Arts & Culture

Lua Ribeira: Shadow – A Parable

Lua Ribeira trails a local reporter in Wilson, North Carolina and photographs the spaces around the news stories

Lua Ribeira

Invited to hold a workshop at this year’s Eyes on Main Street, a photography festival that takes place annually in Wilson, North Carolina, Lua Ribeira arrived a week early to make work.

During this period, Lua paid a visit to the offices of local newspaper The Wilson Times, where she met reporter and photographer Drew Wilson. When there is something to report in Wilson, Drew hones in and reports it. “He became a friend and supporter of my work for that week,” says Lua, who accompanied Drew on his beat, shooting as he worked. Weegee had his shortwave radio; Lua had Drew.

Lua and Drew produced “two visions of the city, through two distinct languages.” Written and headlined by Drew, and published in The Wilson Times in the period October 26–28, 2021), the stories reproduced below are in the accepted language of the locally newsworthy:

Haunted forest offers free family frights
No arrests in courthouse shooting
New Miss Wilson has big plans
Rare 1800s photos of African Americans

Lua shot “from the sides” as Drew went about his reporting, capturing her “definitely subjective” vision of Wilson as these occurrences played out: “I’m interested in the potential of chance encounters and the spaces that emerge through them,” she says. “The possibility of sharing a common – almost intimate – experience that materializes afterwards in the photographs.”

This approach extends to the sequencing of the images. For Lua, her images do relate both to Drew’s stories and to various facts she gleaned about Wilson – its past reliance on the tobacco industry or the railway tracks that symbolically segregated the town, for instance – but she has no interest in making those connections concrete, whether to herself or to the viewer.

“I hope the images are open enough so the viewer has the opportunity to bring their own interpretation. I think not just the images, but also the articles, that apparently belong only to local affairs, are in this broader context inviting us to read between lines, to reveal something more layered about a place.”

Sometimes an outsider is privileged to feel the contradictions and potentialities of a new place keenly, and to explore them. The only eyes we have on Main Street are our own..

Lua would like to thank Jerome, Rosa, Peter and Juan Carlos, the team of Eyes on Main Street, for their support in making the serioes possible.

Tarboro Street, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021

Haunted forest offers free family frights

Passersby might think things are abnormal at 1205 Brookside Drive with all the severed hands, decapitated skulls and body parts scattered about the front yard. But, in fact, things couldn’t be more normal for the Crawford household. Human skeletons hang from trees. Dog and cat skeletons sit at attention as if waiting for a treat. The Crawfords are just preparing for their Halloween Haunted Forest, something they work for all year long. “This is so little compared to what it’s going to look like,” Janeen Crawford said Tuesday as she walked among a dozen animatronic figures lined up the driveway (…)

The Crawfords are a family of fright, familiar with fear. Halloween was always the favorite annual event for “Big Steve” Crawford, the family patriarch, who died Aug. 2. Big Steve started it all 40 years ago when he purchased a life-sized, green-skinned Hulk. “It was my husband. He passed away three months ago and it has been rough. Halloween was his thing,” Janeen Crawford said, trying hard not to cry.

Led by Big Steve, the family would venture out after Halloween each year seeking 50% off sales on hair-raising decor. Throughout the year, they would seek out estate sales and thrift stores for scary stuff. “We make it to every Spirit Halloween store within an hour and a half radius,” Crawford said. “We get all the stuff.” Last summer, they went to Tennessee to pick up what was left of a Halloween attraction that was closing.

Crawford´s family garden, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Second hand warehouse store. Wilson NC
Edna Boykin Cultural Center parking, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021

“We drove with all the kids and bought everything he had,” Crawford said. Halloween is an all-year thing for the Crawfords. “The grandchildren don’t play with regular toys,” Crawford said. “They play with Halloween stuff.” Every room in the house has blood-curdling objects.“My son thinks his birthday is on Halloween. It is not,” said Christine Crawford, Janeen and Steve’s daughter.

