preston gannaway – between the devil and the deep blue sea

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Preston Gannaway

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

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“Wildness is a necessity.” — John Muir

Seven and a half miles of beach stretch along the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in Norfolk, Virginia. There are few, if any, spots in the Ocean View neighborhood where one can actually see the Atlantic. It’s a place of inherent contradictions.

Vulnerable to weather’s every whim, the connection to the natural world, even if not embraced, can’t be denied. There is beauty in the dirtiest corners.

Once a rowdy playground for sailors, the area was rampant with drugs and prostitution. Residents still boast of its edginess. It’s a siren call for transients and misfits. But also a way out from the projects for working class families. For them, the beach is free. And it’s always there.

It’s an area filled with pride, yet always teetering on the edge of change. In the early stages of gentrification, everyone’s got a side. Old cottages are being bulldozed to build million dollar homes.

I moved here two years ago and started documenting. I’ve found the beauty and complexity of the community overwhelming and intoxicating. The devil is elusive and we all have our own demons to fight. My hairdresser once said to me, “A place so diverse must be forgiving.”


Preston Gannaway (b. 1977) has worked as a documentary photojournalist for the past 10 years. Trained as a fine art photographer, Gannaway believes the daily newspaper is an inclusive medium that brings visual storytelling to a diverse audience. She currently works for The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, Virginia. In 2008, Gannaway’s photo story on the St. Pierre family, Remember Me, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. A native of North Carolina, she began her career at the Coalfield Progress in rural southwest Virginia after earning a Bachelor of Arts at Virginia Intermont College.

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