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PHOTO ESSAY Signs ofthe South Original and Archival Photographs collected by Charlie Curtis hat could a former fashion photographer possibly have to offer Southern Cultures? A tour of the past and present. Charlie Curtis says that it Kf K^^^H was a deep love for preservation that led to this collection of ^B^H^HhB the archival photography ofDorotheaLange and Marion Post, along with his own original pictures of the signs diat he has encountered during his daily travels through Virginia and North Carolina countryside. He spent his youth on a Virginia farm, which he says gave him "a real soft spot for the small towns offthe highways and dirt roads." For him these places and their signs have become friendly beacons, reminders of stories and culture hidden to speeding passersby: the barn-shaped garage and Barker's Snack Shop in Semora; Mildred's Kitchen, the Elk's Home, and Hope of Glory Apostolic Church in Eden; the electric fence and rusted Coca-Cola signs in Caswell County; a stained-glass window in Danville. Even die "Prepare to Meet God" warning, which today still demands die attention of even die most lighthearted travelers, soon "became a welcome part of the landscape." Charlie Curtis has uncovered invitations, advertisements, admonishment, revelation , and history in his own photos and tiiose images frozen sixty years ago by Lange and Post. Storefronts, billboards, stained-glass windows, spare tires, barn doors, stoops, eating holes—all, he says, "hold messages that are truly a valuable record, that have something to show us, that are bridges bodi to past and future." These photos reveal some of the mystery that the modern world accelerates by without considering. Did 1939's North Carolinians choose to consult the old signpost or the new one beside it at die crossroads outside Stem? Was the plaque outside the Caswell County Courthouse an attempt at reconciliation? Was it, as Charlie Curtis wonders, "the admission widiin a community of its difficult secrets ?" Or was it merely intended to declare an enduring ??? presence? And what did die Klan make ofW M. Mallory and his southern version of a Harlem barber shop? Charlie Curtis has slowed down the car, pulled us off onto die shoulder to think it all over. Signs ofthe South 3 1 The Elks Home Midway Lodge, Semora, North Carolina, August ippy,photographed by Charlie Curtis. 32 southern cultures, Summer2000 : Charlie Curtis Harlem BarberShop, Granville County, North Carolina, November ipßy, photographed by Marion Post. Courtesy ofthe Odum Photo Study, Southern Historical Collection, the Library ofthe University ofNorth Carolina at ChapelHill. Signs ofthe South 3 3 "Prepare to Meet God," Eden, North Carolina,July ippp,photographed by Charlie Curtis. 34 southern cultures, Summer2000 : Charlie Curtis Spare tire cover, Granville County, North Carolina, lyjp,photographed by Marion Post. Courtesy ofthe Odum Photo Study, Southern Historical Collection, the Library ofthe University ofNorth Carolina at ChapelHill. Signs ofthe South 3 5 Semora Garage, Semora, North Carolina, August iffp, photographed by Charlie Curtis. 36 southern cultures, Summer2000: Charlie Curtis Noticesposted to a barn door, Durham County, North Carolina, November 1939,photographed by Marion Post. Courtesy ofthe Odum Photo Study, Southern Historical Collection, the Library ofthe University ofNorth Carolina at ChapelHill. Signs ofthe South 37 Barker's Snack Bar, Semora, North Carolina, August 1999,photographed by Charlie Curtis. 38 southern cultures, Summer2000 : Charlie Curtis Golden Rule Store, Alamance County, North Carolina,July 1939, photographed by Dorothea Lange. Courtesy ofthe Odum Photo Study, Southern Historical Collection, the Library ofthe University ofNorth Carolina at ChapelHill. Signs ofthe South 39 Hope ofGloryApostolic Church, Eden, North Carolina,July 1999,photographed by Charlie Curtis. 40 southern cultures, Summer2000 : Charlie Curtis Signpost outside Stem, Granville County, North Carolina, November 1939, photographed by Marion Post. Courtesy ofthe Odum Photo Study, Southern Historical Collection, the Library ofthe University ofNorth Carolina at ChapelHill. Signs ofthe South 41 Mildred's Kitchen, Eden, North Carolina,July 1999,photographed by Charlie Curtis. 42 southern cultures, Summer2000: Charlie Curtis "Get Checks Here, " Durham County, North Carolina, November 19)9, photographed by Marion Post. Courtesy ofthe Odum Photo Study, Southern Historical Collection, the Library ofthe University ofNorth Carolina at ChapelHill. Signs ofthe South 43 Stained-glass windowfrom Forest Lawn Baptist Church, Danville, Virginia...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 31-49
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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