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After the Amon Carter Exhibition in 1978, I wanted to stay closer home as I noticed during the three years of travel that my parents were aging. I started a project photograhing two farms my father owned in North Caroline and Virginia. I wanted to use a process that was at least as old as the trees on the Virginia farm, 100 year-old red oaks. A friend who thought my images looked like mirrors offered to buy me a Daguerreotype kit. I asked her if she were trying to kill me as fuming mercury to process the images would mean a much shorter life span. Instead she gave me a platinum kit, a turn of the century process which created a tonal range beyond what could be accomplished with silver bromide or silver chloride papers, ones bought in local camera stores. I also traveled to the Smithsonian and xeroxed every page about the turn of the century process of exposing and coating papers in palladium and platinum. The coated papers and the emulsion were so slow that a normal exposure was six minutes in sunlight. Early photographers placed their negatives against the coated paper, flattened it by a frame, set it on an easel and waited for the exposure. I used something called a platinum printer that had a light that captured only the spectrum of light that exposed the paper and had an internal fan. I set a Graylab timer for six minutes and walked away because looking at the light would damage my eyes. I used an 8x10 Deardorff and occasionally my 11x14 Deardorff to shoot with cameras that required longer exposures and would be suitable, large enough, to contact print directly on the coated paper.


Mother, Father and Caroline in the Mirror, Prince Street, Durham, NC

© 1977  Caroline Hickman Vaughan


Homestead, The Anderson Place,News Ferry, VA (platinum print)

© 1984 Caroline Hickman Vaughan

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Mother, Ward Street, Durham, NC

© 1985 Caroline Hickman Vaughan  BT

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Oaks and Homestead, News Ferry, VA, (platinum print)

© 1983 Caroline Hickman Vaughan


 Father, Ward Street, Durham, NC, platinum

© 1985 Caroline Hickman Vaughan


Aunt Mary Woods, Father, Ward Street, Durham, NC

© 1987 Caroline Hickman Vaughan

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Mother, Father, Maternal Grandparent Cameos

Platinum Print showing edges of 8x10 negative

and brush marks

© 1993 Caroline Hickman Vaughan

Platinum Prints are made on coated

watercolor paper and have a longer tonal range

and are softer than silver gelatin paper

which is razor sharp and often not as flattering.

Sisters, Jeanette and Mary, Durham, NC

© 1987 Caroline Hickman Vaughan

Published in Borrowed Time


Mary and William, Durham, NC

© 1992 Caroline Hickman Vaughan BT

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Mother, Father, Maternal Grandparent Cameos

Color Print Detail From 20x24 Polaroid

© 1993 Caroline Hickman Vaughan

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Father, Durham, NC 

© 1985  Caroline Hickman Vaughan  

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Father and the White Chicken, Granville County, NC

© 1992 Caroline Hickman Vaughan

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Father, Before I was born, With His

Air-Flow Desoto, Durham, NC 

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Father, Durham,NC 

© 1993 Caroline Hickman Vaughan BT


Father, Durham, Snow Building, NC 

© 1990 Caroline Hickman Vaughan

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Mother, Durham 

© 2004 Caroline Hickman Vaughan

Home Ground was the result of photographing my parents and two tobacco farms which had belonged to my family for over a hundred years. I used a 8x10 negatives for a period of ten years. I was seeking the quiet self-possessed beauty of the real world, years after the farm was no longer a working farm. A tenant farmer grew our share of tobacco. I received on quarter of the profits after they went to the waerhouse to grade the tobacco and sell it. The income was just enough to pay the taxes on the land of 212 acres.

Father planted pine trees thirty years before I was born and after high school he entrusted me to join a Stewardship Plan with Virginia Forest Rangers. They gave me a booklet which outlined when I should thin the trees, vet the crew to cut the trees. It would be another thirty years before the trees matured to be clear cut which would make substantial money. Between managing the trees, the pine bark beetle could infest the forest. The rule for an infestation was to cut ten acres of trees surrounding the infestation. Fire, lightening, a tossed cigarette could burn the forest down. I gave the share cropper family complete control of the tobacco, and hunting season. I gave the daughter-in-law permission to issue tickets for $1 each to anyone in her family and relatives for each season to hunt and did not allow anyone else. We shared the same name: Vaughan. They kept watch over the farm like eagles and reported anything suspicious to me. One-time young boys were riding off road vehicles all through the farm. The farmer asked if I wanted them to put up a wire to prevent their riding or making trails. I said no as it might behead one of them. They instead moved their hunting dogs to my property so the barking alerted them if any strangers ventured on the farm.

When I used my father or brother in the landscape they were very tiny in comparison to the oaks. I felt very small surrounded by the old trees, as if God were looking down on me, or as if  if I were looking down at an ant. After I photographed a barn, within two years a tree would fall on it and smash the tin roof, taking it to the ground. Some squatters lived on my brother's farm and one of the tobacco barns burned to the ground. Afterwards, knowing the buildings were dangerously dilapidated, our family boarded up the homeplace where my father was born near Oxford, NC. I felt the need to preserve the trees and buildings that remained in the spirit of fond memory of my ancestors but also a tribute to places that meant something to people.

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