”There’s nothing that can take the place of Sacred Harp music when it comes to praising the Lord” declared Dewey Williams, then 92-year-old patriarch of Sacred Harp singers. He has touched the hearts of many with his passion for music whose roots in America go back two centuries. Sacred harp, or shape note singing, takes its name from the Sacred Heart Handbook of 1844. An unaccompanied style marked by vibrant four-part harmony and steady rhythms , it uses geometric shapes to represent musical notes. For more than 70 years Dewey kept the glory shining, gathering with family/friends in homes and churches throughout southeastern Alabama to sing the old songs and share covered dish dinners. Dewey claimed “If I could just live to see the day when people realize that singing is the coming of angels, then I would have done my job”. One of my greatest rewards as a photographer has been meeting people like Dewey Williams who I photographed in Ozark, Alabama in 1991. A story appeared in @natgeo honoring a dozen recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts grant as “Living Treasures”. I worked for months on this story with my longtime collaborator Susan Welchman, Picture Editor at National Geographic. She also guided me through the Andrew Wyeth story I posted recently. Having a trusted collaborator is key. Susan rarely( maybe never) gave me a compliment. Forever skeptical. She would push and push and push me some more. Thank you my dear friend Susan. I sat in church with Dewey for two different services. Trying not to disturb, and at the same time I did need to make a photograph. Slowly I move. The harmonizing of the shape note singers really cannot be described. All I can say is that it went deep. So deep I honestly could not move after. Williams could lead all of the more than 500 songs in the Sacred Harp, including his favorite, “Amazing Grace”. Dewey said “If you follow me, you won’t get lost. I know right where I am going”. Dewey Williams. A man to remember.
Last week this dock was straight. The after shock of hurricane Michael barely touched us here in the Outer Banks. The winds were high yet not so unusual. However ,the soundside (bay) came up high simply because of a steady wind out of the west. I went out with a flashlight at 2am and my road looked like the Mississippi River! Nobody had been expecting anything at all. Still there was minor damage w wind/water taking out a private dock or two. It can seem precarious here, yet truth is it’s my paradise. That’s why when at 2am and the water was rising out front , I went back in the house and slipped easily into a deep sleep. #nagshead
Shelly Island came to us early in 2017 and she left later that year . Off Cape Hatteras NC a sand shoal island formed in the spring and was basically gone by fall. Such is the nature of the outer banks.. Yet for that one summer, Shelly was a magic spot for the locals. Because of its juxtaposition to the shoreline, the new island was good for surfing, kiteboarding, fishing, shell hunting, and just hanging..all in the same spot!! .. you could swim to it on high tide or wade to it on low...it’s hard to describe the magic feeling it gave to everyone...yet storms and currents took Shelly away as fast as she came ...that’s just the way it is here OBX.. #outerbanks
I just left LA where I photographed friends @kathrynbrolin and @joshbrolin. The occasion? Well it’s a biggie. Literally. Kathryn is about to give birth. At any moment. A baby girl, now nicknamed “bean”, will soon grace this planet. I wanted pictures right before birth. The beauty of a pregnant woman. Kathryn, who I spent time shooting with in Cuba last year, is a model and runs her own company @midheavendenim designing jeans for women. She’s also an avid photographer, activist on many fronts, and why we met. Josh too had been all over Cuba and Mexico with his Leica M6/Tri-X before he nailed it with his performance in the Coen Bros. film epic “No Country For Old Men”. One of my all time favorites. Then an Oscar nomination for his supporting role in “Milk” based on the true story of gay San Francisco city official Harvey Milk. Brolin hasn’t stopped since. In 2018 alone he had starring roles in “Avengers-Infinity Wars”, “Deadpool 2”, and “Sicario 2”. Josh also has his own production company, directs, and is working on a book. Read him. He cares. An artist by nature. I can tell. @ale_jandram and I spent a glorious afternoon biking/skating/shooting with the Brolins on Venice Beach and the Santa Monica pier. Love was in the air all around. The videos here were shot by Josh and Alejandra. Ale and I have left LA sunshine and enjoying misty Seattle where I will present at @creativelive tomorrow. Waiting for the news, waiting for the news 🎈#venicebeach#jbkbstucktogether
6am reflection of my laptop screen in my Cadillac Hotel room window. The photo I took in the Outer Banks NC during our family reunion a few weeks ago is oddly juxtaposed over Venice Beach,CA. I was simply going over some work I will present to the @creativelive audience on Monday in Seattle. Street vendors/performers in Venice camp on the beach. I can’t figure out if it’s legal to do so or simply accepted. Yet there must be about 50 “camps” on Venice Beach. It’s a bit ironic that these homeless campers have a better view of the coast than do the waterfront homeowners. I’ve always been mentally prepared to live on the street. Things can go right, or things can go wrong. LA is a town full of storytellers. Some of them make films from their stories and some just keep it in their head. Schatzi the dog in this picture would be equally happy camping or on the terrace of the most extravagant home here. Relativity rules. Shades of gray. Sliding doors. Refections in a window.
