Billy Powell: A Photo Essay
Billy Powell: A Photo Essay
Billy Powell has spent years trying to preserve the history of Cabal, a tiny, unincorporated rural community of just a few dozen residents in South Carolina, about an hour southwest of Charlotte, NC, where he grew up.

His property there spans 300 acres along the Broad River, where Powell, who's 85, grows a variety of produce and wine grapes and raises cows, chickens, and bees.

Powell said the home, built in 1853 and known as the Osborne House, was originally owned by slave-holders and passed down through generations until 2001 when he bought it from the last living members of the Osborne family. 

In collecting artifacts, documents and mementos from generations of family and nearby residents, Powell has become an unofficial historian of the community.

"Everything kept around here, beautiful or ugly, is kept for a reason," he told me.
Background

I was asked to photograph Billy Powell for an issue of Winthrop University's quarterly magazine. They requested a single portrait of Powell to be taken on his property. It would run with a two-page feature about the former graduate's work restoring the Osborne House and opening it up to historic tours.

I drove an hour and a half through South Carolina back roads with a writer from the university and met Powell at his home. After chatting for just a few minutes I knew his story deserved more than a single photo to represent it. This was a man, a descendant of slaves, who, through determination and years of work, had reclaimed a home known to have once belonged to slave owners and preserved the story of a community that could've been lost to history.

I spent the day with Powell who let me wander about his home and property taking pictures. I approached the project as a journalist, photographing the place and moments as they were, without offering any direction. Likewise, in post production I followed NPPA guidelines and didn't retouch or alter the images. I used Lightroom to download, organize and prepare the raw files. Then I made contrast adjustments and final exports for various print and web publications in Photoshop.

Fortunately, Winthrop's magazine editors like my idea to expand the story to include additional photos. The feature page count was doubled to make room for multiple images, the online version included a photo gallery, and the marketing office promoted the work. The story was very well received both in print and online.
Billy Powell: A Photo Essay
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Billy Powell: A Photo Essay

A documentary photo story
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Published:

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