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Atwater Farm, July 1, 1939

A Thousand Words
By Jock Lauterer

‘‘For me, documentary photography is less a matter of subject and more a matter of approach,” wrote Dorothea Lange. “The important thing is not what’s photographed, but how.” The famous Life magazine photographer, whose iconic “Migrant Mother” is burned on the inner-eye of our national consciousness, is less well-known for her work right here in central North Carolina. To right that wrong, photo-historian Steve Rankin has compiled an impressive website devoted to Lange’s work in Orange, Chatham, Wake, Person and Granville counties, June 30-July 9,1939. One of my favorite photographs is, I believe, a reflection of Lange’s gentle “don’t-stomp-on-the-daisies” approach to her subjects. I can’t help but feel that Caroline Atwater, standing in her kitchen doorway, shared a connection with the photographer. The Atwater home and farm, Rankin notes, was located six-tenths of a mile east of old Blackwood Station on Mt. Sinai Road in Orange County. (Ironically, Blackwood Station, just north of Chapel Hill off N.C. 86, is well known to older local Boy Scouts as a favorite camping ground back in the ’50s and‘60s.) To explore the painstaking work of Steve Rankin, go to tinyurl.com/DortheaLange2

Do you have an important old photo that you value? Email your photo to jock@email.unc.edu and include the story behind the picture. Because every picture tells a story. And its worth? A thousand words.
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