Unless you’re brand new to Charlotte, chances are you’ve seen the prolific work of NoDa photographer Justin Driscoll. He displayed a collection of his signature photographs at Heist Brewery last month and sold seven pieces before the opening-night party ended. Whether he’s capturing newly deceased music venues or long-abandoned hospitals, Justin has a knack for preserving the gritty history of a city now furiously sterilizing itself. Not unlike Andy Warhol, he finds the beauty in everyday objects (a rusted PBR can, a broken TV) and holds it up for us to see. In Justin’s photos, bronze Panther statues come to life with fierce energy, and a decrepit building contrasts vividly against a clear blue sky. He has mastered, several times over, the Charlotte pastime of seeking out the perfect view of the uptown skyline.
Justin first got into urban exploration six years ago after feeling burnt out by the career demands of professional photography. Urban exploration, or urbex, is the art of documenting rarely-seen, often dangerous, corners of metropolitan areas. Justin has risked arrest, injury, and death trespassing into empty (often condemned) places, all to get the perfect shot. The outcomes justify the means – his images are idiosyncratic, visually striking, and historically significant. Haunting shadows and pops of color catch the viewer’s eye and don’t let go. Hot pink shoelaces fasten black-and-white shoes; technicolor graffiti radiates from crumbling bricks.
Artistic wanderlust has taken Justin to destinations around the globe in search of that perfect shot, including Europe, China, and Mexico within the last two years alone. (He was in New Orleans as I drafted this article.) Justin avoids tourist traps, preferring instead to find the gritty underbelly of every city he visits, just as in Charlotte. He achieves this by hanging out with the locals, eating street food or shooting a game of pool. Rather than maintaining the viewpoint of an external observer, Justin gets under the skin of these places and reflects them from the inside out. Photography and other visual media are ideal ways of illustrating foreign lands because they transcend language and cultural barriers.
Justin’s craft is a labor of love he takes very seriously. Each piece he sells is one-of-a-kind and comes with its own handwritten story; he never reprints to canvas more than once. Check out Justin’s work on Instagram (@jdriscollphoto) or at his website (www.justindphotos.com) and consider hanging a piece of history in your home.
Kirk, M. “Pictures of History.” NoDa News [Charlotte, NC] September 2016: 7. Print.