Our Beautifully Strong, But Fragile Earth: An Interview with Local Photographer John MacLean
Franklin is home to many artists who are inspired by life in a blue ridge mountain valley. Photographers in particular find themselves surrounded by infinite possibilities to capture and create art, and one such photographer, John MacLean, showcases his incredible work in a gallery downtown near the gazebo.
MacLean accepted our invitation for an interview, and we were inspired by all he had to say about being an artist in Franklin, North Carolina.
How long have you been a photographer, and how did you discover your love for the medium?
I’ve been a photographer for about 50 years. My father introduced me to B&W shooting, film processing and enlarger printing around 1972 when I was 9 years young. My dad will be 93 in January and it’s wonderful to still share this craft with him. It’s been the longest love affair of my life.
What draws you to natural photography in the mountains, especially in the Franklin area?
The infinite variety and natural light of landscapes have always attracted me. The mountains of Western North Carolina provide a never-ending palette of color and illumination.
For photographers who are new to the area, which locations and times of year would you most highly recommend to shoot?
My favorite locations would probably have to be on the BRP. It’s just magical up there. And, of course, amazing waterfalls are everywhere, with a few very famous ones local to Franklin. I also really like some of the fire towers for views. (If aspiring photographers want lessons, I provide small workshops/photo tours and 1 on 1 training in the field or via online mentoring.)
Every season offers a different and inspiring composition. For vivid colors and more atmospheric vistas I would say any time from Spring thru Fall. The winter usually requires a long freeze to produce enough interest for me to go out in cold weather. That being said, I thought my fingers were going to snap off while at Dry Falls during the Polar Vortexes of 2014 and 2015. But I got some unique images. Lately I’m becoming more temperature challenged. 😉
Have you always lived in Franklin? What is the best part of being a local here?
My family has been here for 40 years. I spent 30 years out West, but visited often. I moved back East in 2012 to help my parents in their Golden Years after losing my older brother here a couple years before.
Photographically the best part of being local is having direct access to the area without having to travel long distances. As you know, the weather conditions here change the lighting, by the second. The air and water are great, and lifestyle-wise the traffic is non-existent compared to areas even within a couple hours away. The mountain life gives you more time and subject matter to explore and to experience its wonders.
What message do you hope to communicate through your art?
It’s my goal to capture the essence of each scene and visually communicate that to the viewer. I’m not just recording it with a device that replicates the location, but I’m trying to also put my optical spin on it, while keeping it as natural and organic as possible through controlled exposure and processing. My end result is to hopefully evoke a response that ultimately our beautifully strong, but fragile earth is in need of protection, or else we’ll just be left with beautiful images of it.
For more information check out johnmaclean.com.
Picture this: The moment has finally arrived for you and your love to stand hand in hand, all your friends and family present, to promise your undying love and commitment to one another. All around you, the mountains roll in beautiful hues of blue and green, and the air is fresh and clear—as if the whole world is celebrating with you.
If you’re ready to fall in love a second time, here are four reasons why weddings in the mountains are utterly unforgettable.
A destination that feels like home
Even for those who are visiting the mountains for the first time, there is something about the easy-paced lifestyle and breathtaking natural views that feels like home. For destination weddings, this is the perfect match if you want to feel adventurous but keep that sweet, hometown feel.
It’s sure to charm your family and friends, too, because there’s something for everyone! Split up and chase waterfalls, go shopping, or hike a section of the Appalachian Trail, and then join back together to share stories at the reception after the wedding.
The romance of a blue ridge in all your photos
Truly, this point is a no-brainer. Who could pass up the opportunity to have a backdrop of mountains stretching out into the distance for your ceremony and photographs? Something in the view calls to mind the sweetness of the past and the excitement for the future, and the mountains themselves are to scale with your feelings on the big day.
Every season carries its charm
Think a mountain wedding is only pretty in the fall? Guess again! While leaf-looking season is truly a sight to behold, spring in the blue ridge is a riot of color and life waking up after the winter. Summer is a lush green that invites locals and visitors alike to enjoy the lakes, rivers, and swimming holes—all while striking a balance between warmth and refreshing cool under the shade of the forest canopies.
Even winter holds its charm—the mountains are silver against an icy blue sky, and you may even get a fresh sprinkling of snow to make your special day look like something from a fairytale!
Stay and honeymoon, too!
Once you arrive, you won’t want to leave—and why should you? There’s so much to do, explore, and experience in the mountains that you can save time and money on additional travel by simply staying put. After all, what’s more romantic than catching a sunrise or sunset at an overlook with your love?
Ready to start planning your mountain wedding?
We thought you might be! That’s why we’ve collected everything you need to know about lodging, food, and outdoor activities in one place—be sure to explore our website for more information!
Who doesn’t love a freebie, especially in Western North Carolina, where Appalachian adventures abound? If you’re looking for fun things to do in our lovely valley that go easy on your wallet, check out these five attractions that are absolutely free!
Note: Some of these items are unavailable during COVID-19—however, we’re staying strong and are hopeful to bring it all back as soon as we can!
Pickin’ on the Square
Nothing says mountain life like an outdoor bluegrass open mic on a warm summer night, and that’s exactly what you’ll get with our Pickin’ on the Square nights on Saturdays from late May to mid-October. Held downtown at the gazebo on Main Street, this casual but lively event is sure to get your feet tapping. Bring a chair and takeout from one of our Main Street restaurants for a perfectly Franklin experience!
Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum
Franklin isn’t called the gem capital of the world for no reason, but don’t take our word for it! Head over to the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum for the fascinating story of how rubies and sapphires were first discovered in our valley—plus, learn how gem mining works, head out from there to try your hand at the mines yourself, or purchase a piece of Franklin treasure there at the museum itself.
Macon County Historical Society and Museum (Suggested Donations)
Franklin is the county seat of Macon County, and while you may assume it’s a small area given our cozy, small-town feel, Macon County takes up a sprawling 520 square miles and has an incredible history. For a taste of all the stories our beautiful county has to tell, stop in at the Macon County Historical Society and Museum downtown. Donations are suggested, but you’ll find the museum well worth any donation you make!
The Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center
If you want a true blast from the past, you absolutely must visit the Cowee School. This beautiful piece of Franklin history is now home to Appalachian arts, crafts, and lessons for all sorts of local traditions. Whether you want to learn contra dancing, hear a bagpiper up close, or browse the antique toy museum, you’ll have plenty to explore at the old school building.
Wherever you end up on your mountain adventures, we’re delighted to have you! Check out more information in our Explore section if you’re interested in lodging or more opportunities to see the Franklin side of life!
2720 Georgia Road
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