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The Wealth Of Nothing



William Van Auken Greene, a one-armed itinerant photographer, photographed over 2,000 people and places in Horry County, South Carolina during the 1930s and 1940s. He photographed barn fires, parents clutching their sons in uniform, school plays and the tobacco harvest.

While Greene’s catalogs of these photographs are lost, multiple volunteers have combed the photographs to identify family, friends and neighbors. However, most individuals have not been identified, and some individuals have been labeled under multiple names. If you can help identify the people or places in these photos, please contribute their name by clicking on this link.

The Museum has a collection of photos by William Van Auken Greene, and collaborated with CCU on the book  The Wealth of Nothing this year.

The Wealth of Nothing features the photographs, poetry and portraits created by the one-armed itinerant photographer, William Van Auken Greene, during his travels around the town of Aynor and surrounding Horry County.

Photographing between the 1930s and 40s, Greene’s collected photographs provide a glimpse into small town American life. Greene hitched rides and walked around the back roads of Horry county, snapping portraits of any resident who would pay a quarter, and provided many of the residents the only photographs of their loved ones, prized possessions and favorite gathering places. Through his lens, families paused from harvesting tobacco, communities came together to raise a barn, and parents clutched their sons in uniform.

This handcrafted project combines interviews, newspaper and census clippings, and Greene’s poetry with high-quality photographic restorations to create a portrait of the small town people and values that Greene carefully documented. Students from history, photography and design worked alongside the Horry County Museum, who houses the collection of Greene’s negatives and photos, to create this work.

The publication is the second installment of the The Athenaeum Press’ chapbook series, the result of close collaboration between the project initiator (Eldred “Wink” Prince, Jr.) and a student production team (history team Nick Barton, Grace Cox, Nick McKinney; photographers Amber Eckersley and Jason Wysong; design lead Collin Oliva).

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