer a good record of our visit, and some are quite good. I made photographs on my iphone, which were pretty immediately uploaded to instragram and facebook. I made many more images with my camera that I am just now uploading and editing and preparing to publish on my blog since I know many of my blog readers don't subscribe to instagram and facebook.
I'm not going to post these in any particular order, no running, chronological commentary of our four weeks in Italy. These will just be pictures I like, pictures that ask questions, pictures that maybe communicate some of the utter enthusiasm I was feeling while photographing in a new and visually-stimulating place. I haven't been this excited about making photographs in some time. 
Some of the pictures will have writing with them,
many won't. 
Here's one of the last I made.

Fiumicino, Italy April 26, 2017

Fiumicino, Italy April 26, 2017


It's our last day, the last few hours really.
Soon, we'll be on one of those planes, 
heading west, back to reality, in a sense.

We booked a room in a fancy hotel in a fishing village
near the airport. 
The village itself is small, well-placed
at the conjunction of the Tiber River and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
A balcony overlooked the harbor and jetty with boats readied for their morning run. 
I vowed to see them off.

Our last night. We stayed up late.
Our last taste of wine on Italian soil,
the last pasta with fish.
Walking along the jetty.
Taking full advantage of our well-appointed room.
Free wifi, hot shower with great pressure, quiet,
a big comfortable bed.
I rose at six. 
The boats were long gone.

So, I walked.
Wanting the air, and the morning light,
thinking there may be a final picture to be had.
I see two men on the jetty casting lines into the sea.
They're far away and it's not a very good picture,
but I raise my camera anyway.
Inexplicably, with his back turned, one senses me. 
And he's not happy I'm there, camera in hand.
He's yelling in Italian, I don't know what, 
but, of course, I do.

I thought,
this is the age-old issue between locals and
tourists who see them as visual objects, 
memories to be captured.
Or perhaps,
he believed my presence would impede his fishing
and ruin his beautiful morning.
Reasonable enough.
But I wonder,
if this is not a simple clash of civilizations.
An invasion of tourists with cameras, and luggage,
and big hotels, and money. 
Wanting what the locals have had for centuries.
At least a memory of it.

I turn and walk away,
embarrassed by my insensitivity,
but also pissed at the man's hyper-sensitivity. 
The walkway is littered with all manner of
cigarette butts, plastic, broken glass, clothing, garage. 
It struck me as an act of defiance -
no, we will not clean up for the tourists.

I see another fisherman. He sees me.
I stop. He ignores me. 
A plane flies by. 
I think, that's me. 
Leaving, but caught on the end of his line.




For followers of my blog, I have been absent from my site for the last 3 weeks. Leslie and I have been in Italy and I've been unable to post images on the blog. I have been posting pictures on Facebook and Instagram for those of you interested. I will resume blogging when we return home next week. 

Thank you all for your kind support. 


We Are All Local


French Broad River, Madison County, 1978.


In 1978 my friend John Rountree and I made a canoe trip the length of the French Broad River. We called it The River Trip. We started just outside of Rosman and ended at Lake Douglas in east Tennessee. John had received some monies from the Tennesse Valley Authority and Mars Hill College to do a photographic survey of the French Broad and I was along for the ride. The French Broad was a mess in those days. We passed numerous industrial plants dumping raw effluents, cows wading, defecating, and dying in the river, and remote areas used as community dumpsites. In Madison County in those days many families straight-piped directly into creeks that emptied into the river. 


Barnard Park, French Broad River, Madison County, NC 1989.


This problem of water pollution wasn't isolated to the French Broad. Rather, it was a national issue and most everyone remembers stories of the Cuyahoga River in northern Ohio spontaneously catching fire one summer day from all of the industrial waste. So, in 1972, under Richard Nixon's administration, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, which establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters. Altogether, this has been a good law for the land that has benefited all of us. In Madison County, over 50,000 people raft the French Broad River annually and trout fishing is now estimated to be a $384 million dollar industry in western North Carolina. The River Arts District in Asheville is now a nationally-known destination for art lovers and beer aficionados. All made possible by the quality of our water.


To the Swimming Hole, Big Pine Creek, Madison County, NC 2011.


