John McWilliams and Nancy Marshall hitch a sweet ride 

Snaps and Starts

Marshall (left) and McWilliams ride into McClellanville

Jonathan Boncek

Marshall (left) and McWilliams ride into McClellanville

A car club isn't necessarily an obvious choice for a photo series, but that's probably what makes John McWilliams and Nancy Marshall so good at what they do: they see possibility in unlikely places.

The two photographers, a couple who've been together for 35 years, live in McClellanville and encountered the Low Country Travelers, a Charleston County-wide African-American car club, during a local parade in 2010. "We were drawn to them because there were these very colorful cars, very beautiful. It was great to see the spirit [the members] brought to the parade," says McWilliams. "Nancy came up with the idea to photograph them."

McWilliams and Marshall decided to photograph each member with his car, and the resulting portraits are notable not just for the colors, setting, and apparent technical skill, but for the way they convey joy, pride, and a sense of place. The photos were taken at various locations around McClellanville, including Buck Hall Landing, the Old Bethel AME Church, and the Deer Head Oak. Although they date from 2010, they're only now being shown as an exhibit; they were previously part of a photo essay in the magazine Southern Spaces.

Walter Manigault Jr.'s 1973 Coupe deVille - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Walter Manigault Jr.'s 1973 Coupe deVille

Though they most often work on their own individual projects, McWilliams and Marshall have another joint photography project in the works as well. For many years, they've been visiting one of the sea islands off the coast of Georgia, taking landscape and wildlife photos as well as portraits. They've also been documenting an old mansion, built in 1924, that exists on the island. "We're hoping to bring that project to some kind of completion," Marshall says. "It's all in boxes now." If all goes as planned, we could be seeing a book by the two artists in the next couple of years.

Sweet Ride: Low Country Travelers of Charleston County runs Sept. 27-Nov. 30 with an opening reception Oct. 5, 4-7 p.m. The show hangs at the McClellanville Arts Center, 733 Pinckney St. in McClellanville.

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