By Kip Tabb | Outer Banks Voice on August 12, 2022
George Wood is a coastal environmental engineer by profession, but by inclination he is a photographer and artist. In an exhibit running from this month to the end of October at the Duck Town Hall, both profession and inclination come together in a remarkable journey through the history of the Outer Banks at his “Stories Illuminated” show.
The show consists of 29 images photographed by Wood at various Outer Banks locations beginning in 2014. Collectively, the story they tell weaves a tale of reliance, hope and faith.
“It is a timeline and is thematic,” he said. “In 2014, I was making images and I didn’t know they were going to come to something until around 2016. I saw that there was a story here and around 2017, I began to really seek out certain images.”
His professional training, which includes graduate work with coastal geologist Dr. Stan Riggs, is clearly part of the show.
“I’m a student of Stan Riggs,” he said. “He was on my thesis committee. So a lot of the things…he drilled into my mind about the coastal processes. This set of pictures here is talking about the beginning of the Outer Banks when the shoreline was way far out,” he said, pointing to the images telling of the earliest history of the barrier island.
At first glance, those first images seem simple— pictures of nature and the forces associated with the Outer Banks. Yet they are striking, the colors rich and vibrant, the details seeming to flow from the images.
“The Beaches are Moving” appears to be nothing more than the stumps of ancient trees on the Carova beach. But look more closely and Wood’s artistry becomes apparent. The ocean and waves are muted; the image, taken when there was a shallow sheen of water on the beach, reflects the stumps. And the stumps stand out against that muted background.
Perhaps the most striking photo of the exhibition is “Front Passing,” where lightening dances from storm clouds to Roanoke Sound. It is one of the earliest pictures in the show, captured eight years ago when he was on the Dare County Airport Authority Board of Directors.
“I was coming back from the Airport Authority one night and there was this this storm off to the north. So I set up my tripod…with a big piece of metal at the top,” he said. “It might not have been the smartest thing to do. I set it [the camera] for a long exposure. What I did was expose it until lightning struck [the water] and took like three or four pictures, then scooted back to the car went home.”
His pictures not only illustrate Wood’s creativity, but also his ability to tell a story with a single picture. Nowhere is that as apparent as in “Blind Rage,” an image of two stallions frighting on the beach of Corolla.
“One of the things I don’t like about horses and horse pictures is a lot of times, is they’re just graceful animals not doing anything. That’s not very exciting,” Wood explains.
The picture is a black and white image, and perhaps because there is no color to distract the eye, the violence of the confrontation takes center stage.
“I’ve seen some of those battles. They are really brutal,” he said. “These interactions are so primal.”
The show also highlights Wood’s innovative editing. “Sweet Gum Bridge,” which is familiar to anyone who has spent time in Nags Head Woods, suggests the impressionism of a Monet or Seuralt. It is an autumn scene, the leaves blurred as the wind blows, making it seem difficult to even focus on any one point in the picture.
Some of the most compelling images are ones that capture each detail. That is the case with “Morning Reflection,” a picture that catches the Whalehead Club footbridge at a moment when early morning light has not yet created shadows and the moon is still visible. Look carefully, and a crane is framed beneath the arch of the bridge.
There is a spiritual quality to “Morning Reflection,” something Wood has consciously sought in his imagery. That is apparent in “Faith,” a striking black and white image of the Wright Brothers Memorial with what appears to be the sun behind it. That same theme is also found in “God and Country,” a picture of the Portsmouth Village chapel.
For Wood, “Stories Illuminated” is a four-part saga that looks at the various stages of the timeline of the area.
“I felt there were four chapters,” he said. “That would be the natural before man, the influence of man, the way that we alter the way that we live here in order to be safer, lighthouses and such like that. And then the fourth, how we have to have faith and belief.”
Town of Duck Rotating Art Show. This exhibit will be on display 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) from August 4- October 27, 2022 in the first floor conference room of the Town Hall.