Little Worlds: A Work in Progress

Junior walking Pet to Water, Sodom, Madison County, NC 1979

Junior walking Pet to Water, Sodom, Madison County, NC 1979


  • Friday, September 8, 2017
  • 6:30pm  8:30pm
  • Fall Line Press675 Drewry Street, Suite 6Atlanta, GA 30306USA (map)

Explore Madison County, North Carolina through the eyes of Guggenhiem, NEH and NEA fellow Rob Amberg. Since moving there in 1973, writing and photographing the evolving culture and environment of this unique piece of Appalachia has been his lifetime project.

His first book, Sodom Laurel Album, is a cult classic now in its second printing and was published in 2002 by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke and the University of North Carolina Press. His second book from Madison County, The New Road: I-26 and the Footprints of Progress in Appalachia, was published in 2009 by the Center for American Places at Columbia College Chicago. To complete the trilogy, a third book is in progress. Fall Line has been in conversation with Amberg about this third book currently titled Little Worlds.

The exhibition will feature framed prints as well as unframed working prints presented in a wall collage. Many of these images will appear in the third book, and it gives the viewer a chance to see the edit in process. The exhibition is intended to show some of the processes and decisions that go into the editing process of making a book. 



Earlier Event: June 29

Fall Line Talks: Atlanta Jazz Festival Forty Years

Later Event: September 29

Places and People: Developing the Deep Essay with Photographs and Words Workshop

We Are All Local - Faye and Kate

Faye and Kate, Valdese, NC 1992

Whatever misapprehension or concern Leslie's parents may have had about me - my Yankee ways or "he ain't from around here" attitudes - clearly vanished when we brought Kate into their lives. A grandchild was the one thing they wanted that they didn't have and Kate fulfilled their dreams and desires, and then some. Kate was nine years old when Jim passed away so his experience of her, and she of him, was limited. But Faye has gotten the full dose. And now, twenty-five years later, roles are reversed and Kate is more likely to be holding her grandmother although not wearing curlers.

Some Pictures - NSFW

Pompeii, italy 2017


It had been a long, dusty day in Pompeii. We were happy to get to the Forum, the main square in the city, close to the exits, knowing we could get a gelato at the snack bar. In the square there were a number of modern art sculptures on permanent display depicting historical and mythological figures. The sculptures were made of steel, and very large, and for the most part anatomically correct in that not-so-subtle Greek/Roman way. I enjoyed watching how different groups and individuals responded to Hercules' (I think it was Hercules) most impressive penis. This particular young man was with a group of friends, but he approached the statue alone with a confidence bordering on brashness. He sat down on the leg and put his mouth on the giant penis. The reaction from the group of people around the sculpture was quick and mixed. Mostly there were groans and sounds of embarrassment, but there was also laughter from his friends. The boy, sensing the displeasure, stopped, looked right at the crowd and announced, "It's okay, everyone. We are French."


Pompeii, Italy 2017


We Are All Local - Jerry

I've wanted to photograph our neighbor Jerry Moore for many years, but it's never worked out. We see each mostly on the road below our house, me walking, him riding, and it isn't often. And when we do meet up, I either don't have a camera with me, or he's in a hurry to get to his girlfriend's house in Asheville, or he just doesn't feel like it. But the other day I was at the bottom of our driveway on the last leg of my walk, and they stopped to visit. We caught up on neighborhood news, laughed a lot. Jerry's had some health issues lately - heart, diabetes - so my wanting to photograph him was weighing on my mind. I wanted some tangible memory. I had my iPhone with me and asked if I could make his picture. He joked about breaking my camera, but was more than agreeable. He did complain about not having combed his hair. His girlfriend said, "Jerry, you never comb your hair."

Jerry Moore, PawPaw, Madison County, NC 2017

I'm not sure which photograph I like better. Entirely different looks from the same face. I sense Jerry would like the color image. He's more open, positive, happy, flirtatious. The color makes him look younger. It is him at his most appealing. But I also know the black and white side of him, as real as the other. Darker, more suspicious, more hidden.

I like Jerry. I like the color Jerry and I like the black/white Jerry. I like the diversity he brings to my life. He helps me realize not everyone is like me and how fortunate I am to live in a place where I am reminded of that every day.


