Nothing can be as rewarding as getting lost driving down a country road. You never know what you might encounter: an aging barn, a church whose steeple peaks out of a mountain top, a barred up general store, or an old automobile that has seen better days.
I have often found that if I don't stop and take a picture, the landscape might change the next time I pass through. To me, nothing is worse than seeing a piece of history vanish because of progress or nature. I feel that if I don't take a picture, the place will be erased from time and forgotten. Like all of the stories, family get togethers, and working the land never happened.
Sometimes if I get an image I really like I will research more about the property. I once discovered that my great grandfather was a brick mason and left his initials in a house that I often passed and photographed. Another time I learned that a field was overgrown and when cleared, a long forgotten mansion was left standing.
A lot of these pictures took repeat visits. Often the lighting was not pleasant or I was in too much of a hurry to stop. Some of these places I still drive by daily and still find myself slowing down to appreciate the beauty.
I am collaborating with poet Scott Owens on this project. I feel we both share a connection with tradition and appreciation of our heritage. Scott can often express the same feelings I felt that drew me to capture the image to start with.
I challenge you, the viewer, to take a moment to stop and view your own surroundings. Find your inspiration not only when on vacation or during a special occasion, but in the world hidden just beyond the weeds.
Clayton Joe Young
There can be little doubt that the "country" in which many of us were raised is disappearing. Often these days (to turn a phrase from John Denver) not only is there no "home" for "country roads" to take us to, but there is no longer a country road either. Urban sprawl, suburban sprawl, the widening of everything made of asphalt is rapidly displacing, replacing, or misplacing the dirt roads, family farms, and unexplored fields that were so much a part of our youth, of the "country" we felt we grew up in and out of. Fortunately for those living in the South, things change a bit more slowly here, and there is still time to memorialize what will soon be gone. Joe Young's photography has done just that as he turns his lens on scenes in and around Catawba County, NC, that represent bygone or soon-to-be-gone days. I am honored and pleased to have been invited to play a part in this process of remembrance and recollection. While these poems attempt to shed further light upon these captured scenes, they also offer an ironic commentary on the nature of perception and memory. They ask, in short, just how capable we are of seeing things truly when we are unavoidably influenced by the filters of stereotypes, expectations, and romantic predispositions. In other words, is the "country" we see limited by the "country" we are taught to see? And then, as we select which images to save and reflect upon, how much of our selection and reflection is determined by what we were taught constitutes "country"? Thus, while we strive to save these images, a part of us knows these images are, always were, and always will be inherently flawed and sadly inadequate.