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Caroline Hickman Vaughan


AMERICAN, B. 1949--


Caroline Boxing with Father, Age Seven.

 Portrait circa 1955, by Mary Vaughan,

© 1996  Caroline Vaughan

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Cousin Mike, Brother Tommy and Caroline at Hungry Mother State Park, Marion, VA.

 Portrait circa 1952, by Mary Vaughan

© 1996  Caroline Vaughan

Caroline Hickman Vaughan grew up and attended public schools in Durham, North Carolina and spent three summers at Western Carolina College in a class taking language and advanced classes to supplement her public education. She was a part of TCE, The Cullowhee Experiment, designed by Dr. Dan Killian. Caroline was in the fourth grade studying French with Madame Arndt when a Life Magazine photographer published a story about the program. Caroline's class was published in a two page spread that summer in Life. Her family supported her three soujourns to Cullowhee.

In 1967, her first year of college, Vaughan was admitted to the course of study in the Duke University creative writing program, where she studied narrative writing with Reynolds Price and William Blackburn. During her college experience she continued to major in English but added more photography to her course curriculum in an independent study format. This additional challenge, since the school offered no photography classes, allowed her to seek out the guidance of John Menapace, and to become one of three co-founders of the first student publication dedicated to fine art photography. Latent Image I was produced to entice celebrated master photographer, Minor White, to Durham, because Caroline was seeking admission into the elite, highly intensive graduate course in photography that he taught at MIT. Caroline, Robert Roscow and John Menapace, Production Manager of Duke Press, coaxed Minor to visit Duke, published his work in the new magazine, while Minor gave lectures and had exhibitions of his work at Duke and UNC. Caroline was accepted into his graduate seminar housed in MIT's School of Architecture.

Her study in photography also allowed her to work with Murray Riss at the Penland School in North Carolina in 1969 on scholarship-work/study where she worked part-time as a janitor to help defray the expense of tuition and board. In 1974, she studied again at the Penland School. 

 Vaughan graduated from Duke in January 1971. After working on Latent Image I magazine, she skipped my graduation exercises and immediately traveled to San Francisco to meet Imogen Cunningham, her heroine. They struck up a friendship, which involved correspondence and a return trip. Vaughan balanced the influence of Imogen Cunningham, who said she hoped Caroline did something productive and not teach, and her complete opposite, Minor White, who was known as an editor of Aperture, philosopher and teacher. During the next years of her study, 1971-72, she participated in a program of intensive study with Minor White at MIT. She was the only female among his seven students for that academic year and received what was to be her must influential instruction in the technical and spiritual nature of her chosen art form. In 1977, she was nominated by a panel of photographic experts from Europe, North American and Australia, as one of 43 young, promising photographers as listed in the Time Life PhotographyYear–1977 edition.

She used her R B Super D Graflex camera to make portraits on 4x5 film. Other 4x5 field cameras, which required a dark cloth draped over the photographer and the camera to see the ground glass, showed the subject upside down and reversed left to right, a way of seeing that would later influence certain images that looked better upside-down. After the Graflex, Vaughan used a Sinar at MIT and later turned to using only Deardorff view cameras as they folded up and fit in her backpack. Deardorff & Sons was known as the workhorse which produced all the photographs for the Sears and Roebuck catalog among others.

Caroline-w Graflex_Polaroid_w_text_circa

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Self portrait circa 1972.


Persona, Prospect Bay, Nova Scotia

© 1975 Caroline Vaughan

This is an image that I printed 

upside down; however, through the view camera it looked exactly like this. The view camera sees as your brain does, upside down and reverses the image from left to right. After I made the image, the ice on the lake cracked, split in two. The image I saw from the bank vanished.


Portrait of Caroline in her gear. Potato Chip Truck, Hickory, NC,

portrait by Jane Hamborsky 2015.


Rhaeadr Ewynnol

Swallow Falls, Betws-y-Coed,Wales

© 1995 Caroline Vaughan

My highly personal history of making photographic images includes traversing North America, logging more than 75,000 miles to capture the vastness of nature's space. At the other extreme, I have worked quietly, very close to home, photographing members of my own family for more than twenty years, as if the universe could be found in their faces and their gestures in my attempt to interpret the natural world and its human inhabitants. In 2007, I returned to the Penland School to teach a course in the portrait, the self-portrait, the psychological portrait in landscape and the portrait as metaphor.

My first self-published photographic book made with Apple's Aperture software described mother's descent into Alzheimer's. I made the book to help deal with grief and sadness at not being able to connect with her or say goodby at the end, and for my family. Using images I took along each three hour drive to reach the rest home, the images often reflected rural neglect and abandonment.  The text described my feelings about how mother's decline progressed. Mother's illness lasted for eight years. The book was revised every two years to include more text and more photographs as mother developed glaucoma and macular degeneration. Blind, lost to see me, the book was a way to heal. The images and my writing  created a path to tap into my deepest emotions and by creating writing and photographs I found a path that helped guide my emotions and start the healing process even before she died. After she died, I took up painting an endeavor I enjoyed as a youth until I realized I couldn't draw. I used a wasp nest nest as her brain which looked riddled with holes illustrating the gray matter that had disappeared. Later I made a painting revealing our complex relationship and put her in a box and drew her hair on fire. My shrink commented that it was hard to get a hug from someone who was on fire.

