Through a Townie’s Lens

One for the Ages

Yes, it’s real. With the safe return Saturday night of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft and flight crew of four civilians, I feel good about releasing this extraordinary image,….

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The Pocket Shrine: Mom in a Matchbox

In my hand I hold a matchbox. The old school kind — wooden matches with cherry red tips inside. But that’s not all that’s in this matchbox, nor is setting a fire its function.

To India With Love

As the pandemic rages across India, I find myself worrying about a perfect stranger. Her name, where she lives, her situation in life now — of these facts I am totally ignorant.

Taking a Busman’s Holiday

With shots in arms and no ill effects and, thus, feeling giddy with liberation, good wife Lynne and I have done what so many other pent-up septuagenarians have done…

Little Big Man 1967

The young boy sits astride his tricycle like a judge holding court. Barefoot, he affixes the photographer with an intelligent, penetrating gaze. Maybe he is thinking…

Easter 1950

All dressed up for Easter Sunday church and holding a Bible, Nick Lauterer, posing heroically in a hand-me-down suit, grins at the camera with confidence and happiness.

You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught

As I was raised in the shadow of World War II and the Korean War, my first childhood impressions of Asians were negative: They were the enemy and to be feared.

Hearth and Home, of Thee I Sing

It’s been raining now for three days straight — that cold nasty chilly winter rain. I’d prefer honest snow any day — the kind we had during my 10 years at Penn State, where Pennsyltuckians understand the…

‘Reelin’ in the Years,’ Senior Night 1984

Last Saturday’s drubbing of Duke on UNC’s Senior Night conjured up a similar image from years past. It is March 3, 1984, and that year’s farewell men’s basketball game celebrated seniors…

She interviewed Gen. Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower in 1947

The young reporter leans into the interview, uncowed by the august presence of the hero of WW II D-Day, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The year is 1947, and the kid reporter is Chapel Hill’s own Val Lauder, just 21 and already a star reporter for the Chicago Daily News.

Goodbye Dorm; Hello Camper Van

When you hear the term “off-campus student housing,” you’re probably not picturing a college kid living in a camper van. But that is exactly how UNC senior journalism major Andrew Dundas of Fairview, N.C., has chosen to spend his final semester at Carolina.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Friendships

In celebration of Boy Scout Week, let’s unpack this 1953 photograph that captures four of my life-long guy pals and me. New Cub Scout Pack 421 is being formed;

Trash Bag Hazmat Suit Beats HDD

If you’re like me, you are suffering from the secondary malady brought on by the pandemic, HDD. (Hug Deficit Disorder). I am the father/“bonus dad” of five grown children and “G-Pop” to nine grand young’uns…

Remembering LeRoy Walker Jr., Airman, Mentor

When LeRoy Walker Jr. started talking about flying, a change came over the 78-year-old retired IBM executive from Durham. His voice dropped, his eyes glazed slightly and a contented smile wreathed his handsome face, as he described the sight of the…

A Music Trailblazer, a Diva, at 100

Martha Flowers came to her Chapel Hill front door prepared for her photo shoot, looking every bit like a diva: dressed for a concert, pearl necklace and a smile that could — and did — light up Broadway.

Hunkering Down with Haikus

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how to hunker. We’ve been hunkered down since mid-March and have learned by necessity hunkering techniques. Out of curiosity, I looked up the word: “Hunker: to crouch, cower, to get on all fours.”

Back to the Future with Bee-Bop

As any old-school photographer would attest, being able to develop your own film and print your own photographs in a darkroom is what separates the dilettantes from the hard-core serious photographers.

Have Yourself a Hygge Little New Year’s

Browsing through a card shop years ago in the Baltic seaport town of Turku, Finland, I chanced upon this card, depicting two decidedly jolly old ladies with all the humble comforts of hearth and home…

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

The first Christmas after E.B. Hyder’s wife died, the 88-year-old Rutherford County nurseryman found himself at a loss for how to cope with the holiday. So, he went out and got himself a little Christmas…

Over 100 years of Humbugging

Before the Grinch, there was Scrooge. And if ever a man could play Charles Dickens’ Christmas curmudgeon to the hilt, it was the late great Earl Wynn, a distinguished professor credited with…

Signs of the Times

Having a cabin in rural Rutherford County in Western North Carolina, where I started and helped run two small newspapers for 15 years, has afforded me an intimate view into the other North Carolina. Saying it plainly: the deep ruby red part. Monthly trips to the old cabin afford this Chapel Hill boy something of a “glass-bottom boat” view of attitudes very different from deep indigo parts…

Mrs. Gill and the Misfit Toy

A young English teacher sits primly at a desk surrounding by her adoring students who are cutting up as the high school yearbook photographer snaps this staged photograph.

Home Alone, 2020

In our neighborhood this week, the Halloween skeletons are back in the closet (sorry, I couldn’t resist), the elections signs are down, mostly — and families are wrestling with how to handle the most bizarre Thanksgiving on record.

Balloons and Tunes: Thanks for the Memories

Somewhere midway through my photo class lecture on apertures and shutter speeds, there came a small but persistent tapping on the classroom door in Howell Hall. Then, without bidding, the door opened slightly, revealing a woman’s smiley face wearing a mischievous grin.

Grandmother Dinah Mae’s Pearls, 1925

A recent column focused on the documentary significance of the simple snapshot, the older the better. Cleaning out a desk drawer this week, I ran across another example that testifies dramatically to the emotional power of such seemingly innocent images.

50 Years On, ‘Still in the Fight’

Fifty years ago this past spring, four outstanding 18-year-old Black graduating high school seniors from a rural high school in Western North Carolina teamed up to express their gloves-off opinions…

Mask up, all you critters!

Since our poor fractious nation is suffering from LDD (Leadership Deficit Disorder), we get our guidance from where we can. Confoundingly, even the otherwise simple mandate of mask-wearing divides us into a cold civil war between Maskers and Anti-Maskers…

I Still Bleed Ink

Early one Saturday morning back in 1975 found me at the main street newspaper office in Forest City sweeping the front room, when an old farmer wearing faded overalls came through the front door (no keypad, no buzzer, no armed guard) wanting to see the editor.

It’s the Real Deal, Lucille

Scratch me, and you get a photographer. It was photography, not writing, that got me to the dance. So, it should come as no surprise that this column is photo-driven…