show

John Foster

The Focused Obsession of Photographer Rob Amberg


It was Mark Twain who said "write what you know.”  Photographer Rob Amberg (b. 1947) must have taken that advice to heart when, in 1973, he moved to Madison County, NC and did just that. Amberg became a documentary photographer, and his approach has been to live with and among the people he documents. Though other great documentary photographers in the past have simply  “dropped in,” taken their images and left (take the WPA photographers, for example), Amberg and his wife live on a small farm in the same county he photographs. His subjects have been neighbors and acquaintances, friends of friends and strangers he has met. This lifetime project — writing about and photographing the evolving culture and environment of his adopted county, has yielded an exceptional body of photographic work that has been gaining more and more praise and art world recognition.

Amberg's first book, Sodom Laurel Album, was published in 2002 by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke and the University of North Carolina Press. His second book from Madison County, The New Road: I-26 and the Footprints of Progress in Appalachia, was published in 2009 by the Center for American Places at Columbia College Chicago. To complete the trilogy, a third book, tentatively titled Shatterzone, is in progress.

Amberg is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the North Carolina Humanities Council, the Center for Documentary Studies, and others. In 2004, he had the honor of presenting Sodom Laurel Album at the Library of Congress.


The following 10 images are from the series Shatterzone.

Rob Amberg
I-26 at Buckner Gap, 2008.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Boy With Jawbone, Walnut, 2007.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Benny at Troublesome Gap, Big Pine, 1980.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Carrie Henry, Marshall, 1976.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Molasses Making at Elden Henderson’s House, Big Pine, 1978.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Ally, PawPaw, 2012.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Shu and Griffin Shaving Cheyenne, PawPaw, 2012.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Cheoah Webb Butchering Hogs, Dry Pond, 2010.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Cathy Bennett and Scar from a Ruptured Appendix, Cargile Branch, 2013.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
At Cricket’s Birthday Party, Big Pine, 2011.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.


The following 10 images are from the series SODOMSONG.

Rob Amberg
Cas Wallin Singing at Home, Sodom, NC.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Berzilla Wallin (left) and Her Aunt, Zipporah Rice, Rice Cove, NC.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Evelyn and Dustin Ramsey Cutting Tobacco, Sodom, NC.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Byard Ray at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, Asheville, NC.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Denise Norton O’Sullivan Singing in the Barn, Sodom, NC.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Sheila Kay Adams, Sodom, NC.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Larry Norton Singing at the Easter Gap Gospel Sing, Sodom, NC.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Doug Wallin Fiddling at Home, Crain Branch, Sodom, NC.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Berzilla Wallin (left) and Her Aunt, Zipporah Rice, Rice Cove, NC.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.

Rob Amberg
Morris Norton Playing the Tune Bow, Sodom, NC.
Copyright © Photograph by Rob Amberg, 2014.


Posted in: Accidental Mysteries, Culture, Environment, History, Photography

Comment 0  |     |     |   Like 12  |   Tweet 26
Comments [0]


Creative Opportunities
  • Twitter Facebook Google+
    Tumblr Pinterest RSS

    Design Observer
    social media à la carte
  • Newsletter signup

  • Design Jobs
    Observer Jobs Spotlight




Places Journal
Mail Chimp