Cairo 2015 | Rivertowns

 Abandoned Building, Cairo IL 2015

Back in March, I made a visit to Cairo, Illinois. I left Memphis and followed the river up to a town I had seen before. I had photographed there in 2006 while traveling the Delta with a poet friend. He had gone to school nearby and thought it was a perfect place for me to see.

This was once a prominent Rivertown at the Southern tip of Illinois that had been plagued by race riots and flooding and emigration to other cities to the point that it had become a shell of what it used to be. Shamefully so, seeing as how most of the rivers I follow are full of towns that are the same age and size, yet have become artist or antique enclaves for suburban wealth to visit or retire to. Nothing like the economic and architectural devastation in Cairo.

The images I made in 2006 are part of the Delta Work series, since then I have lumped that work in with a broader body of work about Rivertowns.

Empty Storefront, Cairo IL 2015

In returning to Cairo the things that caught my attention the most were how much less was there and how differently I saw it. My first visit was pure awe, I photographed most things that caught my eye. My most recent trip was more surprise at what was gone since the last visit and more casual in my stance, like I had seen it all before. I still found some great images but my eyes were tuned to different things this round.

I am looking forward to a third trip and a more concentrated effort to tackle the idea of the Rivertown.


Subversive Vernacular On View In September

 Danger!, Apalachicola, Florida 2015 © jwl

I am excited to shake off the cobwebs and get some art on the walls for this upcoming First Friday event in Knoxville, Tennessee. I will be showing new prints in 2 locations on the 4th of September.

Pulling from mostly new work, I am creating a body of images I call Subversive Vernacular. I feel these newer photographs speak to me in the way that short story fiction often does. As though the viewer can sense that something has gone down in the space or has shown up just after the action stopped and is wondering 'what happened?' or 'what's next...' I'd like to think that the photographs have a quality of mystery to them. The subject matter keeping true to my wanderlust of the American Vernacular Landscape, especially in the Southeastern States.

I am compiling images for a book later in the year and I am considering including some poems or stories to go along with the work. I believe it will enhance the work quite well.

Shed, Highway 25W, Tennessee 2015 ©jwl

For now, you can see some of these pieces on the evening of Sept 4th at

128 S. Gay St.
Knoxville TN

You can also stroll on up and see more work throughout September at

937 N. Central St.
Knoxville TN

 I look forward to seeing you on First Friday or sometime soon!!


Common Ground

 Abandoned Building, Highway 60, Kentucky 2015 © jwl

I met Matt Hall in Knoxville 20 years ago while we were both attending the School of Architecture at the University of Tennessee. Despite our movements around the country and despite our varied disciplines since then, we have maintained a deep friendship based on living creative lives as well as off color remarks.

Barn, Indiana 2015 © Matt Hall

Our personal aesthetics stray from each other from time to time, but we share a love for structure, form & a minimalist approach. On our recent trip to Kentucky and Indiana, we used our common ground and pushed each other to make a good amount of photographs together. Between telling jokes, calling each other names and listening to new music, We found time to make art.

I am going to try and pair up photos that may speak to each other that we made on our trip.

I am already looking forward to Hell Drive III!


Subversive Vernacular

Garage, Utica, Indiana 2015 © jwl

Last weekend Matt Hall took me on a trip to Louisville, Kentucky. It was meant as a multi function trip, an extension of my Bachelor Party (another trip to Memphis took place back in March), time with an old friend and a good weekend for photography. Matt and I haven't been out making photographs together since he took a position at Auburn University back in 2013. Summer Session is about to start up, my cast is off my wrist, I got the film, so let's get out for another Hell Drive!

Our Saturday Drive took us from Louisville to the tri-border of KY, OH & IN along the river. I have taken some loose direction from Robert Adams by driving Along Some Rivers to consider Rivertowns. So that's what we did. Thanks, Bob!

This was a reluctant stop, but entirely worth it now that I have the scan finished. Abstract enough and still full of that American Vernacular that I am looking for.

More posts to come featuring our Hell Drive..... I'll also be going back and adding some commentary to last month's posts soon now that I have my hand out of a cast.


 Buy 1 Get 1 Free, Highway 11W, TN 2011 © jwl

Transmissions, Pittsburgh, PA 2008 © jwl


 Typewriter, North Carolina 2015 © jwl

Abandoned Storefront, Highway 74, NC 2015 © jwl