I love these old grey ladies.. that’s what they call about 35 historic houses down here OBX built as summer getaways from 1915 -30..For some they are a little spooky looking and any potential burglar might think twice imagining some old dude in a rocking chair with a shotgun just itching to shoot.. and even if you got past him, you’d have the spirits in the house with whom to deal...ghost buster field day down here ..it’s weird I generally don’t shoot any recognizable architecture .. except for these old grey ladies ...ahhhh the stories they tell ...#nagshead
For one of the most intense photo adventures of my life, I mostly just waited. After several weeks, I had about 1-2 hrs. of actual click click time with my elusive subject. American painter Andrew Wyeth was a man of mystery. Assigned by @natgeo to photograph Wyeth and his esteemed family, I ended up with one of the very few b&w stories to ever appear in National Geographic. I had convinced the editors that b&w was the way to go since we were going to publish Wyeth’s paintings and I felt that color photographs would conflict with his austere color palette. Wyeth of course agreed to be photographed, yet he was almost never to be found. There was always a reason, or no reason, why “today is not the day”. So I photographed his sisters Carolyn and Henriette instead. They were also painters, yet living in the shadow of Andrew. As was his son Jamie. N.C. Wyeth, Andrew’s father, was a well known illustrator and told all of his children they must become painters. That is a tough demand. Wyeth was already famous in 1985 when Helga Testorf, a neighbor, was revealed to have been a secret muse for 15 years. Neither Helga’s husband nor Wyeth’s wife knew of the artistic liaison and since most of the 45 paintings of Helga were nudes, you may imagine the controversy. The second picture in this sequence shows Helga shyly off to the right and is I think the only picture by anyone ever of Andy and Helga together in his studio. Andy was very friendly with me, we talked lots, I was invited to dinners etc., and yet he seemed to totally enjoy putting me off to let me shoot. I know that he was testing me the whole time making me wait , and gave me the Helga shot as an odd Wyeth style reward. She surprised me walking into the studio and I only made one frame. I do not think she even realized she was in my field of view. Wyeth was a jokester, a prankster, an actor, a grown up kid. It is always enlightening to be in the presence of a great artist of any type. You see their humanity, you see them as “normal”, you see their flaws, yet alas you also see their genius. That extra little kick. A brightness in the eyes. Rare air. Worth the wait. #andrewwyeth
This “terrapine carolina carolina” I see sometimes in my yard or in the neighborhood. A male( red eyes, intense color, and concave plastron) is so like my pet Eastern Box Turtle “Tippy” from when I was a young boy. I found him in the dunes/woods not far from where I live now. The tracks are easy to recognize in the sand and you just follow. With no Google to help me know what to feed Tippy at the time , I did the only logical thing. I did a belly crawl for hours after him in the woods until I saw him eat a snail. Wow! Since there are plenty of snails in the woods after a rain especially, I was able to keep Tippy well fed. I wouldn’t keep any turtle now in captivity, but I didn’t know any better as a kid and since he’d eat out of my hand , I figured he was happy. He’d hibernate during the winter months and come out in the spring. Of course I had dogs as pets but somehow I was super fascinated by Box Turtles (which are actually tortoises and live only on land). What’s cool is that theoretically Tippy could still be alive! These tortoises have few natural enemies once they are full size in about 7 years. Sadly they have no sense that crossing a road is almost certain death. I’m always picking one up off the road and putting it in the woods especially after it rains when they go in search for snails, slugs, beetles etc. Why did I like turtles? Maybe I liked the “tortoise & the hare” kids story. Maybe I just liked the fact these tortoises carried their “house” with them . Maybe I liked that they were elusive and hard to find. Maybe I liked they had long lives. Maybe maybe all of the above. The tortoise in this picture has no name. Last I saw yesterday he was disappearing into the leaves. Within seconds impossible to see. I do hope we will cross paths again.🐢 #boxturtles