If you've been following this blog you know I have been headed to Penland in North Carolina to teach for two weeks. I arrived yesterday and after unpacking, settling in and having dinner went to a local rodeo in a Burnesville nearby with friends.
Where we saw locals and their families having a good time. One of the highlights was to place a young child on the back of a sheep and see how long your kid could stay on as it tried to buck them off. The answer is: not very long.
Mercedes was there with us:
This is the third year I've taught at Penland and Mercedes has been my studio assistant each time. She has a way of making all things possible and is simply the best. I wrote a profile of Mercedes a while ago: here. In September she will start a three year artist in residency at Penland.
This morning we headed to Spruce Pine, which is the nearest town of any size, down in the valley where the the freight trains rumble through. For the past two years I've photographed in town every morning before teaching, sometimes bringing a few students with me and sometimes not. Those series are here: Spruce Pine 2012 and Spruce Pine 2013.
Mercedes and I photographed in the most industrial and commercial part of the town,
where, on the one hand you could say that it was a visual desert, devoid of value or aesthetic. On the other: that it was an honest place devoid of anything but function and necessity, where beauty snuck in and prevailed despite the best intentions.
I was able to get above the one or two story shops and buildings to point down.
And came across an old pickup truck that was decorated....
and where Barbies never die,
and where I found, finally, a little bit of Southern Christainity:
Sometimes the job seems clear to me. Just photograph something cleanly, without too much pretention, assumption, art or contrivance. Often our job is to impose as little as possible. Get in, get out and move on.
Structurally, I am going to try to post a blog a day while here, counter to what I said before I left home. The effort is to try to bring you into the class a little and to share with Penland students this process of combining pictures with words as description. We'll see how I do, as it will get very busy as soon as students arrive.