Telling stories with photography: Wilson County native Adrian White’s work comes home

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.

This photo by Adrian White will be in the Eyes on Main Street show.
This photo by Adrian White will be in the Eyes on Main Street show.

Photographer Adrian White, who grew up in Stantonsburg and graduated from Beddingfield High School in 1997, may live in Los Angeles now, but his work is coming home to Wilson.

A photograph taken by White in Italy in 2016 will be featured as one of the 100 images by photographers from around the world in the sixth Eyes on Main Street exhibit in downtown Wilson, running from Oct. 31 until May 16.

“I played football and all that stuff and had a good time growing up in Stantonsburg,” White said. “My teachers always told me I was good writer, so I went to North Carolina Central University to study that.”

But somewhere along his undergraduate college journey in Durham, White became interested in video work, starting a television channel at the school.

“While not photography, that experience was the beginning of my love with images,” White said.

After spending a few years in Durham as a teacher, White joined the U.S. Navy as a photographer’s mate in 2005 and worked in that capacity until 2014.

“I kind of told the Navy that if they wanted me, they would have to let me be a photographer’s mate,” White said. “It was the only thing I was interested in.”

After leaving the Navy, White received an undergraduate degree in commercial photography at the Brooks Institute of Photography in Ventura, California. He then went on to earn an Master of Fine Arts in photography and related media from the Parsons School of Design in New York City.

White is now a professor at California Baptist University and a fine art and commercial photographer, based in Los Angeles. His favorite style of photography is “anything that tells a story.”

White dropped a book of his photography in Wilson’s Eyes on Main Street exhibit artistic director Jerome De Perlinghi’s mailbox one evening when White was back in Wilson visiting family in late 2018. De Perlinghi had met a group of Parsons professors during a trip to China and invited those professors to bring some students to visit Wilson and view the Eyes on Main Street exhibit. It was during that visit that someone mentioned that a Wilson native was in the Parsons School of Design photography program. De Perlinghi then reached out to White.

“It feels great to come back to the place I grew up and have my work up on display, especially large scale work,” White said. “I think it’s important for young kids to know they can make a living doing what they like and maybe even travel the country and the world. It’s a lot easier than people think.”

One of White’s recent projects has been documenting the protests in California that sprang up after George Floyd’s death and spurred on the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I am there to document both sides of these protests through my photography, but I want people to see it through my eyes,” White said.

Asked if he felt anxious at these protests, White responded, “I’ve been trained for this type of photography and I feel at ease at protests. I had terrorism training while in the Navy, and I know what to do in these situations.”

White recently sold out an entire gallery showing of his protest photography in Los Angeles, donating half of his earnings to the Black Lives Matter movement. The gallery donated all of its proceeds to the California Museum of African American Art in Los Angeles.

White’s parents, Jerome White Sr. and Angela Joy White, still live in Stantonsburg, while his sister lives in Knightdale and a brother lives in the Durham area. He hopes to be able to return to Wilson to view the Eyes On Main Street exhibit before it comes down in May, 2021.

To view more of White’s photography, visit his website at www.adrianwhitephotography.com. For more information about the sixth edition of Wilson’s Eyes on Main Street photo exhibition, visit www.eyesonmainstreetwilson.com.