I am a writer who makes photographs, and a photographer who writes.
I’m not really sure there’s a difference in the way I state it, only that I have done those two things consistently for most of my life. From 1980 until 2001, I was a writer and then editor of Wildlife in North Carolina, writing about conservation issues, natural history, ecology and North Carolina history. It was a wonderful time to be engaged in environmental subjects because the state and the country were engaging in important debates on wetlands, endangered species and other big issues of the day, and our magazine participated boldly in those discussions. I think we helped our readers understand how those issues related to their own lives.
I’m still writing, as a freelance magazine writer and as a book writer. I published Looking for Longleaf: The Fall and Rise of an American Forest in 2004 about one of the great forest types in the South. In 2013 my second book, The Workboats of Core Sound: Stories and Photographs of a Changing World, appeared. This book features more than 100 black and white photographs of older wooden fishing boats of the Down East region of North Carolina along with six essays I wrote based on oral histories with fishermen, boatbuilders and their families. Both books were published by the University of North Carolina Press.
I’ve actually been a photographer for a longer period of time than I’ve written for publication. Stretching back over 40 years or so, I have made photographs in darkrooms that were located in a bathroom, a kitchen (after dark!), a spare bedroom and, at present, my basement. I’ve exhibited photographs in galleries and museums throughout the state and published them in magazines as well.
What do I like the best? Probably whatever it is I’m not doing much of at the moment. If I’m writing, I’m wishing I was outside roaming a beautiful landscape with a camera and a tripod. If I’m in the darkroom, I’m wishing I could spend more time digging into a subject with words. Every now and then, I’ve thought that I ought to make it easier on myself and specialize in one thing or the other. So far, I’ve resisted the temptation.