Photographer, writer, farmers-market icon make Lowcountry beauty talk

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comNovember 28, 2013 

This cover photograph by Marci Tressel was taken on Broad Creek on Hilton Head Island. It is called "Bateau and Snowy Egret."

SUBMITTED PHOTO

Oh, if these walls could talk.

You've heard the line all your life.

Now a Hilton Head Island photographer, writer and the star of the Bluffton Farmers Market are making an art gallery's walls talk.

The result is a clever look at the Lowcountry.

Marci Tressel has been a serious photographer of Lowcountry keepsakes for a couple of decades -- our bateaux, buildings, branches, beaches and burial grounds.

When she emailed a photograph of an old church to Margie Tolly, she got prose in return. After exchanging several similar emails, it dawned on the backroads travel partners that they should do a book.

"Reflections: Exploring Coastal Carolina" has just come off the press, published by Lydia Inglett of Hilton Head.

A show by the same name closes Saturday at the Walter Greer Gallery, run by the Art League of Hilton Head Island at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.

Visitors to the show can pull out their cellphone, dial a number, punch in a number beside each framed photograph and hear the words Tolly wrote about the image.

Tolly reads some of her own words, with the distinctive Southern accent of someone reared in the small town of Williamston in the Upstate. It might be from an imagined letter written at the Sheldon Church ruins in 1866. Or it might be a snappy poem about "Capn' Woody's Shrimp":

Nothing could be finer,

Than sweet shrimp from Carolina.

Peel and eat,

A Lowcountry treat.

But it is "Farmer Joe" who really makes the walls talk. Joe King is the outgoing son of a sharecropper who works on the Clark & Sons Organics farm 15 miles west of Statesboro, Ga.

King is a smiling, singing icon at the Bluffton Farmers Market each Thursday. That's where Tressel heard the rich baritone voice, which they recorded at the Maye River Gallery.

Tressel hopes each image can easily tell why we love the Lowcountry. There's Joseph "Crip" Legree sewing a cast net on St. Helena Island, an old Texaco station on U.S. 17, water pouring from the Healing Springs in Blackville, the Cooper River Cemetery on Daufuskie Island, a Hunting Island cabin battling the surf, a Bluffton "red dot" store, a river baptism, a camellia.

The walls are filled with tiny Lowcountry details, some all but buried and gone.

And for today, those walls can talk.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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