Through a Townie’s Lens

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…

Read More

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…

A Wingman’s Farewell

Perhaps you’ve seen him — this happy man zipping along the streets of Southern Village, his recumbent trike low and fast — a jaunty multi-colored pennant bobbing merrily in his windy wake.

In Praise of Losers and Suckers

Up until now, in this space I have avoided the temptation to say anything even vaguely political; but herein, I succumb. The latest outrage over service members being called “losers and suckers” is my tipping point.

On the Unintended Power of the Snapshot

Maybe you can’t hug a photograph — as “Data,” played by Jonathan Ke Quan, the adorable inventor kid, tells his father in the ‘80s classic feel-good film, “The Goonies.”

Confessions of a Former Hoarder

I love stuff. Old stuff — books, hats, cameras, typewriters, photographs, magazines, tools, odd-shaped rocks, broken mugs full of pens that I haven’t used in years.

Forgetting the Idiot Check

The Idiot Check. I forgot to do the Idiot Check. So, that makes — guess who — the idiot. It’s a vital travel tactic I learned from my rocker son, Jon, who taught me how after each gig…

A Little Good News

In this political and cultural inflection point in which we find ourselves as a nation, it is gratifying to be able to bring to our community “a little good news today.”              

They Thought it Was ‘The End o’ Time’

Last week’s earthquake up in the northwestern corner of North Carolina gave me a shake, too. Beginning in the summer of 1968, right out of college and green as grass, I served as editor…

Old Poops on Patrol!

Ask any college town “townie” what’s their favorite time of year — and many are likely to say, now. From Athens, GA, to Lawrence, KS; to State College, PA, to Chapel Hill-Carrboro, the start of the fall semester brings with it a wave of youthful energy, intellectual ferment and…

Back to Narnia

Sixty-four years ago, I went to Narnia, where I became a lion named Aslan. To get to that foreign land, I didn’t need a passport. But I did need a great teacher to open the magical door through the old wardrobe.

An Outbreak of Kindness

The bumper sticker on the back of the old pick-up truck outside of Carrboro caught my attention. It read, “Make America Kind Again.” Permit me to riff off a recent New York Times op-ed piece that opined thusly: that if there’s any silver lining to the double-whammy of the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd, it has to be our heightened awareness of our common humanity and mutual interdependence.

Jim Wallace: f/8 and Be There

“f/8 and be there!” — the old-school photojournalist’s equivalent cheer of “GO HEELS!” for Tar Heel fans — might as well have been created by James (Jim) H. Wallace Jr., fabled DTH civil rights photographer.