The Day Is Past and Gone: Family Photographs from Eastern North Carolina

“My great-aunt always patiently answered my questions about the people in the pictures and provided stories to accompany them when she could. For instance: the black bear on a chain that keeps showing up?” All photographs courtesy of Scott Matthews.

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The Day Is Past and Gone: Family Photographs from Eastern North Carolina

by Scott Matthews
Southern Cultures, Vol. 17, No. 2: Photography

"It is in fact hard to get the camera to tell the truth; yet it can be made to, in many ways and on many levels. Some of the best photographs we are ever likely to see are innocent domestic snapshots."

The family photographs presented here come from a collection my great-aunt kept at the family home-place in the Rosebud community of Wilson County, North Carolina. Stowed away in shoeboxes marked “The Good Ol’ Days,” these photographs chronicle life in a small corner of the coastal plain from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first century. The pictures portray the cycles and rhythms of rural life and the people who shaped the region’s unique landscape and language, architecture and culture. The families seen in the photographs—Matthews, Taylor, Pender, Varnell, Barnes, Flowers—intermarried and created a community sustained by agriculture, barbecues, hunting, fishing, and visits on the porch.