“Wild Vision” of a bygone era

Published 8:00 am Friday, October 28, 2022

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At the next Live@Lanier, on Thursday, November 10, at 2 p.m., see “wild visions” of WNC through the camera of a Japanese immigrant.


Born Masahara Iizuka in Osaka, George Masa arrived in Asheville in 1915 and began photographing the mountains and helping map the Appalachian Trail. With his large format camera, Masa trekked into rural and remote areas of western North Carolina during the 1920s and early 1930s. About a century later, Brent Martin hiked the same locations. Combining talent as a poet and passion as an environmental organizer, Martin wrote the story of the long-overlooked photographer’s “Wild Vision,” illustrating the book with 75 historic Masa photos.

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Martin’s first-person narrative contrasts, laments, and exalts the condition of the landscape that Masa loved and worked to protect. Masa’s images and knowledge of the landscape were instrumental in motivating John D. Rockefeller to donate $5 million for initial land purchases for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. His photographs were tools of advocacy, as well as art. He has been called the Ansel Adams of the Smokies.


Martin’s poetry and essays have been published in the North Carolina Literary Review, Pisgah Review, Tar River Poetry, Chattahoochee Review, Eno Journal, New Southerner, Kudzu Literary Journal, Smoky Mountain News and elsewhere.


Charles Frazier, author of “Cold Mountain,” praises “George Masa’s Wild Vision,” writing,  “Brent Martin… splendidly places Masa and his work in the context of the mountains they both love so much—a perfect match since Martin, like Masa, has spent most of his adult life studying the southern mountains, protecting them, exploring.” 


From the comfort of your Lanier chair at this next Felburn Nature and Wildlife Collection program, explore the “Wild Vision” of a bygone era of where you call home.