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Preserving forgotten rural communities

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February 28, 2012

Alumnus Brian Brown spends days driving from one end of South Georgia to the other.

Brian BrownBrian BrownHis destinations: forgotten rural communities.

“I have fun getting lost on dirt roads and discovering old farmhouses, churches, cemeteries and barns people generally take for granted or don’t ever see,” said Brown, ’92. “With my camera I can do more with history than I would have ever imagined.”

The Georgia College history major decided to take a non-traditional career path during 2008.

Today, the architectural and documentary photographer and writer shares his images of Georgia’s rural and coastal areas on his three blog sites: Vanishing South Georgia, Vanishing Coastal Georgia and Irwinville Farms.

“The response was slow at first,” Brown said. “But within a year, I was selling images to private collectors and even shooting for commercials.”

Georgia College’s rich history and architecture cinched the deal for the Fitzgerald, Ga., native to attend Georgia College and study history.

Brown’s history professors taught him to gather Brian Brown/Vanishing South Georgia Tile Tobacco Barn: now in use as a storage building, Red Bluff, GA (Coffee County)Brian Brown/Vanishing South Georgia Tile Tobacco Barn: now in use as a storage building, Red Bluff, GA (Coffee County)historical information from a variety of sources, he said.

“The research skills I developed in college are evident in my photography today,” he said. “Professors such as Dr. Victoria Chandler, Dr. Bob Wilson, Dr. Martha Keber and Dr. William Hair taught in a way that kept history alive, interesting and up to date.”

Photography of history department secretary Mary DeVries published in student journal “The Peacock’s Feet” also served as an early inspiration for Brown.

“I’m constantly looking for various stories behind the places I photograph,” Brown said. “The challenge often lies in identifying the places I’ve captured. Luckily, my websites have become very interactive, and people from across the region often share stories and histories about these little-known locales.”

After college Brown worked as a world history teacher at Fitzgerald High School in Fitzgerald, Ga. There he realized his passion for history lives in field research.

“That’s when I revisited an old hobby — photography,” said Brown. “When I received the opportunity to work at Jefferson Davis Memorial Historic Site, I was able to partner my camera and the skills learned at Georgia College in a new way.”

Brown’s photography and writing have earned local and national recognition. He became an award-winning photographer of the 2011 Thomasville Landmarks Photo Contest and winner of the 2008 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize — one of the largest independent literary prizes in the country.

Brown’s historic poems have appeared in more than 50 journals and anthologies. He recently published his first book in a series, “Vanishing Irwin County,” based on his website, Vanishing South Georgia.

“These projects have put me in contact with people from around the world who share my interest in vernacular architecture and the loss of small rural communities,” he said. “My work has given me the opportunity to discuss these communities with many art associations and colleges.”

Brown advises history students to look beyond the material taught in the classroom and talk with professors about history-making opportunities available after college.

“With the growth of media through the Internet, history opportunities abound,” he said.

This year Brown is collaborating with a doctoral student of Savannah College of Art & Design who will produce a documentary about Brown and Vanishing South Georgia.

“I will continue to produce self-published books related to certain counties on my websites,” Brown said. “Because my professors at Georgia College were involved in my success, I’ve been able to thrive on what I learned and found my niche in preserving history.”

To learn more about Brown and his work, visit

ABOUT GEORGIA COLLEGE: Georgia College, the state’s designated Public Liberal Arts University, combines the educational experience expected at esteemed private liberal arts colleges with the affordability of public higher education. Its four colleges – arts and sciences, business, education and health sciences – provide 6,600 undergraduate and graduate students with an exceptional learning environment that extends beyond the classroom, with hands-on involvement with faculty research, community service, study abroad and myriad internships.

Founded in 1889, Georgia College boasts one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation with Corinthian columns fronting red brick buildings and wide open green spaces. Georgia College also offers graduate education at the historic Jefferson building in downtown Macon, at Robins Air Force Base and online.

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