This article appears in the March 2021 issue of PineStraw Magazine.
We arranged to meet inside the Welcome Center on the north side of the train station in Southern Pines. “I’ll be the guy with the red scarf,” I said.
“I’ll be the guy with the camera,” Joseph Hill replied.
Most locals are familiar with Hill and his story. He’s become as distinctive in Southern Pines as the Yield to the Left signs that confound visiting drivers at every intersection of the downtown business district. Hill is autistic and, in that long ago pre-COVID era, you would see him most Saturdays — and pretty much any day he had a reason to come to town — wandering around with his Nikon and Fujifilm cameras.
“In a way, it’s peaceful,” he says of his photography. “I can just be wandering around, minding my own business, and I come across something I haven’t seen before — maybe neither of us have seen before — and I take a picture of it. Every day, what you call mundane, that we pass by and see but don’t notice fully, if I happen to see it at just the right angle, looking up or looking down at the ground, hey, I take a picture.”
Hill will turn 27 the month that this magazine appears. “I’m blessed,” he says, “and I hope to make every birthday of each year count.”
Since we’re all still using best practices to avoid the spread of the virus, Hill wears his mask. It says Kindness Is Contagious. The town never had a more good-hearted face. — Jim Moriarty