OF THIS PLACE: Photographs from North Carolina

Write about the land beneath your feet. —Eudora Welty

North Carolina has been my home and my subject since I moved here from New Jersey in 1989. Ever since then I've been traveling around the state making pictures.

In 2008, North Carolina was the third-fastest-growing state in the United States and the fastest-growing state east of the Mississippi River. The state finds itself at a turning point, losing some of its distinctive characteristics to cookie-cutter franchise. As witness to an inevitable transition, I photograph as a way of remembering. Kate Dobbs Ariail wrote, "David Simonton records for us the old North Carolina at its moment of passing."

Forty-five years after beginning, I continue to work in the tradition of straight photography, one that embraces process and the unity of vision and craft. I am a black-and-white-film photographer. I use manual cameras and standard lenses. And I process film and make gelatin silver prints in my darkroom.

I learned about photography in three related ways: By photographing, of course. By looking at photographs and by listening closely to what others said about the medium—about the power of a photograph to make and leave an impression, about the dual (and often dueling) nature of the photograph itself. Is it a work of art? A document? Dorothea Lange said that for a photograph to work both elements need to be present.

While I gladly acknowledge the documentary nature of my work, I am compelled to photograph by the visual aspects of a scene: geometry, beauty—especially as it's perceived in the un-beautiful—and the transforming power of light. Two-and-a-half decades after arriving in the South, I continue to make pictures here as an homage to home, and to reflect my experience of this place.

(The photographs from the North Carolina series featured on this site were made between 1993 and 2011.)

Construction, Downtown Raleigh, March 1996 Construction, Downtown Raleigh, March 1996