A River of the People

About a year ago, writer Phoebe Zerwick and photojournalist Christine Rucker set out on an audacious project to tell the story of the Yadkin River. The river is right now the focus of an intense fight between Alcoa and the state of North Carolina over who should control a series of hydroelectric dams on the Yadkin. Alcoa once used the power to run a smelter on Badin Lake, but it shut down in 2007. The company still generates about $50 million annually from its hydroelectric operations and wants the federal government to issue another 50-year operating permit. The state, other government entities and citizens oppose the relicensing. 

But that’s not what Yadkin River Story is about. Phoebe and Christine had long wanted to tell a more intimate story about the people who live along the river, how it runs through their lives, how it connects them. They focused on a stretch of the river in the Yadkin Valley, in northwest North Carolina, far upstream from the contentious dams.

Along the way, they collected audio and made countless beautiful and moving images. They invited me to transform that audio (sometimes deeply flawed audio!) and those photographs into audio slideshows. 

The project evolved into a stunning collaboration with M Creative, a design firm in Winston-Salem. Amanda King contributed her graphic design and information architecture talents, without which this project would never have reached its potential.

The result has exceeded my wildest expectations, and I believe that it will touch many lives. In addition to the website, Yadkin River Story is also a photographic exhibit, which will be on display at the Yadkin Arts and Cultural Center through the end of October 2010. We hope that the exhibit will travel to other North Carolina venues, and have plans to provide the multimedia pieces in DVD format to schools and other interested organizations.

You can go meet the neighbors by following this link.