Where We Live: A North Carolina Portrait
In the fall of 1971, under the auspices of the new Public Policy program at Duke University, documentary photographer Alex Harris began his first assignment: to photograph substandard housing and living conditions in North Carolina. With support from the Annenberg Foundation, in 2014 the CDS cofounder, who has taught at Duke for thirty-five years, turned to three former students and recent graduates of Duke’s Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts program to tackle the same broad assignment—photographers Amanda Berg, Rachel Boillot, and Jennifer Stratton.
Where We Live: A North Carolina Portrait features Harris’s 1971–72 work and Berg, Boillot, and Stratton’s contemporary portraits of, respectively, women whose factory jobs disappeared as industries closed, migrant workers who harvest Christmas trees and pick crops, and low-income neighborhoods that habitually bear the brunt of environmental damage.
“Forty-four years separate these photographs,” writes Harris. “By exhibiting together, we hope to show some of the ways in which the State of North Carolina has changed during this period. Our different styles and approaches with a camera also hint at how the practice of documentary photography has developed. But some things remain constant. Our photographs then and now show the human dimensions of policy issues, not only connecting these issues to individual lives, but, we hope, giving a sense of our own kinship to the people portrayed.”
Where We Live is sponsored by Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, Archive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Forum for Scholars and Publics, Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts program, and Sanford School of Public Policy. Project funding was provided by Anne Reynolds Forsyth, the Annenberg Foundation, and the Duke Council for the Arts. All photographs will be preserved in the Archive of Documentary Arts.