One, One Thousand | Southern Photography


Of This Place: Photographs from North Carolina
by David Simonton

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Project statement:

"Write about the land beneath your feet." Eudora Welty

North Carolina has been my home and my subject since I moved to Raleigh from New Jersey in 1989. Ever since then I have traveled throughout 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 its distinct characteristics to cookie-cutter franchise. As witness to an inevitable transition, I photograph to remember, not to romanticize.

Forty years after beginning, I continue to work in the tradition of straight photography, a tradition that embraces process and the unity of vision and craft. I am a black-and-white-film photographer. I use manual cameras with 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 mediumabout 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? Is it a document? Dorothea Lange said that for a photograph to work both elements need to be present.

While I readily acknowledge the documentary aspect of my work, I am compelled to photograph by the visual aspects of a scene: geometry, beauty (especially when perceived in the un-beautiful), and the transforming power of light. Twenty-one years after arriving in the South, I continue to travel and make pictures as an homage to home and to reflect my experience of this place.


Bio and contact:

Preview, the publication of the North Carolina Museum of Art, called David Simonton "one of our state's finest photographers." In 2004, the Museum inaugurated its North Carolina photography acquisitions program by purchasing two portfoliosthose of Elizabeth Matheson and Simonton.

Simonton moved to North Carolina in 1989 and proceeded to make it his subject: he has now photographed in more than 350 cities, towns, and small rural communities across the state. His photographs have been included in group and solo exhibitions in North Carolina and in juried exhibitions nationwide.

Simonton's pictures have appeared in Photography Quarterly, The Photo Review, and The Southern Quarterly: A Journal of the Arts in the South. He has twice been a semifinalist for the Center for Documentary Studies / Honickman First Book Prize in Photography (2002, 2004). And he is the recipient of grants and commissions, including two Visual Artist Fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council (2000, 2008) and a commission from the North Carolina Museum of Art to photograph the old Polk Youth Center, now demolished, in Raleigh (2000-01).

Simonton began teaching photography in 1992. He was an instructor at the Crafts Center at North Carolina State University from 1993 to 2001 and an adjunct faculty member at Peace College in Raleigh from 1997 to 2009.


David Simonton is a Raleigh, NC, based photographer.
To view more of his work, please visit his website:
You can also contact him by e-mail: