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.


Deaf and Blind on Shelton Laurel

Hickey's Fork, Shelton Laurel, Madison County, NC, 2013.

A couple of weeks ago, as we drove up Hickey's Fork looking for a barn with tobacco hanging in it, we passed by this sign. We were already driving slowly, but immediately slowed even more in case we encountered this unseen "deaf resident." I thought of this person and the sounds he was missing - the wind and rain in the forest, the bugs at night, a screech owl calling a mate. I also thought of a photograph I had made in 1998, also shot in Shelton Laurel, not far from where I was today. In it, the driving public was warned of a "blind resident" who walked Highway 212. I included the earlier photograph in my book, The New Road: I-26 and the Footprints of Progress in Appalachia. 

The two signs are, for me, reminders of the intimacy and immediacy of small places. They tell me of the concerns of real people, of neighbors and family, who have real concerns that could be affected by our actions. These are not signs one would see on the Interstate. Rather, they are gentle suggestions of acceptable behavior in this small, quiet and slow place. A place where values and lifestyle are such that disabled residents are at ease walking our roadways; knowing drivers will heed their personalized appeals, slow down, and respect them for their strength and resilience.


Highway 212, Shelton Laurel, Madison County, NC, 1998.

ShatterZone in Shelton Laurel

Driving around the county today - a tour guide of sorts with a visiting photo friend - on a search for tobacco curing in barns. It’s an image that used to be everywhere in the county, but is now mostly gone. It takes phone calls and driving to find that important piece of our county’s history. But we do find some and my friend is happy with the outcome.

Shelton Laurel, Madison County, NC, 2013 11 22. With Kelly Culpepper.

It’s a funny thing – driving around with another photographer and seeing what attracts his eye. Often, people are looking for nostalgia and memory, a sense of days gone by, and we certainly have our fair share of that here in Madison. Our traditions take us back and often hold us in place. But, more importantly, I sense people from the outside, from cities and bigger places, are looking for what Melville would have termed a true place – a place not down on maps that has remained relatively untouched by the modern world. Madison fits that definition, too, and we seem to draw people looking for that kind of experience. I worry our place will become known as a museum and not the actual living, breathing, evolving community I’ve always known it to be. 

Permanent RV, Hwy. 212, Shelton Laurel, Madison County, NC, 2013 11 22. With Kelly Culpepper.

Throughout its history, Madison County has been a place of refuge and resistance to the outside world. The Native Americans, the Anglo settlers, war resisters, and present-day refugees from urban living have all found Madison to be a receptive place for people wishing to get away from it all or living off the grid. For some people that vision of refuge is fulfilled with an image, and for others it may be a retreat to a part-time palace in the mountains that resembles their home in Florida. For others, that wish is more of an insistent need and people who are supposed to be here always find their niche.

Hwy. 212, Shelton Laurel, Madison County, NC, 2013 11 22. With Kelly Culpepper.