When the garage overflowed with petrifying paraphernalia, the Crawfords rented a storage unit to keep all the creepy stuff. Three years ago, the family moved to Wilson from Suffolk, Virginia. The Crawfords’ collection of Halloween items isn’t for the faint of heart. “They are not little Tinker Bells and Winnie the Poohs. They are scary stuff. We don’t do kiddie stuff. Everything was this,” Janeen Crawford said, pointing in her dining room to a 7-foot-tall animatronic clown with teeth sharp enough to shred a piece of meat.

With alarming lights and the sinister sounds, the entrance to the haunted trail is so horrifying that some youngsters can’t take it, Crawford said. “The kids are even scared to come through the entrance,” she said. “The parents are dragging them through.” The attraction offers fright with every footstep. “We’ve got like 100 spiders in various sizes and looks,” Crawford said. A big, fat, rat-like mouse follows folks through the tunnel of terror. Janeen Crawford has plastered placards all over Wilson for the haunted trail. The family wants everyone to stop by for a free fright on Halloween night.

Downtown carpark, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Downtown, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Second-hand warehouse store. Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Empty house downtown. Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Train tracks, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021

No arrests in courthouse shooting

Authorities haven’t arrested anyone in a Monday shooting in front of the Wilson County Courthouse. No one was injured in the spray of gunfire. Wilson County sheriff’s deputies and Wilson police responded to a 12:30 p.m. shots-fired call on Nash Street between Goldsboro and Tarboro streets. “When officers arrived, they were unable to secure the area and look for any victims,” Wilson Police Department spokesman Sgt. Eric Kearney said in a news release. Shots rang out while defendants, witnesses, court officers and law enforcement officers were on a lunch break from a session of Wilson County District Court.

“Officers and forensics (technicians) located several shell casings, which were collected,” Kearney said. Witnesses said a group of angry young people approached a man in a white car before someone pulled out a gun and started shooting. “At this time, no suspects have been identified,” Kearney said in the release.

Magistrate Robert Smith at home. Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Public library garden. Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Miss Wilson participants. Wilson, NC. United States. 2021

Wilson County Sheriff’s Office Chief of Staff Wanda Samuel said the shooting didn’t disrupt the District Court session. “Officers remained in the immediate area to provide foot patrols for security,” Kearney said. Greenville resident Angel Mendieta, who had a case to resolve in the courthouse, was a witness. “I was out here. I came to court. I saw some guys arguing out here and the next thing I know, they’re shooting,” Mendieta said. Mendieta said the shooting happened on Nash Street across from the courthouse. “I was standing there getting ready to go back into court, and I just turned around and they got to shooting and stuff,” he said. Mendieta said several men on the sidewalk were arguing with a man in a car. “They started arguing right in front, ‘cause everyone was watching them arguing,” he said. Mendieta said he didn’t know many shots were fired because he returned to the courthouse out of concern for his safety.

“I didn’t get to hear that much because I went back inside,” Mendieta said. “As soon as I heard it, I went back inside. I didn’t really want to stand around, you know.” Mendieta said he didn’t see who fired the gun. “I couldn’t believe that happened right in front of the courthouse,” he said. “Right in front of the courthouse. That’s crazy.”

Court House Memorials. Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Goldsboro Street, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Lexus. Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Lake Wilson Reservoir, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Janeen, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021

New Miss Wilson has big plans

The newly crowned Miss Wilson 2022 said she can’t wait to get out and meet the people. Anna-Claire Musick, an Elm City native who lives in Macclesfield, won the 51st Miss Wilson Scholarship Competition on Saturday night at the Edna Boykin Cultural Center.

“I am absolutely overjoyed. I have waited a long time for this opportunity. Growing up in Wilson, I have got some big plans,” Musick said. “I want to be part of this community like Miss Wilson has never been before and make sure that they know we are here and that we are ready to accept a bunch of incredible women.”

Rashika Karanam of Cary won the Wilson’s Outstanding Teen 2022 competition and its $300 scholarship prize.“I am really, really glad to serve the Wilson community,” Karanam said, “I cannot wait for an amazing year. And I hope that I make a difference as the new Miss Wilson Outstanding Teen. (…)

Whirligig Park. Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Tabacco auction, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021

Co-executive directors were David Bray and Debbie Viverette. Bray said the competition is an opportunity for young women to show off their talents and demonstrate their community service interests. “They are smart. They are talented. They are very service-oriented,” Bray said. “We cannot go wrong no matter who wins tonight.” Viverette said the competition was tight.

