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E. Watson Brown

When E. Watson Brown retired from his work as a city planner in Tarboro, North Carolina, he had no idea his true calling was still ahead.

Courtesy of E. Waston Brown

Brown retired in 2004, and headed back to the region of Eastern North Carolina where he had grown up to restore his family’s 1854 plantation home. When that massive undertaking was underway, Brown realized he needed another project to keep himself busy. “I needed a break in my hard work routine, so I thought about photographing the historic houses in my home county of Edgecombe,” he told North Carolina’s Salt Magazine. While he had only used a camera a little bit in his work, he has always loved architecture even when he was a “weird kid.” He decided to combine his love of historic preservation and a new passion for photography, setting out to document the architecture of the South and the rural way of life that was slowly disappearing.

E. Watson Brown
E. Watson Brown
E. Watson Brown

Brown is a self-taught photographer, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the images he collects with his camera, which are colorful, full of textures, multi-layered, and downright beautiful. His pictures have a way of taking a Southern landscape you’ve seen on every trip down a country road and making them seem even more beautiful and rare and worthy of admiration. There are gorgeous old homes, of course, (this is the South after all), but also falling down porches, perfectly maintained cabins, scrubbed-clean farmhouses, outbuildings that had seen better days, stately mansions, abandoned gardens, tough-looking tom cats, churches losing their shingles, and other buildings that dotted the landscape near his home. He has also been known to step inside the homes, documenting the details of fireplaces, spiral staircases, peeling plaster ceilings, and wood-framed windows that look out over peanut fields. In Brown’s viewfinder they aren’t safety hazards or blight, but stunning reminders of a recent glorious history.

E. Watson Brown
E. Watson Brown

To share his photos, he launched an Instagram account under the name @planterboy, which is now mandatory viewing for fans of Southern and rural architecture or anyone who just likes a gorgeous image. Follow him there and if you like what you see, take a trip to Gallery C in Raleigh, North Carolina, who represents him.

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