Sodom Laurel Album

from the book jacket

When photographer Rob Amberg first met Dellie Norton and her adopted son, Junior, in 1975, Norton was seventy-six years old and had lived most of her life in the small mountain community of Sodom Laurel, North Carolina, surrounded by close kin, tobacco fields, and the rugged wilderness of the southern Appalachians. Sodom Laurel Album traces the growing relationship between Norton and Amberg across the next two decades, years marked by the seasons of raising and harvesting food and tobacco and by the gatherings of family and friends for conversation, storytelling, and music.

 Richly evocative images are interlaced with stories of the people of Sodom Laurel and with Amberg’s own candid journals, which reveal his gradually growing understanding of this world he entered as a stranger. Capturing both generational changes and the enduring importance of family ties, Sodom Laurel Album explores the rhythms of raising tobacco, the passing of older, agrarian ways of life, the traditions of ballad singing and old-time music, and the issues that attend efforts to document other’s lives with authenticity and integrity. An accompanying audio CD, with an introduction by Allen Tullos, presents rare recordings by Dellie Norton, Doug Wallin, Sheila Kay Adams, and other singers of traditional Appalachian music. Through words, photographs, oral histories, and songs, Sodom Laurel Album tells the moving story of a once-isolated community on the brink of change, the people who live there, and the music that binds them together.


"These photographs are suffused with a lyrical sense of beauty, rhythm, and the dignity of light. You come away with a deep understanding of the hardships and glories that made up Dellie Norton’s life, her community, and her adventures in this world. Amberg’s photographs of Junior transcend the document, even go beyond everyday life, and arrive at a new visionary depiction of the shared experience of being human.”


  - John Cohen