“They are very articulate. They have a servant’s heart. They like being in the community,” Viverette said. “I don’t think we can go wrong.” Bray said Miss Wilson is a great role model for up-and-coming younger women. As winner, Musick will go on to represent Wilson in the Miss North Carolina competition in June. Bray said the Miss America competition will turn 100 years old in December.

He said the Miss Wilson competitors have to be 18-26 and must live in Wilson County or one of 10 surrounding counties. The teen competition is open to girls age 13-17 who live within the same radius. “What I always say is whether you win the competition or not, when you walk off that stage, you need to look at the growth from before you started until now, because those young women can go through almost any interview after this,” Viverette said. “They know how to dress. They know how to carry themselves.”

Organizers say the preparation and competition uplifts the contestants.“Enjoy the journey whether you win the title or not,” Viverette said. Some contestants may never win a title, but directors say the experience benefits them. “I just want to say I am just so proud of the girls,” Bray said. “I have met them all. I have done interviews with them, I helped them prepare for tonight, and I can say they are very, very prepared.”

Last year’s competition was called off due to COVID-19.

Train tracks at Nash street, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Smoove, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Second-hand warehouse store, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021

Rare 1800s photos of African Americans displayed

Early photographs of African Americans are exceptionally rare, according to collector Craig James. James, who has one of the largest collections of 19th-century African American photographs, is one of Sunday’s speakers for the Eyes on Main Street Outdoor Photo Festival. The event is free. James, a Johnston County attorney, has been collecting daguerreotype, ambrotype and tintype photographs for almost 20 years.

“It was pretty rare because oftentimes, the African American in the photograph is often actually a prop,” James said. “They are not the subject of the photographs. So in a lot of my photographs, you are going to see Blacks and whites together.”

When young white children were photographed, they had to remain still, as the exposure time was typically several minutes long. In order to keep children still, photographers would place them with the person they were most comfortable with. Often, that was an African American nanny.

The first photograph in James’ collection is a daguerreotype, a technology invented in 1839.“The photographs in my collection could range from anywhere from 1839 up until the turn of the century,” James said. James began collecting the photos when a friend introduced him to what is called a tintype. “I was fascinated by it because I could hold so much history right in the palm of my hands,” James said. “Many of the tintypes are about the size of a playing card. I had the opportunity to look back over 100 years and see the faces of the people that lived during that time.”

Elyssa, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Barnes Street, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021

The photos gave James the opportunity to write a narrative about their subjects. “It wasn’t always a horrifying story or a horrific story,” James said. “Sometimes it is a pleasant story.”James has photos from New Hampshire down to Florida and all the way across to Mississippi, Texas and Oklahoma. James said the clarity in the photographs is remarkable, which makes it possible to see details that indicate the pictures’ age.

“A lot of times, that’s what we use to date the photograph, like the clothes that they are wearing,” James said. “Fashion is something that is heavily recorded. Then you have furnishings. Most of the world’s fairs would have these big furniture expositions, and they would be introducing new pieces and you would see when this particular chair style was introduced, so it gives you an idea as to when the photograph may have been taken.”

James encourages people to come out, look at the photos, express themselves on what they see and “allow the photograph to speak to them in their own way.” James is unveiling a recently acquired photograph that appears to have been taken during a public gathering on the streets of Wilson in 1894. “It’s a piece that probably is controversial. It’s a piece that leaves you with a lot of questions, and it’s a piece that could inspire some research from Wilson natives to try to find out the background of the piece,” James said. “I don’t have the background yet. It’s a powerful piece. It is a piece that may invoke anger. Then again, it may invoke sadness, so the piece has a lot going on.”

Imam, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Samuel H. Vick grave (1861-1946), Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
Nash Street, Wilson, NC. United States. 2021
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