I’m curious. About all kinds of stuff. So many places, people, things out there that I don’t know much of anything about….more than one lifetime allows me to experience. But biting off a piece here and a piece there helps to make the one lifetime that I do have rich and lush and endlessly fascinating.
Maybe that’s why I love The Road so much. It’s a surefire scratching to my wonder itch. Just imagine being able to go down every meandering road in America. If my back would cooperate, and my wife would go with me, I just might take that on. I love it that much. But, I gotta be realistic. Sort of, anyway. Break it down into manageable chunks. Like the one I finished up a little over a year ago that led to a book and a few photography exhibits….the project is called Slow Roads Tennessee. An 11,000 mile wandering through the rural spaces of our fair state, sticking to county, local, and a state road occasionally, with a $30 plastic film camera at the ready.
I love the places and people you see out there, and one reason is that they change very slowly, if at all. There’s a goodness to them that lasts long past the current fad or worry of the day, and that’s what I wanted to capture on this journey. To give the photographs a matching timeless feel, I chose the soft, misty focus the Holga’s plastic lens yields up. It’s not a modern look, thankfully. It’s warm and organic and imperfect. Like the subject matter.
Along the way, I met…well, they can only be referred to as characters. Nelson Bandy (as he informed me, he was “Mo without the Dough”) who owns a hillside auto junkyard in Humphreys County and tries to scare would-be parts thieves off with a sign that threatens, “If you’re reading this, you’re on TV, and I shoot to kill!”. Or Bear Burkett over in Lake County, who I found sitting in a ratty old easy chair with a dozen or so cats crawling around on him in front of a rundown building with “City Jail” stenciled on the side. Or the young man cutting hair in Sullivan County using the same chair his great uncle installed when he opened the barbershop in the late ’40’s, who at the end of his days with the scissors handed down the shop to the young man’s daddy, and so forth….
And it goes on and on. Better than TV. People in LA try to make this stuff up and run it during prime time on cable, but I don’t think they get it. As we say down here, bless their hearts. Naah, what they manufacture just doesn’t work for me.
What does work for me is turning the key in the ignition, resetting the trip meter, running by Starbucks for an iced coffee, and programming the GPS for a destination called “Anyplace”. And just where might that be on a given morning? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
Contributed by Jerry Park
Jerry Park is a photographer, author, colleague, and friend…and is our special guest today.
There is nothing quite like hearing Jerry tell his stories in his warm, friendly, slow southern drawl or viewing his insightful – and sometimes humorous – images in person. The next best option, however, is to curl up in an easy chair with his book and a warm cup of tea.
His book, Slow Roads Tennessee, is available for purchase at Parnassus in Nashville or most Barnes & Nobles and Books-A-Million in Tennessee. The book retails for $35.
Signed copies of his book are available directly from Jerry by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. With shipping and handling, the total is $41.
His book would be great for holiday gift giving.