The Blue Ridge Ancient and Majestic: A Celebration of the World’s Oldest Mountains
May 1, 2010
With the arrival of the holiday and gift-giving season, so too come friends and family seeking to make the mountains part of their festivities. Indeed, in wintertime the Appalachians wear a stark sort of beauty. Yet there are those who can’t make the trip or who want to carry home a piece of the mountains.
Luckily, there is no shortage of books about the Smokies. Whether the people one cares for live right next door or on the other side of the world, they can escape to the mountains via books, in which pictures and text bring alive the beauty of the place we call home.
In The Blue Ridge Ancient and Majestic: A Celebration of the World’s Oldest Mountains (ISBN 978-0-9821-16227, $39.95), photographer Jerry Greer and writer Charles Maynard offer a feast for the eyes and the heart. Greer’s photographs are stunning. A picture taken from Grandfather Mountain at dawn—a two-page spread near the beginning of the book—seems surreal, as the sky and mountains look as if they had been dipped in a red dye. Many of Greer’s other photographs—waterfalls, old cabins, vistas—invite the viewer to linger over the pages. Maynard’s accompanying essays fit neatly with these pictures, giving insights not only into the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge but its history and the affection those who visit or live here have for the place.
Richard Mack’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Thirty Years of American Landscapes (ISBN 978-0-9753954-2-4) offers an intimate look at different parts of the park from a man who has photographed the park while camping and hiking his way through it. Mack’s affection for the Smokies comes across in his introduction and in every photograph that follows. His long shots of the mountains, like Greer’s photos, are beautiful, but it is in his pictures of creeks and streams that Mack brings the terrain to life. These pictures in particular—snow-covered stones in the middle of a stream, the green moss on rocks and fallen trees by a creek—vividly evoke our mountain waters, and are evidence of a fine photographer devoted to his craft. One may not quite hear the rush and spill of water over stones, but these pictures will bring one close.
For those wanting a more prosaic look at the mountains—or simply a smaller book for the purposes of mailing or a casual gift—Blue Ridge Parkway: Impressions (ISBN 978-1-56037-252-3, $12.95) is a fine choice. Photographers Pat and Chuck Blackley take scenes from along the scenic drive that begins in North Carolina and ends in Virginia. Cara Ellen Modisett, who lives in the Shenandoah Valley and wrote the accompanying text, is a fine guide not only to the photographs, but to the Parkway as well.
Blue Ridge Parkway Celebration: Photographs, Poetry and Prose (978-0-9892870-81, $47.95) features Nye Simmons’ photography. Simmons lives in Knoxville, Tenn., and has spent 10 years taking pictures along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Accompanying his lush photographs are short essays and poems by 47 Appalachian writers. The editors have done a fine job of matching pictures to text. Anne Gaillard’s poem “Frosted Oak” accompanies a photograph of just such a scene near Bunches Bald Overlook, an ice-covered oak with just a few red leaves left on the branches, looking more like a painting than a photograph.
Finally, for those looking to understand the mountain’s human landscape, there is Tim Barnwell’s The Face of Appalachia: Portraits From The Mountain Farm (ISBN 0-393-05787-9, $29.95). Barnwell’s black-and-white shots of Appalachian farmers and rural families, taken from the 1980s on, cover an array of faces and events—from a lone girl standing on a porch to men gathered for a hunt, from a baptism in a creek to a funeral. The work includes short essays from the people in Barnwell’s photographs, many of whom have died by now, adding extra poignancy to the photographs and the subject’s written memories. The Face Of Appalachia is a reminder of how much our region has changed in just the past few decades.
For additional recommendations of books about our region, visit any local bookstore.