So now I read that the new Administration, especially the EPA director, wants to roll back regulation and eliminate the Clean Water Act. They want to make it okay once again for industries to dump their waste into our rivers and streams - places where we take our children and families to picnic, get cool on hot summer days, and fish. 

They say this is about Freedom and jobs. But for me, the reasoning behind this way of thinking is pretty evident - it's about money, more money in the hands of their benefactors, their industry cronies, and their friends. They act like they are populists, working for the good of the common man, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Every common man knows that only a fool would foul his own nest, yet that is exactly what this new administration is preaching, or selling. Our nests get fouled while their nests get feathered.


We Are All Local


Morris Norton playing the tune bow, Sodom, Madison County, NC 1977

Hanging around in Sodom in the mid-1970s, one was sure to meet Morris Norton. He was in his early 80s at that point, cantankerous, not working much, but fit enough to wander around the community dispensing wisdom and opinion. I thought of him as the unofficial Mayor. He fathered many children, ten or twelve I think, mostly boys, most of whom were the nicest people you'll ever meet. Morris played at music, picking a banjo and playing harp. He could flat-foot dance pretty well for an old guy. He also made and played tune bows, an instrument I had never seen before, similar in sound to a jews harp. It's old and basic, but in the hands of a skilled player could put out a rollicking lick and keep people on the dance floor. 

Two or three years after first coming to Sodom, I was in Maryland visiting family and took a day trip to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. Wandering through the numerous and incredibly detailed displays I came to one on early American music. There was a section on instruments and there in front of me was a tune bow, accompanied by a tag that read: Tune bow made by Morris Norton, Sodom, North Carolina. I remember thinking, "Wow. I know this guy." But with the thought came an understanding that History isn't just the grand events, the things and people we know from books and the classroom, but also involves the lives of everyday people.

One of Morris's sons, Emmett, is a singer/songwriter who regularly plays on Friday nights at the Depot in Marshall. Not too many years ago, he approached me and handed me a tune bow. Identical to one his father might have made, he offered it as a gift to me, his signature on the inside face - a piece of local history and, for me personally, something that evoked memories of a photograph, a man and his family, and an instrumental time in my life. 


We Are All Local


Paul Anderson skinning raccoons, Big Pine, 1978.
From Little Worlds


In 1978, I was the recipient of a Photo Survey Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal Agency begun in 1965 as part of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society Programs. For a young photographer like myself, the small grant was an opportunity to spend time making pictures in the entire county without the pressure of selling the images. I could shoot what interested me. Many of the photographs from that year made it into Sodom Laurel Album and others will be included in my next project, Little Worlds.



Family members praying over graves in the new Little Ivy Church Cemetery, Mars Hill, NC 1996. from The New Road


In 2000, I was awarded a Independent Research Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities to complete photographs and writing on I-26, for what became my book, The New Road. NEH, another Federal Program, was begun at the same time as NEA, and both are part of the National Foundation for the Arts and Humanities Act. 

Between 1965 and 2008, NEA awarded over 180,000 grants, totaling $5 billion. These grants not only funded small projects like mine, but also larger projects in bigger places. NEH was much the same, sponsoring programs like Ken Burns' monumental endeavor, The Civil War, and The Treasures of Tutankhamen, an exhibit seen by over 1.5 million Americans. NEH also sponsors initiatives such as the Bridging Cultures Initiative, which explores ways in which the humanities promote understanding and mutual respect for people with diverse histories, cultures, and perspectives. 



Iktome Glyph, Sprinkle Creek, Madison County, NC 1998. From The New Road.


The new president and Congress have earmarked NEA and NEH for elimination and with them the thousands of music and dance programs, projects in underserved inner-city and rural communities, and countless performances that serve to teach us something about who we are as a people and society. Both agencies have budgets of approximately $150 million dollars, a mere pittance compared to the entire federal budget. By way of contrast, we taxpayers are presently paying about $1 million a day, $365 million a year, in rent and security so Melania Trump can stay in New York, rather than move into the White House like every other First Lady has done. 
I wonder if and when we will get our priorities straight again and spend our money on projects aiding our children and communities rather than gifting it to the gilded few.