I feel very fortunate to live and work in the southern United States. While there are a ton of places that I am sure I would love to live in all compass points of the country, I have had the opportunity to visit areas of the U.S. that represent the East, West, North and South even as far west outside the U.S. as Guam.
Having lived in the Southern part of the U.S. most of my life I find it both comforting and interesting. I don’t want to get into what is the best place in the country because I think they are all great, and while I just happen to live on a southern plot of the map, I really enjoy most everything about it. The people, landscape, opportunity and most of all our rich history.
I am very fascinated with the architecture in the south because it takes on many cultural aspects in their design. So show a Spanish flavor, while others have an Italian or French look and feel. Some even have bit of the old English colonial.
In the south there are many descriptions and back porch meanings for “southern charm” that exist, from the food, to the people and even the way you feel in the south. According to Southern Living Magazine “Southerners are known for having charisma and poise—no matter the circumstances.” I find that aspect mostly true but not always. I think I find charisma and poise most everywhere, but its doesn’t necessarily punch me in the forehead either.
One of my favorite things to do is talk to people in towns I visit to see if I am missing anything about the atmosphere or maybe they will let me in on that secret place near where I am shooting pictures. I once asked an older southern gentleman if he knew where any barns were that I could take pictures of and he looked puzzled but was glad to respond. He said “son” (everyone half your age younger is called son) why on earth would you want to take a picture of a barn for?” I said “well Sir (everyone half your age older is called Sir) I am a photographer and love the look of old barns for my photos. He said I can tell ya or I can show ya.
I obliged and followed the man for a few miles. He drove a simple old 70’s model Chevy truck that was clean but very, very used. He had tools, and old car parts in the bed of the truck. Yes the truck had a double “gun rack” in the rear window. One of the racks had a rifle, and appeared to be a shotgun and the other was a big oak stick with a strap on the handle. He drove very slowly and after about five or six miles he pulled over. As he approached my car I thought to myself, he must be lost. Nope, he came up to my drivers window and gruffly said “go up yonder and turn left at the second dirt road, then the barn is about a quarter mile on your left.” He turned back with a funny look on his face and said, “oh, and if you get shot, it ain’t my fault.” So I proceeded with his directions and where I landed was a freshly cleared lot with some amazing structures on it. The first thing that caught my eye was a barn. It had obviously been a horse barn and appeared to be at least 75 years old. The structure was very solid, and was about 25 feet wide and about 15 feet deep. A sloping tin roof was rusty and coming apart, and amazingly this barn was a sitting time capsule, with rope, barbed wire and some old tools hanging in the barn untouched. Almost 100 feet in front of the barn was an old home that looked like it was quite honestly “fiercely” lived in. A few minute into the photo shoot I heard the old man on the road say “you up there”? I replied back “yes sir!, thank you!” I slowly drove away.
This home was extremely rough, obviously from the weather and visitor that probably didn’t care much about history or nostalgia. I walked around and was amazed at how it must have been when this thing was alive with a family and animals running around. children playing on the porch and the smell of greens and peas bellowing from the back door. Some say the greens represent dollar bills and the peas, coins, ensuring wealth and luck. Wow, I thought to myself this was how people grew up and lived. There was no apparent electricity at the home nor did I see any sign of plumbing. The wood was so amazing that it appeared that it was still alive. I call these structures “kings of the south” because its where families were raised, and communities flourished.
I wake up every day in hopes that I find jewels like this to preserve for all of time. I often get requests for this print on canvas and has adorned many a southern home and office. Check out some “Southern Charm” on twitter. If you find a barn get the shot and tell us what you found.
Now, break into small groups and discuss.