Hub City Press is pleased to announce the forthcoming publication of Brent Martin's George Masa’s Wild Vision: A Japanese Immigrant Imagines Western North Carolina. The book will reproduce up to one hundred of Masa’s photographs, accompanied by Martin’s reflections on Masa’s life and work.
Masa's photographs from the 1920s and early 1930s are stunning windows into a period of great transition in the southern Appalachians. This era saw railroads hauling out the remaining old-growth timber with impunity, new roads blasted into and through hillsides, and activists emerging to fight for a new national park. George Masa captured this transition like no other photographer of his time. His images, along with his knowledge of the landscape, became a critical piece of the argument for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, compelling John D. Rockefeller to donate $5 million for initial land purchases. Not only were Masa’s photographs tools of advocacy, they were art. Indeed, he has been called the Ansel Adams of the Smokies.
Martin, a western North Carolina poet and environmental organizer, explores the same locations as Masa visited, using first-person narratives to contrast, lament, and exalt the condition of the landscape the photographer so loved and worked to interpret and protect.
Born in Masahara Iizuka in Osaka, Japan, George Masa arrived in California at the turn of the twentieth century to study mining, and much about his early life in America is unknown. He traveled by train from San Francisco in 1915 to settle in Asheville, North Carolina, where he began photographing the nearby mountains and helping to map the Appalachian Trail. After a life of tireless devotion to the preservation of the western North Carolina landscape, Masa died, destitute, of influenza in 1933.
This book will be published in spring of 2021 in the Cold Mountain Fund Series, in partnership with Charles Frazier.
An image of Looking Glass Fall taken by Masa. Photo from the Buncombe County Public Library.
Brent Martin is the author of three chapbook collections of poetry and of Hunting for Camellias at Horseshoe Bend, a nonfiction chapbook published by Red Bird Press in 2015. His 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. He lives in the Cowee community in Western North Carolina, where he and his wife, Angela Faye Martin, run Alarka Institute. He has recently completed a two-year term as Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for the West. He is the author of The Changing Blue Ridge Mountains: Essays on Journeys Past and Present.