Jerry Moore, PawPaw, Madison County, NC 2017


My Mother


Catherine Agnes Galeano, ca. 1942


Looking at this beautiful, mutely colored photograph of my mother when she was about twenty-one years old, it's easy to see why my father fell in love with her. I'd say I inherited my good looks from her, but I've never remotely looked this good. 

My mother was a first generation American of Italian and Sicilian descent. She identified as American and was more than ready to give up the majority of her Italian background. At an early age she changed her name from Caterina Celeste Galeano, named after her two grandmothers, to Catherine Agnes Galeano, adding Amberg when she married my dad in 1945. Everyone knew her as Catty. She understood Italian, but I never knew her to speak it. We ate spaghetti most Sundays and lasagna on Christmas and Easter, along with my grandmother's classic Italian wedding soup. But we mostly ate my father's mid-western, German meat and potatoes diet. Early on, she traded olive oil for Wesson and Crisco.

But she was also a classic Italian mother. To say she was driven underestimates her and in her lifetime she achieved more than she dreamed possible as a young girl growing up in a Italian neighborhood in depression-era DC. She was adept at pointing that drive toward her children. There were expectations about education, cleanliness, family, church, loyalty and patriotism and she used guilt with the best of them to see those expectations were met. She could be fierce about this and it drove me crazy.

On our recent trip we stopped for a brief time in my grandmother's home town of Gioia del Colle in Puglia. There, walking around town, having coffee, and later driving through the immediate countryside, I felt familiar and comfortable, like I had been there before, even though I hadn’t. Psychologists call it genetic memory, that is, memory that is with us at birth even without any sensory experience of the memory. For me, there was something in the air, as we’re fond of saying, the smell, the taste, the salt coming off of the nearby Aegean Sea. It was something I knew, deep inside, but couldn’t quite identify. But I sensed the answer lay in ten or more generations of genetic memory that preceded me, most recently passed from my grandmother and mother, and onward to my children. For this I am eternally grateful. 


In Gioia del Colle, Italy, 2017. Photograph by Joe Grittani

In Gioia del Colle, Italy, 2017.
Photograph by Joe Grittani

Some Pictures - With Nuns


Rome, Italy 2017


Our final two days were in Rome, one of the world's most romantic cities, and my mind was on love. I booked a double room in a place that promised peace and quiet, a place of solace. What better way to end our trip, I thought. We were met at the entrance by the man we'd spoken with who escorted us into a stunning courtyard, filled with soft light and magnificent flowers and fruit trees. I was slightly suspicious when I saw the religious statues, but Rome is full of religious statues, I said to myself. Then I saw the nuns - three of them in full regalia - acting like they owned the place, which, in fact, they did. They lived in the other building, the man assured us.


Rome, Italy 2017


Our room was spare and small. Two single beds (thus the double billing), narrow and hard with mattresses a short step away from bare ground.  There was a single lamp between them and a small attached bathroom. A window opened to the street outside. As promised, it was peaceful and quiet. My disappointment was palpable. But I said to Leslie, "I've never made love in a convent before and it offers the opportunity to rid myself of any remaining catholic inhibitions. I'll show 'em nuns."  Leslie, nothing if not a good sport, agreed to go along with the program. 

Rome, Italy 2017

We spent the day walking through Trastevere's elegant parks and gardens and suppered in a small family restaurant just up the street from the nunnery. Another great meal of pasta and seafood, wine, a light desert and we walked home arm in arm in the cool air. There, we undressed and I invited her to my bed. We are not big people, but cramped doesn't begin to describe the situation. Yet we persisted, thankful for the lack of creaking bedsprings, or any bedsprings at all, in the absolute silence of the convent night. But then, the bed itself took over, knocking, banging, wood on wood, wood on wall, making noise I only imagined possible on a boat in a North Sea storm, echoing both inside the building and outside in the street. I lost focus and began thinking of neighbors, the other residents, and yes, the nuns. "I'm sorry," I said, "i've got to stop." Leslie looked me in the eye, stroked my cheek and said, "well, I guess those nuns have still got you."