Sound People

Sound People ... the book has been released

Ben Casey explores a threatened way of life in Down East Carteret County, NC

Sound People presents Casey’s interviews with fishermen, boat builders and tradespeople. Families that have lived on Core Sound for generations, and even those that chose to leave. All add to the story in Sound People

Buy the book.

Sound People - Ben Casey's collaboration with friends & professionals to create a documentary style photo essay

Bland Simpson, distinguished author of a series of in-depth looks at the various entities that embody the character of North Carolina’s Sound Country, recalls that the environmentalist Rachel Carson proclaimed that there was no fixed line between land and sea.  A look at changes embracing coastal habitats reveals that fixed lines separating distinctive cultural differences from one region of the coast to another are beginning to dissolve just as shorelines routinely dissolve.
Sound People is a look at the people of one specific region of our coast, Core Sound.

Folklore has spawned volumes about Core Sounders, their flat-bottomed skiffs and Harkers Island boatbuilders.
But what ….
     * defines their character, sustains faith in tomorrow’s catch
     * fuels perseverance wrestling bone-chilling icy winds & oppressive heat
     * instills skills to master the winds?
As small farms on terra firma become extinct, Core Sound heritage clings to the nets of fiercely independent farmers harvesting from the sea, but with no federal crop subsidies.   Their future is as cloudy as the skies over the sound during a Nor’easter.
When a culture fades away, limited historical documentation of the individuals who defined that culture obscures the future.   Confucis:  “Study the past if you want to define the future.”

Sound People will listen to the voices of the people, documenting Core Sounders
     * not painting them with a broad brush,
     * but recording their way of life with a pen and close lens,
As a documentary photo-essay, Sound People will be a treasured resource for all North Carolinians and should be a major asset for policy makers.

The sign at the little harbor of Atlantic should not be a prophesy about a dynamic part of North Carolina’s coastal heritage?  In their words, not the perspective of an author, what do the collective voices of the hearts and souls of Core Sounders say?

Please donate and / or support this project in any way possible.  All of the funds raised will pay for printing and production cost; full color, heavy, glossy stock, hard cover, dust jacket, and a documentary video on the production of this work.  Contributors will be recognized in the book.
Ben Casey, photojournalist, author of previous books on Eastern NC waterways, is collaborating with a project manager, an editor, graphics arts professionals, and a videographer to produce Sound People.
Learn more,
Contact Ben Casey,


Shelby Stephenson, NC Poet Laureate, has authored a poem to follow the title page of the book, Sound People, Joe Miller has redesigned my original plans for fonts employing a cohesive style of pure simplicity, reader friendly body copy and headlines, and distinctive elegance. The font is a contemporary type face, relatively speaking, one that I first encountered about 1970.
A sample of the opening chapters is under construction to present to publishing companies.
A recent interview with a new subject opened doors to other interview candidates, but more importantly, it opened windows shedding more light on the characteristics that define this cultural treasure in North Carolina’s coastal heritage.
The cold winter may be the perfect time for subjects to find time for interviews.
My gratitude is extended to all who are making this work possible.

Productive days in Atlantic

Danny Mason, the last fisherman operating a haul net crew on Core Sound, is currently rebuilding the deck on his boat, Miss Olivia. Brandon Brewer is assisting.

Mason, left, is both contemplative and profound as he ponders the future of fishing in Core Sound.

Song lyrics proclaim that “country” is not a place on a map, but a place in the heart. Core Sound is recorded on maps, but embedded in hearts.

Thanksgiving Update to Sound People

Please take just 109.2 seconds to review this update to Sound People.

