Jamie Paul, in my studio, PawPaw, Madison County, NC 2013

It's a rare thing when a person enters your life who profoundly influences you toward new thinking and action. When that happens in one's later years, with the tendency to become fixed in our ways, it's even better. And when the person is young, more than half your age, that's the sweetest of all.

I'm not going to list the details. To do so would make this an extra long post and one of the things Jamie keeps hammering in my head is to keep these ramblings of mine short. The secret is in the edit. 

Thank you, Jamie.

Oh, yes, jamiepaulmusic.com


Jamie at Old Ground Farm, Big Pine, Madison County, NC, 2013




I-26 at Buckner Gap, Madison County, NC 2008.

ShatterZone will open on Friday, November 7, at the Pink Dog Creative Gallery in Asheville's River Arts District. The address is 348 Depot Street and the reception runs from 5-8 pm on the 7th. This weekend is also Gallery Stroll Weekend throughout the River Arts District and most artists and studios will be open to the public. I will be at Pink Dog Creative on both Saturday the 8th and Sunday the 9th, after 10:30 on both days, if you'd like to stop by. I hope you will.

The project, ShatterZone, has been in my head for a while now, but remains a work-in-progress. This exhibit has offered me the opportunity to bring together a large grouping of images that speaks to this theme. It's been valuable in moving the whole project forward. Thanks go out to Randy Shull and Hedy Fischer, the owners and operators of Pink Dog Creative. And my friend, Ralph Burns, who stepped in at a moment's notice to handle the multiple things that go into putting on even a small show. Additionally, for me personally, Ralph's long understanding of my work, his critical comments and thoughts, and enthusiastic support made the process easy and comfortable. Lastly, I cannot say enough about Jamie Paul, my associate for over four years who had a hand in every part of this project. It simply wouldn't have come together without him. 


Driving Lessons with Kate, PawPaw, Madison County, NC 2009.


Pink Dog Creative

I will be having an exhibit of photographs at the Pink Dog Creative Gallery at 348 Depot Street in Asheville's River Arts District. The exhibit will run from November 7, 2014 to January 11, 2015 with an opening reception on November 7 from 5-8 pm.

This is my first one-person exhibit in Asheville since my Sodom Laurel Album exhibit at the Asheville Art Museum in 2002 and I'm excited about showing new work from a new project. I want to thank Randy Shull and Hedy Fischer from Pink Dog Creative for this opportunity in their wonderful space. I also want to thank Ralph Burns, my long-time friend and mentor, for his work pulling this exhibit together. Finally, my assistant, Jamie Paul, has been his usual indispensable self who often leaves me wondering what I ever did before he came into my life.

I have included a short essay on the project. Galleries always want an artists statement, or introduction, or something explaining the work. Over the years I've responded to these requests in various and sundry ways. Today's version comes after the image.

Shu and Griffin Shaving Cheyenne, PawPaw, Madison County, NC 2012

These photographs are part of a work-in-progress titled ShatterZone, which is meant to accompany my two previous projects from Madison County – Sodom Laurel Album and The New Road.

Shatter zone is an 18th century geologic term that refers to an area of fissured or fractured rock. The phrase took on new meaning after World War II when political theorists began using it to denote borderlands. In this modern definition shatter zones become places of refuge from, and resistance to, capitalist economies, state rule, and social upheaval. Appalachia, and Madison County in particular, fit that definition.

Throughout its history, Madison has provided a haven for Native Americans, early Anglo settlers, Civil War resisters, Vietnam veterans, and refugees from the country’s cultural wars. The county’s present population includes long-term local families, young professionals, artists, retirees and back-to-the-landers. While the county is wired into the 21st century, many individuals understand it as a place where one can continue to resist modernity and be as “off the grid” as you want to be.

Madison County is not for everyone. It requires new skills, new tools, and new ways of interacting within your surroundings. It takes a rethinking of community and how one relates to it. And while that singular reason for being here – that idea of refuge – is almost universally felt throughout the county, there are also clear points of conflict. Zoning, land use, politics, religion, culture, language and many other beliefs and opinions offer potential for fracturing within the community, pitting newcomers against locals.

These photographs are not representative of the entirety of Madison County’s population or my work from the region. Most of the images are recent, while some are quite old, among my earliest from the county. These early images didn’t fit with other projects, but they are integral to this one, offering glimpses of a place that many continue to think of as unmapped, one of refuge and resistance.  

These are the dynamics of ShatterZone.

Marshall Metal


Jamie Paul, Josie and Greg Moser of the metal band, Crook, in downtown Marhsall, 2014

They handed out free earplugs at the drink table.
A sure sign it would be louder than anything the old man had ever heard.
It was.

For him, a beat that didn’t translate into what he thought of as music.
Shrieks and wails and notes held maybe a might too long.
The crowd loved it. What did he know?

Left, Josie Mosser, Right, Greg Mosser, of Crook.

Guests on American Bandstand would have said,
“It’s okay, but you can’t dance to it.”
I might give it a five out of ten, the old man thought.

But the others, oh, the others.
Mesmerized, heads bobbing, eyes glassed.
Hands clutching warm PBR, as if a modern communion.

Marshall, 2014.

Marshall, 2014.

It was all so new to the man and
He wasn’t sure he liked it.
Still, there was no denying the power, or the appeal to some.

He thought, how could this be in this small town?
Legendary home to ballads and old-time and bluegrass.
A place where the sidewalks roll up at nightfall.

Hot Mess Monster playing in downtown Marshall, 2014.

It’s evolution, he thought.
New people, new ideas, changing times.  
And I’ve got nothing against change.

But, what did he know?


