Justin Cook: Made in Durham

By  |  July 6, 2014

Through these portraits and landscapes, the series Made in Durham by Justin Cook explores the ways that violence, segregation, and urban renewal affect communities of a post-industrial city in the American South. Cook writes,

Long after the boom and bust of its tobacco industry, Durham, North Carolina, is experiencing another renaissance. But in its resurgence two Durhams are emerging: one revitalized and another left behind. The buildings of old tobacco factories are renovated into hip bars and businesses, while poverty rates hit 85% and high school graduation rates have dipped to 60%.

Locked up and locked out of mainstream employment, young men kill each other to enforce their own economy in these largely African-American neighborhoods. In 2013 there were thirty homicides, and the majority of victims and offenders were black males. Will this Durham be revitalized in an integrated way or will it be further marginalized as the downtown expands?

Durham's struggles are part of an American trend that keeps our country from living up to its potential. Whether there are five-hundred homicides (as in Chicago) or thirty, the pain is the same. But the human spirit persists as new communities are born of violence and strangers band together for support and change.

This is an American story made in Durham.

Justin Cook is a photographer because he believes that relationships are the only real currency in this world. He documents marginalization and memory in America for the relationships and to start conversations. A 2006 graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, his work has been honored by Pictures of the Year International, The Best of Photojournalism, The Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, Virginia Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists, and other organizations. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, accepts commissions worldwide and photographs part-time for The INDY Week. Otherwise you can find him instagramming his cats at #sprickers.

Jeff Rich is a photographer based in Iowa City. His work focuses on water issues ranging from recreation and sustainability to exploitation and abuse. Jeff currently teaches photography at the University of Iowa. He curates the OA’s weekly photo series, Eyes on the South.