Too Many Images… Wilson, NC
Sometimes traveling out your back door can be the most rewarding. A few years ago I was wowed (for lack of a better or more appropriate word) by a previously unknown to ME, award winning, LIFE photographer living right here in little old North Carolina - where time goes a bit slower, afternoons are sultry and shadows long.
I am not sure how this photographer had escaped my scope but it was his recent documentary that brought me to his work. F/11 and Be There is a wonderful film piece, definitely worth your time to scout it out (I’ll put a link at the bottom). I won’t say anything about the gobs of money I spent at F/11 camera shop in Bozeman, Montana during my college days… So, Burk Uzzle is amazing, his work is true and honest. I decided that I had to take the opportunity to meet him. Wilson is only about 1 1/2 hr from home, a mere hop and a skip but it still took a while to sequester the moment to make the drive.
Loading up some snacks, the kids and a fanny pack of wanderlust, we set out on a Saturday morning and arrived at our GPS destination, downtown Wilson. Home of Burk Uzzle and as it turns out so much more. Having no agenda other than tracking down Uzzle’s Studio, we parked one block up from the Whirligig Park - to be honest I didn’t really know what a whirligig was or that there would be a park dedicated to them/it… until I did a little homework. You see this gentleman by the name of Vollis Simpson built hundreds of amazing wind driven whirligigs from metal remnants. Fortunately, the City of Wilson recognized the value in these spectacular sculptures. The city, with the help of donors and partners transported them from fields about ten miles outside of town, refurbished them and created the beautiful downtown whirligig park, replete with a band stand, covered picnic area, gardens and fields.
But I am getting ahead of myself because that would mean we turned left instead of right - we parked the trusty - not rusty wagon right, across the street from this old building, that begged a few snaps… it had the patina of a mercantile or the like - it licked upon my thoughts…
We continued on up the street. Noticing photographic billboards we became curious about the aftermath and looked up the QR code on the corner of one and up pops information about the previous days events. Eyes on Main Street is a photography gallery / festival. They also host residencies and funding for photographers. Not only is Wilson known for tobacco, whirligigs and a Whistlestop but also photography. Maybe by the hand of the incomparable Burk Uzzle or maybe the assistance thereof. Alas, we missed the photographic festivities by a day… much much to my chagrin. Around the next corner - another right - blossomed with the NY Boutique, Wilson Art Center, closed shops and abandoned spaces. Another corner and I could stock Burk Uzzle’s Studio space - closed on this Saturday. However, not in vain as we trundled through brick alley ways, curious buildings, doorways and trappings that kept my shutter breezy.
At the “soon” to be refurbished Cherry Apartments, the rail road station, across the street, lay indolent. A scene from days gone by like Brigadoon - alive for just a day.
Our walk without destination lead us to the old post office/courthouse. ca. 1927 turned science center. The Imagination Station, much to my companions’ delight, was a perfect diversion appropriate to their age. Trappings included wild animals, light and sound experiments, movement and energy experiments and all well worth the few dollars entrance fee, the kids gleeful and renewed.
As afternoon swung in, hunger began to set in motion a half hearted search for sustenance. We rounded by the car - that old building across the street yawning and Moby Dick
looking unapprovingly as I returned some camera gear to the car in lieu of the soccer ball - whirligigs our minds. The park was beginning to fill with folks enjoying the tepid afternoon. Family football on one side, young girls giggling about boys, graduation parties and couples occupying park benches. True to a great little town on a Saturday afternoon an ice cream truck setting up and drawing a crowd, an easy way to assuage our tummies. Casita Brewery I hoped would have something more substancial, harbored great brew made on the premises and would have to be enjoyed back home.
Ice Cream in hand we walked up the street, across the tracks and on to an industrial part of town. Mostly abandoned, street after street, another vast building rolling into another. What did these buildings yield in their finest hour? Now riddled with ghosts, broken windows and tumbling bricks. In the distance down the tunnel like street - bricks reverberating with a familiar Saturday afternoon sound.
On the corner, a small unassuming, one story building, shaking mortar with the sound of gospel singers… billowing after us as we continued our spoor.
Cutting through the block we confronted Moby Dick yet again and packed our trinkets in the car. Across the street that old building finally pulled my hand - a twinkle, a flame, a fire - like a moth, I crossed the street pulling my young, protesting contingent. I hollered a “hullooo” and from the other room two gentlemen were tending the fire but mostly jawjacking. Fire within a brick oven building, reflecting on the glass tables and iron work - Jimmy Sink, master iron craftsman, owner of Creekside Creative Design, wasn’t readying the fire for iron work, rather for pizza baking, music and enjoyment with friends on a Saturday night. Over there on the table in the afternoon glow a huge bowl of dough rising. My tongue was stupefied as I tried to iterate words to express my awe. From 200 year old rafters, Iron barn loops to exquisite iron work and design to the ramp that took cars to the second floor, the sun trickled in back windows and we bid adieu to end the intrusion on their pizza party - I am not even going to lie, I still think that would have been some amazing pie..
So, Wilson, NC, much more than expected and so much more to see. I didn’t get to meet ol’ Burk , But I understand a bit more why he calls Wilson his home.
Too many images?
Maybe only if we could have stayed.
Going out the back door or around the corner in your own town can seem mundane but the most amazing adventures can be had if you are open to enjoy them. Sometimes a picture isn't taken and you are immersed in that moment and that's ok too because you heart took the picture that time.
Next time take a walk instead of drive, take a left instead of a right and discover something new.
This is photo of Burke is by Jethro Waters