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


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


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.


We Are All Local


Ecko and Figs, PawPaw, Madison County, NC 2012


Yesterday, February 20, was Ecko's twenty-sixth birthday. When we first met Ecko five years ago she was traveling the country with her pet white rat, Figs. Needless to say, Leslie and I were both intrigued and since that time she has become part of our family. Figs has moved onto a new location and Ecko is now a permanent part of our community. She has a  two-year old daughter and provides us with valuable time with Leslie's mother. You'll see her sometime.
Wish her a Happy Birthday.