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Northern Florida is much like the central part of the state--scrubby, tattered, and marked by pockets of grinding poverty. I discovered this today as I made my way from Fort Pierce to Valdosta, Georgia. At one point I got lost in Hastings, Florida, and wound up on a dead-end road lined by battered and squalid houses right out of a third-world country. It was as if I'd crossed the border from America into a land-locked banana republic.

As I continued north and the sun edged toward the horizon, I was drawn onto the shoulder by the sight of three large crosses fronting a small lake. A private lake, apparently, for the area was marked by several threatening signs that advised folks of my ilk to stay away. Far away. I took the shot above from the shoulder of the road as trucks roared just a few feet behind me. One of the drivers cursed me loudly as he passed. I couldn't be sure if it was a generic verbal assault or if there was something sensitive about this site. I didn't hang around to find out.

It was the ninth time in four weeks that I've been confronted or yelled at while taking photographs. Whether this owes to my subject matter or my choice of locations or something objectionable about my face, I'm no longer surprised when it happens. These run-ins have made me increasingly skittish about this pasttime, reluctant even, and I wonder if they'll eventually sap altogether the joy I get from photography. For now I plan to keep shooting and see where it all goes.

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March 2005