Earl Fulcher, of Davis, NC, a spritely 85, has spent his entire life on the water, not as a fisherman, but as an engineer, keeping the engines humming in a variety of vessels, including, but not limited to, Duke Marine Lab’s R/V Eastward, tugboats, ferry boats, menhaden fishing ships, the first head boat to operate out of Morehead City, and maintenance vessels for the Army Corps of Engineers. Like many residents of DownEast, music is a passion. He can break into Hank Williams or Eddie Arnold at just the mention of their names. He recalled that the late James Allen Rose of Harkers Island, legendary boatbuilder, was “… in the Nashville class. He could have played the Opry.”
Monday, November 23, on the way to interview Mr. Earl for Sound People, I listened to NPR’s Morning Edition reporter, Steve Inskeep, interview Itzhak Perlman. The celebrated violinist turned 70 that Monday and will be honored this week when President Barack Obama presents him with the Medal of Freedom. At 70, Perlman told Inskeep, “My goal is to not to be bored by what I do.”
At 68, my work to create Sound People does not bore me.
Inskeep concluded the interview by posing this question in the context of the virtuoso’s 70th birthday, “Have you played your best composition?”
Ask me if I have created my best photo-essay on any day while I am still breathing, I will immediately fire back, “I hope not.”
When I record an interview for Sound People, every time I open the shutter or assault the keyboard, no matter how good the result might be, I want the next one to be better.
This frame of mind is generated by the often vibrant nature of the Core Sound subjects and my associates who are driving me to do my best. This phenomenon was very much prevalent in Mr. Earl Fulcher’s sound-front home at Davis today. He spoke with depth and clarity about his Core Sound experiences, injecting wisdom into his perspectives on changes that have shaped the present … and are outlining the future.
While Mr. Earl was speaking, I would glance across the room and take note of Bruce Mason. Bruce, a Sound People subject previously recorded, introduced Mr. Earl to this project. Bruce has become the impetus for my visualizing an even greater scope for this documentary. I thought I was encompassing this work with an industrial-strength wide angle, but Bruce has slipped steroids in between the lens elements.

Mr. Earl and Bruce Mason compare notes on the history of Fulchers in Carteret County.
Sound People, as a project, may be inanimate, but Sound People is just that, people – people who live DownEast, people helping me with logistics, people backing this project. Collectively, Sound People is(are) thankful, very thankful.
Note, Earl Fulcher was the 2009 Collard Champion of Core Sound, in addition to many other notable accomplishments. He has shared his award-winning recipe with me. People will pay me big time for Thanksgiving collards this year, probably pay me no mind.
Please note, Earl Fulcher will be on UNC-TV’s NC Now this Wednesday evening, November 25, 7:30 p.m., teaching culinary skills to none other than Bob Garner, who is paid by UNC-TV just to utter “Mmmmm, uhmmmm,” after eating.
Have I yet created the best photo-essay for Sound People? According to the alleged ancestor of my mama’s mama, “I have not yet begun to write.”

Have you reached the end?

Life does not really end when the end comes. Perhaps paradise at the end is simply a simpler life, a life that does not escape toil, but a life that carries humor to work, a life that accepts singer James Brown’s view of life, even at the end. It’s the end of the road, the eastern end of US 70 in Carteret County, downtown Atlantic.

One thing has not ended for High Tiders. That is the ritual of rising early, and like the mailman, not just coping with the elements, but working in the elements. That means weather is a challenge everyday, for every day there are tides and winds. Temperatures, from the tropical to the frigid, ride on the boat every day when it leaves the dock.
For those not familiar with the brogue that sprang from blending the Queen’s English with the melting pot of languages that Sir Walter Raleigh invited over, High Tiders consider every i to be a long i, as in hIgh tIde.


In Stacy, a little village just west of Atlantic, some houses are flanked by driveways on one side and a canalways on the other side. Makes it convenient commuting to work.
It’s the classic example of a man – or woman – carrying work home from the office. Of course, it means that the office and the home are indistinguishable, on the canal where the boat is docked, or on the boat beyond the breakwaters.

Living by the sea, and from the sea, leaves one scratching his head trying to understand the lure to this lifestyle.

Wind may fluff the the feathers of seagull, but a fisherman is not so easily ruffled.

Fishing boats do not transport timber to lumber mills. But they do haul stakes to set new pound nets.

Truly Southern, she has two first names.

At the end, if your boat has always floated, so should your house.

Though Atlantic’s harbor shields a variety of vessels, they all appear to belong to that genre of boats owned and operated by independent commercial fishermen, not part of a fleet owned by a large seafood broker.
The scars and stains along the waterline of each boat constitute a vivid documentary, not one produced by Ken Burns, but one of the same historic value. Because vessels are inanimate, the impact of those stains and scars pales when compared to both visible and invisible crevices that line a fisherman’s face and his memory.
Deposits of joy, smiles, tender emotions, and fiscal success struggle to balance deposits of pain, struggle, danger, aching bodies, and fear. For the independent commercial fishermen, too many days are considered good days if they just break even.

How much you want to bet, this one is owned and operated by a husband wife team – or a loving husband whose wife is most likely named Felicia.

Stacy’s harbor consists of a network of canals.

The end.