VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURE OF THE AMERICAN SOUTH
Vernacular architecture is an art of improvisation; buildings determined by the culture in which they exist and constructed using the materials available in the local environment. These structures stand as monuments to the individuals that built them, reflections of their character (in much the same way that a photograph is a reflection of the photographer) and of the landscape in which they are set.
On my journey through the American South I immersed myself in lore and legend, and ghosts were a recurring theme. Being interested in landscape, it seemed relevant that a ghost’s tendency is to haunt a specific place; for it is place that defines us and shapes our vision. Place captures our imagination. There are places that we feel so attached to that we cannot bear to leave them behind.
The isolated, rural structures were a frequent lure on the road; the buildings occupied by those who drew their livelihood from the very land on which they lay and of these it was the more desolate that interested me particularly. They had a certain presence, but one that I couldn’t quite articulate.
Since returning home I’ve revisited Wright Morris’ seminal 1946 publication, The Inhabitants, and stumbled upon this quote—
In all my life I have never been in anything so crowded, so full of something, as the rooms of a vacant house. Sometimes I think only vacant houses are occupied. That’s something I knew as a boy but I had nobody to tell me that that’s what an Inhabitant is. An Inhabitant is what you can’t take away from a house. You can take away everything else — in fact, the more you take away the better you can see...
These are the places that haunt me.
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Alex Howard is a photographer from Suffolk, England. In January and February of 2013 he traversed the Southern United States in the company of American photographer Maribeth Keane, and under the brief guidance of State Guide Michael McCraw. He is currently working on a book of the photographs that he shot in the USA, and exploring his native East Anglia. Follow on his website alex-howard.co.uk and he posts on a group tumblr at locigroup.tumblr.com.
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