Our City, Through the Lens of 13 Photographers

Our City, Through the Lens of 13 Photographers

We asked several Bull City artists featured in the upcoming Across County Lines: Contemporary Photography from the Piedmont exhibit at Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University to share their views on Durham

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Wade in the Water Series, Archival Pigment Print, 2016 | Performance with Tissue Quilt, directed by Maya Freelon, photo by Chris Charles

“One of my favorite places to find peace, pose questions to the universe and reset is Jordan Lake. There is something special about this water and Carolina clay. I love to bring my artwork along and collaborate with the breeze.” – Maya 

Black and White Summer | Photo by Faith Couch

“I think all children are artists and storytellers. Durham’s long summer days will always be filled with folklore; all that is needed is for children to get to roam freely, be themselves and have the space to create their magic.”

Praying Hands, Glenview Cemetery. Durham, N.C., 2018 | Photo by Jeremy M. Lange

“The image stems from my hope. I see the hands as a hopeful symbol more so than a religious one, that as Durham grows we do not lose sight of what has made this city unique in decades past. Diversity, both cultural and economic, and a city of opportunity for all those willing to put in the hard work to create something positive and new.

I believe this has been the ethos of this city from when it was a tobacco boom town, up through when it started to become a restaurant and tech darling. I grew up here, just outside what is now referred to as Durham Central Park, and the recent city-wide renovation efforts have benefited many, but have also greatly changed the face of of the city. We cannot lose sight of what made this city strong from the beginning.”

Louise Hawkins | Photo by Titus Brooks Heagins

“When I think of Durham, I think of African-Americans, not solely because that is my race and lived heritage, but because of the continued hope for a better future. The photograph of Louise Hawkins was created one Sunday in 2008 as a part of my project, Durham Stories. Ms. Hawkins exemplifies the hopeful spirit that the American Dream will be accessible to all who live in this country.”

Train Trestle, Erwin Road and Main Street | Photo by Caroline Hickman Vaughan

“I love anything distressed … my favorite color is rust. This overlooks the Blue Light where a majority of Duke students bought their cigarettes, beer and Playboy magazines. Erwin Square is in the background.” 

John Dee Holeman, 2014 | Photo by Timothy Duffy

“Born in Orange County, N.C., in 1929, John Dee Holeman is a legendary Durham bluesman whose roots trace back to the earliest Piedmont blues. He worked for years at the tobacco warehouses in downtown Durham. Here he is pictured with the banjo he inherited from his uncle, a shoe shiner and tobacco farmer who learned the blues from his close friend, Blind Boy Fuller.” – Timothy

“I caught it from my cousin, who caught it from my uncle, who caught it from Blind Boy Fuller.” – John Dee Holeman

Star Warehouse, Rigsbee Avenue, Durham, N.C., September 1985 | Photo by Alex Harris

“This picture I made of Durham more than three decades ago reminds me of the way Durham used to be, and the sweet, alluring smell of drying tobacco that permeated the air here.”

Frieda (right) and Dot, The Ivy Room, Downtown Durham, 1982 | Photo by Bill Bamberger

“Today, Durham is renowned for its restaurant and food scene, but in the mid-’80s, when I was working out of my downtown studio on a portrait series about the diverse and eclectic inhabitants of Durham, there were just a handful of restaurants worth frequenting. My favorite was The Ivy Room, where you could get classic Southern fried chicken with greens or an Upper West Side Reuben with coleslaw. My favorite waitresses: Frieda and Dot.” 

Jacob and Stephen LaRocque at Bobbit’s Hole, Eno River, Orange Co., N.C., 2014 | Photo by Bryce Lankard

“I have been working on a long-term project entitled ‘Drawn to Water,’ and the Triangle area has been rich with subject matter. I’ve always appreciated the quick and easy access to the natural environments along the Eno River, Duke Forest and Carolina North Forest. This particular image was taken on Father’s Day on a hike along the Eno to one of my favorite swimming holes, Bobbit’s Hole.”

Photo by Ben Alper

“Durham, like many Americans cities right now, is changing at a rapid, almost uncomfortable pace. My experience of the place I currently call home has been largely defined by these transformations. This is an image that visualizes just one of them – a moment of simultaneous preservation and disappearance.”

#doitlikedurham | Photo by D.L. Anderson

“Within hours of reports that the KKK was planning on marching in Durham on Aug. 18, 2017, hundreds of residents gathered and marched in protest, eventually gathering at the old courthouse where a Confederate monument was torn down four days earlier. This is what bravery, community and justice looks like, and the Bull City continues to lead the way with a spirit of determination that will not be denied.”

Front Porch, Durham, NC, from the series “Close to Home,” 1994 | Photo by Margaret Sartor
“[This photo was] made in Durham (County) on the front porch of our farmhouse, which is in a rural setting. This is a difficult image for me, difficult to look at, difficult to explain. Kind of a gut punch. Even more so now … I took the photograph in 1994. The boy’s vulnerability and beauty is, for me, expressed in the curve of his exposed back and the tucking of his head. It is a tense image, an unsettling view of a child’s imaginary gun play expressed not just in the facts of the image, but by the tilted horizon and distorted scale of the tiny figures in relation to the boy. It’s a photograph that, for me, attracts at the same time that it disturbs.”
Gentrified (September 2017) | Photo by Kennedi G. Carter
“I was walking down the street late at night with my father, and I saw a man sleeping on a bus bench right next to a busy restaurant on East Chapel Hill Street. When I saw this, I ran into the middle of the street and snapped the photo quickly. I think this image depicts Durham in a nutshell. As Durham grows at an exponential rate, more and more people become displaced. Gentrification has led to an increase in homelessness and displacement; this has become a large part of life here.”

Don’t miss the striking photographs by the 39 artists in the group exhibit at the Nasher when it opens October 4 (running through February 10, 2019).

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Hannah Lee
Hannah Lee is the editorial assistant at Durham Magazine. Born and raised in Winston-Salem, she attended UNC-Chapel Hill and double majored in broadcast journalism and German. She enjoys good beer, ice cream and morning runs.