Photojournalism about Madison County, North Carolina
“Rob Amberg’s images have the same durability and tenacity as the lives they depict. He is trusted well enough to be there, up close, when the women embrace in affection of when the farmer pauses in the heat. And Amberg does not betray that trust. What we see is sympathetic, not sentimental, simple but not facile. Amberg make real what is found on the pages of the Southern novel.” – Sally Mann
Sodom Laurel Album (2002)
Sodom Laurel Album traces the growing relationship between Amberg and Dellie Norton, a seventy-six-year-old resident in Sodom Laurel, North Carolina. His images are accompanied by stories of the people of Sodom Laurel and observations from Amberg’s own journals during a 20-year period. He captures images and stories of family gatherings for entertainment with storytelling and music as well as the hard life of a farmer. Along the way, we learn to understand—just as he did—the world of this small mountain community.
The New Road:I-26 and the Footprints of Progress (2009)
Rob Amberg began to document the construction of a 9-mile section of Interstate 26 through a rural section of Madison County. His photographs and oral histories highlight the impact of this project on landscape, but more importantly, on the people and the culture. Amberg came to see this project as the struggle we all face when trying to balance progress and preservation.
“… countless photographers… attempt to capture the human element of the native mountaineer, but often the photographs look as out of place as the photographers who took them. Tim Barnwell is different. An Appalachian by birth and a photographer since childhood, Barnwell does not try to create a vision of Appalachia. He records the timeless quality of the region as it is.”—Our State Magazine
The Face of Appalachia (2003)
Barnwell’s understanding of the Appalachian farmer shines through in his photographs and narratives of the people he has documented. Even though the photos are from the last twenty years, they capture what life has been like in the hills of Appalachia for hundreds of years. And, it’s a true view of that life and the traditions of the people with oral histories provided by those he photographed. Even though the area has many new residents and new roads, the enduring lifestyle is captured here in a timeless manner.
On Earth’s Furrowed Brow: The Appalachian Farm in Photographs (2007)
Barnwell once again captures the everyday life of the Appalachian farmer in both his photos and the oral histories included in this book. The life of the farmers as they work in their fields and homes provides a wonderful view of the people of the Southern Appalachian Mountains that is preserved in the pages of this collection. Barnwell celebrates the wisdom of these humble locals conveyed through his conversations with them
Hands in Harmony: Traditional Crafts and Music in Appalachia (2009)
Barnwell provides an honest and straightforward picture through his photos and oral histories, but this time he examines (with his sensitive eye and ear) the traditional musicians and craftspeople rather than the farmers of the area. Regional cultural roots and identity are developed when such traditions are handed down through generations. In addition to the oral histories, the book includes biographies and a CD with the music of southern Appalachia.
Robert S. Brunk
“Brunk’s books are comprehensive documentations of our culture that could be lost if it were not for his efforts.”–Martha Abraham
May We All Remember Well: Volume I (1997)
Editor Robert S. Brunk gathered materials from many different sources to present a picture – with oral accounts and photographs –of the culture and history of Western North Carolina. For a wonderful depiction of tobacco growing, he has included photos and an oral history gathered by Rob Amberg. Madison County, at one time, was the leading burley tobacco producer in the state. Another past industry—hooked rugs—is also included. http://www.amazon.com/May-We-All-Remember-Well/dp/0965646106/ref=pd_vtp_b_1
May We All Remember Well: Volume II (2001)
Robert S. Brunk, editor of the work, stated that the purpose of the book was “to document the cultures of Western North Carolina.” The book includes studies by writers and photographers documenting architectural history, oral histories, crafts, music, literature, and black history in Western North Carolina. This extensive collection is a treasure trove of information for lovers of history. The work was awarded the Thomas Wolfe Literary Award in 2003. http://www.amazon.com/May-all-remember-well-II/dp/0965646114/ref=pd_vtp_b_1
William J. Weber
Rugged Hills, Gentle Folk: My Friends & Neighbors in the Big Pine Valley (1995)
Photographs and recollections about an area in rural Madison County. http://www.amazon.com/Rugged-Hills-Gentle-Folk-Neighbors/dp/0898211344