Sweet Home Carolina

Categories: ASC, Blog, Community Supported Art

By Amy Bareham
Cultural & Community Investment Intern

Fall 2014 Community Supported Art artist Clayton Joe Young.
Fall 2014 Community Supported Art artist Clayton Joe Young.

There’s a place we Carolinians go to escape where rocking chairs abound and front porches whisper stay awhile. This place is where CSA participant Clayton Young was first captivated by photography and it is called Appalachia.

Something about the mountains begs for our undivided attention. Their stalwart presence invites us to breathe a little deeper and reconnect with our roots. Young’s photography enables us to do just that, resurrecting the folklore of seasons long ago and integrating it into our present with poetic effortless.

Originally from Davidson County, Clayton Young spent ample time with his grandparents before tackling adulthood – namely college and a trip out West. Although Young bought a secondhand camera for this trip, it wasn’t until he returned to Appalachian State University for his MBA that he actually took a photography class. Within a semester, he had changed his major to photography and began exploring the mountains for stories to capture. He formed deep relationships with the locals, meeting people who lived off the land and invited him to talk of simpler days. “I felt like I was walking back in time,” said Young.

After a short stint in photojournalism, Young received his MA and MFA from SCAD and embarked on a study of nostalgia. “I tried to figure out how I could turn the camera more inward and express myself, the way I see things…they originally thought [nostalgia] was a disease…a longing for the past. But when you get there…the places aren’t even the same…your memory is kind of selective – there’s a little bit of folklore thrown in there and I kind of played off that too.”

CSA shareholders will get to travel down memory lane with Young’s project which features Charlotte

An example of Clayton Joe Young's work.
An example of Clayton Joe Young’s work.

architecture. At first glance, his images may appear to be Instagram art and that’s kind of the point. “I’ve created 10 new images, 5 of each, and they’re all of a historical structure in the Charlotte area…I want people to see it and put the pieces together – the story behind it and what happened to it. The pictures themselves are…an ode to Instagram. It’s like an organic feel to Instagram. I’m actually using…antique cameras to take them.”

Us amateurs may recognize that aged, vignette feel from our favorite photo sharing app, but Young is using a different approach to create vintage prints. He’s modified a Pringles can because of how the plastic lens keeps the light out, altering the quality of the photo and giving it a new aesthetic. These prints in particular are a fusion of yesterday and today.

It’s evident that Young is a preservationist of both yesterday and today, documenting what may otherwise go unnoticed. The question we now face as curators of our own stories is where’s our Appalachia and how are we capturing it?

Check out more of Young’s work here.