“Learning about the South is a great step towards understanding America, for in some ways the rest of America is becoming more like the South, notably in her music, her politics, and
her religious trends. At times it seems the South has changed greatly, because
of the influx of Northerners into urban centers. But
surveys show those whose roots are in the South retain a high degree of traditional attitudes in terms of family, religion,
race, and militarism. For many,
the modern South is the remnant of a lost utopia.”
The South's identity, according to Flannery O'Connor, results from beliefs and qualities "absorbed from the scriptures
and from her own history of defeat
and violation: a distrust of the abstract, a sense of human dependence on the grace of God, and knowledge that evil
is not simply a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured."
These photographs portray visual manifestations of that Southern identity. Along the back roads of the South, I’ve
found stories written in faces, and in the ways we southerners embellish our vehicles and homes, our vernacular architecture,
small business signs, even tombstones. I plan to continue searching for expressions of the South’s most creative aspects,
as well as the tragic aspects of her history. On a more universal level, these
images are about people and places that have been around, have taken a few hits,
been battered and bruised but still find humor, hope and transcendence in everyday life.
Some photographs were produced with the assistance of a grant from the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County.
Paul Dagys feels most at home when on the road. He is a pilgrim and born-again
Buddhist, who once knew the secret of the universe but forgot it. His photojournalism
work has appeared in LIFE, Time, Smithsonian, People, Forbes, Parade, U.S.
Weekend, Newsweek, Historic Preservation, and more than 100 other periodicals. Recently,
he has exhibited throughout the Triangle and in New York, Georgia,