One of our favorite sources of inspiration about the South is Vanishing South Georgia, an online tribute to folk architecture by the esteemed photographer Brian Brown, a native of the area.
Brown’s magnificent photographs and shared narrative about South Georgia – which we define loosely as the area from the “gnat line” through the middle of the state near Macon down to the Florida boundary – capture a place and time when an agricultural economy dominated in the state.
We revel in the thousands of evocative images he has produced, as he documents a different era, driving in his car to town after town, on a long-range mission in the rural expanse of road and field and farm that stretches on and on ahead.
Brown figures he has covered tens of thousands of miles over the past decade or more, but feels he is yet not finished with his quest. He keeps going.
We caught up with him long enough to ask him about his work.
“Much of what I've been photographing over the past decade is vanishing so quickly that I often can't keep up with the losses,” he said. “Several times a year, someone writes me to say that I need to get a picture of a place and by the time I can get to it, it's already gone.”
The definitive outpouring of photos captures farm houses, country stores, sharecropper shacks, and the whole emblematic catalog of South Georgia structures that are as much about people as they are about architecture.
Along the way, Brown often includes comments from local residents who know the history of those buildings, and who clearly share his deep and abiding affection for the region.
“Most of us didn't grow up in the white-columned plantation houses that have come to symbolize the South outside the South,” he said.
“Our grandparents and great-grandparents were likely yeoman farmers or sharecroppers, factory workers or shopkeepers, generally salt-of-the-earth people of modest means. I hope that what I've documented will be taken as a sort of visual catalog, a validation, of those people.”
Brown defines himself as an architectural and documentary photographer, historian and author from Fitzgerald, a market town nearly smack in the middle of South Georgia.
But we note that Brown is also an award-winning poet whose work has been published in more than 50 journals.
And, in our view, Vanishing South Georgia may be his finest literary work – we see the poetry in every image and every commentary on the web site, a rhyme with history, a long-running verse that has yet to reach its enduring conclusion.