Brian Brown’s Vanishing Georgia, Part II

Every state needs a Brian Brown

Tom Poland

Posted April 19, 2024

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer

Brian Brown (Photo courtesy of Brian Brown)

Georgia’s a big state and the road from home can be long and winding. Brian Brown knows it well.

“Being invited to stay in some of the historical homes I photograph has been rewarding, especially being able to ‘see the bones’ of places I often only experience from the outside. It’s also been an honor getting to know so many others who share my interest in architecture and preserving our historic built environment. I’m really glad that people from our smaller towns can now see their hometowns on the Internet. When I started my work, they were often poorly represented.”

From time to time, Brian features photographs of wildlife and native plants of the region, as well as festivals, folk life, and personalities who help make Georgia the wonderful place he calls home. He points out that not everything he documents is literally vanishing. “On my website that includes myriad forms of architecture and businesses that just aren’t being built or operated anymore.”

Brian Brown on the road documenting a vanishing Georgia. (Photo courtesy of Brian Brown)

Documenting the past is rewarding in and of itself, but other rewards come with the mission.

“My recent work with the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation on their book, Architecture of the Last Colony, was an amazing experience. The book is a general survey of Georgia’s historic architecture spanning over 250 years. Having my work in the permanent collections of several museums is humbling. Another favorite experience was being invited to participate in the Southern Icons A-Z show at Slow Exposures a few years ago. I got to see my work alongside some of my favorite photographers, including William Christenberry, and my good friend Janisse Ray wrote the text that accompanied my photograph.”

Garden & Gun featured Brian’s work in its April/May 2020 feature “The Disappearing South.” In it Emily Witmer wrote the following.

“The Georgia photographer Brian Brown recalls how a blanket of Lowcountry fog rolled in the morning he shot the Henry Walcott House, swaddling the structure in Long County, near the coast, with an otherworldly feeling, as though one were looking back in time. No surprise, considering looking back in time is sort of Brown’s MO. For Vanishing South Georgia, his twelve-year-long project, he has made a habit of getting lost in the lower half of the state, capturing more than 125,000 images of structures similar to this antebellum home. To Brown, the architecture of the house, built with whatever materials were available and sans architect, conveys the reality of rural landowners in the mid-1800s. Though it’s much better preserved than many of its contemporaries, to the photographer the home also suggests a ticking clock. ‘A photograph may be the only way to save the place for future generations to see how people lived,’ Brown says.”

Oak Grove Methodist Church, 1919, in Screven County, Georgia, beautiful in decay. (Photo courtesy of Brian Brown)

Consider Brian Brown a preservationist.

“While I love all architecture, especially the Greek Revival, and document a wide variety, I think the most important thing I capture is the architecture of blue-collar Georgia. Vernacular architecture is a big term for simple houses and since most of us come from rural and working backgrounds, I see them as a part of our collective DNA. Knowing where we came from, as the adage goes, can help us know where we’re going.”

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