RURAL NORTH CAROLINA
Hard-working, hard-headed men, with no foreknowledge of the inevitable change in relationship from money and land to money and machinery, attached themselves and their region to the change.
—North Carolina, A Guide To the Old North State (WPA, 1939)
Growing up in the Northeast, and being a photographer, my impressions of the South came largely through looking at photographs. So I was cognizant of the history of photography in this region—the work of the Farm Security Administration photographers, for example—when I moved to North Carolina from New Jersey in 1989.
I soon began exploring with my cameras, drawn to those places that are off the beaten track, neglected or abandoned.
By 2008, North Carolina was the third-fastest-growing state in the United States and the fastest-growing state east of the Mississippi River, and it was losing some of its distinctive characteristics. I’d become an unwitting witness to an inevitable transition.
I have now photographed in more than 365 cities, towns and small rural communities across the Tar Heel State—from Aberdeen to Zebulon, from the mountains to the coast—motivated by the dedication of my predecessors and by the affection I feel for my new home. Although my aim is to make good pictures, a local reviewer perceived a bigger picture when she wrote: “David Simonton records for us the old North Carolina at its moment of passing.”
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David Simonton is a Raleigh-based photographer. His North Carolina photographs are in the collections of the George Eastman House, North Carolina Museum of Art, Asheville Art Museum and the Do Good Fund: Southern Photography Initiative. Find him on the web at www.davidsimonton.com and follow him on Tumblr at davidsimonton.tumblr.com.