The Picture Man: Photographs by Paul Buchanan
The Picture Man was Paul Buchanan (ca. 1910-1987), an itinerant photographer who, on foot, on horseback, and by car, wandered four North Carolina mountain counties from 1920 until about 1951. He had stopped making pictures for more than thirty years when Ann Hawthorne, a photographer living in the mountains, heard about Buchanan and went to see him. He told her stories--many of which are transcribed in this book--and showed her some of his negatives, which were filthy and, she thought, unprintable. Hawthorne cleaned them up, though, and discovered a splendid photographer. Buchanan didn't think of himself that way; he took pictures because it paid well, and he was a professional who took pride in what he did. Buchanan worked during years when the mountains were still relatively isolated and when many outsider photographers tended to stereotype the people who lived there, posing them in homespun instead of their new store clothes, for instance. Buchanan, born and raised in the mountains, never did that. These photographs are posed pictures, but the subjects did the posing. They chose what to wear and how to stand. In Paul Buchanan's pictures, then, we have a pure record, a gifted photographer's portrait of the people as they saw themselves. from Bruce Morton's introduction 'If I did take them,' Paul Buchanan said, 'they're good pictures. Good and plain.' They are that, but they are something more as well. They are history, or some of the stuff that history is made of: a few more pieces of the quilt that is our memory, that tells us who we were and who we are.