Reflecting on Gold Hill Village
When asked by news editor Scott Jenkins to write a column about my thoughts and reasons why I liked the photos that I recently made in Gold Hill Village, I asked myself, “Why do I like this group of photos?”
On his 100th birthday in 2002, Manuel Alvarez Bravo was asked what influenced him during his career.
His response was, “One doesn’t really know how one receives influences. One just receives them and absorbs them. It’s like food. When one takes a photograph, one doesn’t think about making a statement, but rather about creating something visual which can later bare a meaning.
“The meaning of the photograph depends upon the viewer’s interpretation, but not necessarily the photographer’s.”
I think that is a fair answer to what influenced me to make photographs in Gold Hill.
I have always felt a “pull” or need to photograph the small village.
To use a pun on Gold Hill’s name, I have always felt that Gold Hill was a “gold mine” yet to be explored. It is such a hidden golden nugget in eastern Rowan County that most of the world has not yet mined. It is one of Rowan’s well kept secrets with all the treasures to be realized there.
In my travels, I have driven many miles to reach destinations that offered far less riches than Gold Hill. Interestingly, Virginia City, Nevada reminds me of Gold Hill Village.
Virginia City is an old western mining town with most of its original buildings preserved and housing tourist businesses.
Gold Hill has lost many of its original buildings, but many structures have been moved to the village to recreate a mining town atmosphere.
Another such place is Furnace Town near Snow Hill, Maryland on the eastern shore. From 1825-1850 it was a busy town built around a smelting operation smelting bog iron ore. It was a complete town with churches, general stores and homes.
The buildings rotted away with time leaving only the brick furnace. It has slowly been recreated by moving aging buildings back to create a village and a Maryland state park.
To paraphrase a quote from photographer Andreas Feininger, who was talking about walking through the woods, “When I walk through Gold Hill, everything reaches for me — every leaf, every branch and building.”
Seeing the wooden plank sidewalks, the white picket fences around neat tidy yards, split rail fences, rusting tin roofs, old aging trees, unpainted wooden buildings with the textured aging wood and color drawing my attention, to blooming flowers and flags waving in the breeze, all reaching out to me.
Maybe the question and answer can be found in the lyrics from folk singer, David Mallett’s song “The Artist in Me.” He writes “Why am I amazed by the wonder of it all? It must be the artist in me.”
Seeing is thinking visually. There is a story about seeing a mountain. Some see the mountain as a huge bulk or rocks and paint it that way; some see pure lines or the clouds around it; some see patterns.
Every one sees the mountain differently. With so many ways of seeing an object, it becomes a matter of creating a vision. We are all interpreting the world around us.
Gold Hill is a little slice of someone’s world and it is beautiful.
When you walk up to the village, it reaches out for you and it seems that everything is right. The camera sees only what you see through it.
If you don’t see anything, you can’t photograph it. My making a photo is not a complete action. It is the start of an action like a chemical reaction.
When all the elements come together with the viewer of the photo, there are different reactions not all are the same as my first vision.
I have, all of my career, thought how lucky I have been to walk around and look at things in life and enjoy them just simply for the seeing of them, and they are part of my work.
I try very hard when I photograph to “eliminate, isolate, and simplify” the subject to communicate with the viewer what I am seeing.
I can’t teach anyone to see like me, but I can only hope to open some doors and windows to what I see and to encourage others to see what is out there in this world for their own interpretations.