Watson Brown’s Road to Photography

Watson Brown spent his career as a city planner in Raleigh, but always knew he would someday move back to his hometown of Tarboro. After retirement, Brown started going on back road journeys to take pictures of old abandoned houses and structures that speak to a disappearing past in eastern North Carolina. To the delight of his fans and followers, Brown turned his hobby into photographic works of art.

. . . I’d rather just take this book of county maps, go to a county and just start driving. I get lost all the time, but I don’t worry about it.

Watson Brown, Photographer

Capturing Ways of Life

Watson Brown’s photography starts with a bit of adventure along roads less traveled in rural North Carolina.

“I travel all over eastern North Carolina, most every road I can find trying to find treasures, ways of life—sometimes people,” said Brown.

“. . . I’d rather just take this book of county maps, go to a county and just start driving. I get lost all the time, but I don’t worry about it.”

Brown is self-taught, having never taken a photography class. He captures North Carolina’s back roads, abandoned houses and rural scenes with his photos, which take on a new character with his unique editing techniques.

“I can give them different moods: gothic or like an old English oil painting,” said Brown.

It’s these dream-like landscapes that fans have said “awaken memories in people.” Perhaps memories of a simpler time in North Carolina.

“It’s almost symbolic of what’s happened in the state, in the country,” Brown said of his photography subjects. “You know rural areas they’ve just declined.”

A Passion from Childhood

Brown had a passion for old, storied buildings even as a child.

“I was kind of an unusual kid,” said Brown. “I would go on trips with my parents or friends and they were talking and thinking about other things, I was looking at buildings and houses.”

Today, his passion is not only seen in his photography, but in his home too. He lives in a house built in the 1850s, which he restored.

Showcasing His Art

When Brown began showcasing his art, he was surprised at the response.

“What intrigued me the most is that these people really loved what I was doing,” he said.

His viewers responses in turn had an impact on him.

“I think what has evolved in me is the joy of transferring to other people to just learn how to look and appreciate what we’ve got. Because if you’re not careful it won’t be here.”

Brown’s artwork is exhibited at Gallery C in Raleigh, NC.


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