My next book was called FIRE DRILL ! documenting a Durham Fire Department live training burn. I always wanted to photograph fire but never found any safe way to accomplish this. One day I noticed Fire Trucks gathered behind a well known garden shop which had two dilapidated houses in the foreground. I approached the Captain and asked permission to film the drill, promised to wear protective gear and stay behind any boundary he set. He told me to arrive the next day at 7am. In goose down pants and parka, water proof pants and and boots, I braved the cold as they instructed the fire fighters how to proceed. All training necessary to pass the test to become a fire fighter included at least one live burn. Men and women drove in from Wilmington, and cities across North Carolina to participate and earn their certificate. I made hundreds of images, decided to make a book explaining what was required to become a firefighter, and gave four CD disks containing 104 images to the Captain later so that he could show what a live burn looked like before they had to actually enter a burning house. I was close enough to hear one of them yell at his pal, after he complained, Wow, it was so dark in there I could hardly see anything. His partner yelled back: That's because your hat's on fire! 

To see a short video of two houses burning simultaneously go to the section called Blog.

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Fire Drill ! Images, Durham, NC     © 2001 Caroline Vaughan

I continued to make Apple books until Aperture software was discontinued. All books contained digital images as well as a personal narrative and my own poems unpublished elsewhere. These ten books now reside in the Caroline Hickman Vaughan Photographic Archives at the Gregg Museum of Visual Arts & Design. In July 2015, I made an early bequest to the Gregg of over one hundred boxes of my prints, thirty-one lineal feet of negatives (35mm-4×5, 5×7, 8×10 and 11×14) and books that had published my photographs during my career which spanned 1967-2015. I continue my interest in photography, shooting with an iPhone 11Pro. My field camera work and Polaroid images have been loaned to additional exhibitions by the Gregg Museum of Visual Art & Design. In 2013, I began to use a digital Nikon D300 as a smaller camera with less heft. Two of her still life images made digitally were showcased at the Nasher Exhibition “Across County Lines,” which opened October 6, 2018, as a part of the “Click” month long photography event originally created by the FRANK GALLERY in Chapel Hill, NC.

I returned to early themes in my life, mainly creative writing. I studied at Table Rock Writing Conference in fiction in 2016 and returned in 2019 to study poetry. My current interest is to write poetry and eventually publish a book with my photographs and poetry combined. I moved from Durham after 69 years and with my partner, Jane Anne Hamborsky, whom I met in 2013, built a home with a writing studio instead of a wet darkroom. Jane is a founder of the Orpheus Chamber Music Orchestra. We live with two Wheaten Terriers in Hillsborough, North Carolina.


When You Were in Paris, We Met Here

© 1965 Caroline Vaughan

My teacher from Cullowhee, North Carolina State Teacher's College, where I studied French in the fourth grade, invited me to travel with twelve of her female Chapel Hill students to Europe. Miriam or Madame Arndt, chaperoned us to London, Paris and Tours, France where we spent six weeks studying French in  the birthplace of Rabelais. At one point, I wandered off from the herd and in Monmartre, saw two people walking towards each other and made this image. It was my first good photograph. I made many mistakes in French class. I  made more in photographing, as I shot Plus-X and Tri-X, but when I returned home and developed all the film myself I realized I didn't understand what ASA meant so half the rolls were ruined. I learned everything in photography by doing it wrong the first time, ruining film, prints, experiments that failed. Failure was a gift. It taught me what I had done incorrectly and I never repeated the same mistake twice. My learning curve was try everything, fail, then continue to think of new ways to approach my visual subjects. I also learned about copyright and after making a portrait I loved of two women, they decided they didn't want to sign the model release. In all future shoots we signed the model release before I shot anyone. I made clear to my friends who modeled for me that their right was to say no if  I asked them to do anything that made them the slightest bit uncofortable, because once the image was made I owned the copyright. They would receive a print and one dollar to make the contract valid, but did not have the right to reproduce or copy it in any form. They could own it and view it, enjoy it and share it by displaying it but that was the limit of their rights.

I made a rule for myself that I would never ask any model, male or female to do anything that I was not willing to do myself.  When I made self portraits of myself in the nude, I needed someone to press the shutter release and often asked trusted friends to assist me, telling them first that I would own the copyright.

I always prepared extensively when I went shooting in extreme conditions, sweltering heat of Valley of Fire, New Mexico, or Vermont in the winter. I used climbing rope tied around my car tire to lower myself to waterfalls by the side of the road, but I always took a friend with me to call 911 in case of an accident. I felt the cold more than most people so I  began accumulating my go bag for snow to include three to four layers, the last was always Gortex pants which allowed me to crawl down to the river, rather than walk and fall. I never cared how stupid I looked, and wearing a fishing vest in winter is not your usual attire but I would do anything to get the photograph.

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Portrait by Jane Hamborsky. Caroline Photographing Christmas Day 2018

down coat and fishing vest

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Portrait by Jane Hamborsky.  Caroline Geared Up To Photograph in Snow, Hilllsborough, 2020.

Portrait of Caroline and Jean Nevins, (Penland School), NC

 © 1965 Caroline Vaughan

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Portrait by David Elmore, Vallley of Fire, NM,

© 1977    Caroline Vaughan 


Portrait by Allen Weiss, Raleigh,NC,

© 1987    Caroline Vaughan 

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