of the Commons
Digital Documentary Photography
Fall 2008“Victory of the Commons” is a piece about North
Carolina’s diverse local food and greenery community. Weaving
together stories from different people’s lives, the piece speaks
to how a relationship with the land can be personal, communal, and innovative.
It speaks to land as a common space. And, lets face it, we all know
about the “tragedy of the commons,” where self-interest
can destroy a shared resource. While traveling around the state, I found
quite the opposite. I found a victory of the commons: people working
to care for and learn more about their environment.
Pieces about the Durham Farmer’s Market, Piedmont Biofuels, the
Herb Walk, the Crop Mob, and Strouse’s backyard collectively tell
the story of a very granola community. And a dip back into the past
reminds us that land use has often not been (and still isn’t)
a fair process. Race, gender, immigration status, and age are all connected
to the land. Fair food is as important as healthy food. One group that
is working towards fair food is FLO (Fair, Local, Organic) Food, a student
group at UNC-Chapel Hill. A few pictures from one of their events on
campus is included in the piece and FLO Food’s efforts really
speak to how this movement is bringing in sizable efforts from young
There are several issues within the food community ranging from land
acquisition and price to race and gender. This piece is not about the
issues. It is about how land can bring people together and, at times,
offer a type of peace we don’t encounter in our daily lives.
I shot this piece over about 8 trips and 3 months, producing more than
650 photographs. As someone who is personally interested in living sustainably
and building local communities, I learned quite a bit from the individuals
I photographed. Thanks to the dozens of friends and community members
who guided me.