Thank You


I want to thank everyone for your support of my work. I am touched and humbled. We reached a new milestone in March with 1,290 unique visitors to my blog and website with almost 5,000 page views. The number of subscribers has also been increasing at a steady clip. 

I also want to thank Jamie Paul for his editing skill, tech savviness, ideas, and mostly for being the nag that he is in terms of keeping me moving forward with the blog postings.

I've come to thoroughly love blogging and have said often over the last few months that it could be the perfect medium of expression for me. It allows me the opportunity to combine my lifelong love of writing with my photography in short vignettes that are both fun and challenging to work with.

So, again, thank you for all your support. Tell your friends and neighbors. And I'll try to keep them coming.

Absent # 2

Having a black bear rubbing against your chest is a hard act to follow, but after leaving Ben and Debbie Kilham, I drove on to western Massachusetts to meet with John Freeman and his sister Jane. They lived on an amazing piece of land, dotted and marked with artifacts and burial grounds from native and settler times. They took me to the original boundary marker that deeded their land to a distant ancestor from Native Americans in the late 16th century. Like many ancestral and historical forests, the Freeman’s land is surrounded by development and they’re under increasing pressure to sell the property because of high land values and corresponding high taxes. I don’t like the word “magical” so much, thinking it overused and easy. But I did, in fact, spend a magical day walking with them and their friends, Archie and Dave, through a primordial landscape in the misting rain.


Top, John and Jane Freeman. Bottom, left, Native Donation Pile, right, John and Jane Freeman with Dave Beyor and Harrison Achilles.

I arrived home to an email from Apple notifying me of a potential hard drive crash and a need to immediately replace it. This is always disconcerting news if, as most photographers in the modern world do, you store your files digitally. That hard drive represents years of work. Thank you for back up – one of technology’s blessings. But my assistant, Jamie Paul, and I also faced production of a large number of prints for an exhibition at the Jameson Gallery at Duke at the end of November. The exhibit, titled Madison County Stories, presented new views of mountain life from myself, Duke University students, and Madison Middle School girls. The students had all participated in the Spring Creek Literacy Project; a summer program with the Duke students acting as mentors to the middle-schoolers in storytelling, writing, and photography. It was a big exhibit – 43 of my prints and 146 student pieces – and while my work was finished and ready to hang, the student work was still in the editing phase and had to be printed and put behind glass. But despite the loss of a week due to the computer repair, and some timely help from Kyndall and MaryRose, we got it finished and down to Durham on the Monday after Thanksgiving. It took us three and a half days to hang it, and the process was not without it’s own drama and intricate mathematical equations. The show looked wonderful and the opening was a big success and well attended. My friends Debbie Chandler and Denise O’Sullivan, who are Dellie’s grandchildren and noted ballad singers in their own right, sang and pretty much stole the show.


Kelsey, Paw Paw Creek, Madison County, NC, 2012, from Madison County Stories.

                              Top, Denise Norton O'Sullivan Singing in the Barn, Sodom Laurel, Madison County, NC, 1976, from SodomSong.

 Bottom, Debbie Norton Chandler Dancing at the Eno River Festival, Durham, NC, 1976, from SodomSong.


I can’t say enough good things about Jamie Paul. In addition to the great work he's been doing with me for the last eighteen months, he's also found time to produce a CD of his music, Let It Mend, which will be available for purchase beginning February 5th at jamiepaulmusic.com.


We decided on a quick turnaround and moved the show to Marshall for a January 18 opening reception at the Madison County Arts Council. Here, the exhibit presented different hanging challenges, and more limited space. Most importantly though, it offered the opportunity to present the work in the place it was created with the individual “artists” and their families in attendance. The reception was packed - teachers and administrators from the school system, politicians, and other members of the community, many of whom were in the photographs. It became more Homecoming than Art Exhibit, highlighted by the student's pride in seeing their work on the gallery walls.

Top, left, Kristina Dixon, right, Cassidy Belcher. Bottom, left, Brittany Norton, right, Makalah Creaseman.

All students are from Madison County Middle School.

It’s good to have work. Assignments, lectures, exhibits, and grants pay bills and provide time to work on personal projects. I’m very fortunate to get to do what I do and I’m grateful for it. Additionally, my work often takes me out to the wider world, to places and with people I would not normally have the chance to see or meet. Throughout my career, photography has provided open windows to diverse, beautiful, inspiring places. I love that that is the case. These trips help me understand that people everywhere are much the same – kind, generous, and helpful – while also possessing strong differences of opinion, speech, and manner. We live on a wildly diverse planet in a wildly tumultuous time. It would seem that flexibility, tolerance, and an ability to adapt will play increasingly important roles in our lives.

Evidence of Ewes Unseen

With thanks to Marianne Wiggins and Jamie Paul

Two images depicting the same scene – one done digitally in color, the other made with medium format film (2.25” x 2.25”) in black and white. The scene – pieces of sheep wool caught on a barbwire fence surrounding a pasture. The sheep use the fence as a scratching post. Both images are sharp with the wool and wire isolated against an out-of-focus background. Both pictures are about time, which is represented by the slight movement of the wool in the wind. Neither image reveals any noise – pixels in the case of the digital picture or grain in the film print. The questions for this photographer are: is the black and white image, because it’s made with the more labor-intensive, hands-on medium of film, more a photograph than the electronically produced color picture? Or are they simply different approaches to the same scene that contain the same photographic properties – an external reality, attention to detail, a concern with time, or the unique way photography frames its subjects?

For me, a photographer with forty years experience with film, who was never enamored with the darkroom experience, the difference matters little. The content of the picture has always been more important than how I get there.