In 1990 and 1992 I made this series of portraits of individuals more than seventy years old and living independently in and around Durham, North Carolina. The attached texts were written by Nicholas Sholley from interviews he conducted with each person. My portraits were published in 1997 by W. W. Norton in Old and On Their Own with additional photographs by Thomas Roma of elderly in Brooklyn, New York, and text by Robert Coles.
William Evans was born in 1926 in Granville County, North Carolina. He was the sixth of sixteen children in a sharecropping family. The family farmed tobacco and corn just outside the town of Oxford.
In 1951, William married Helen Allen, a longtime friend. They moved to Durham County to farm, and lived in the county for twenty years. William and Helen had six children: four sons and two daughters.
In 1971, William took a shotgun blast to the head as he tried to break up a domestic dispute. After recuperating in Duke hospital, he returned to Granville County for a while. When he came back to Durham, he took on a position at the Durham Exchange Group, packing boxes and doing odd jobs. After about 6 years there, he retired.
In 1992, William lives downtown in an apartment in a renovated Durham hosiery mill. He walks through the apartment building every day to see if any of his neighbors need help. Helen wife is a hospital worker for Duke.
William is photographed walking behind old warehouses in east Durham on his way to the grocery store. (written in 1992)