Gabriel Nivera
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Pictures & Conversations

A collection of images and the stories behind their creation.

Wilber's Barbecue

4172 US-70, Goldsboro, NC 27534

April 29, 2016

I love to travel.  Depending on who I am traveling with or the goals of the trip my level of planning varies greatly.  If I'm with friends and family I am often the one tasked to research the destination; layout all the options for places to eat, things to do, places to see.  I can class it up or dress it down - or a bit of both.  Making sure that I take into account everyones personal preferences and travel radius from our home base.  I quite enjoy that meticulous process as it gives me a lot of extra knowledge of where i will be and it allows me to discover a lot of hidden gems that I would otherwise miss.  Then there's the other side of me that loves to go in head first with the only plan and goal being to get lost and figure it out.  This trip to North Carolina, recently the most vilified state in the union falls in the latter category.

It's on these trips, where I am flying blind that I find i get my most interesting stories and compelling photographs.  With 0 expectations and my only hope being, "Well, i hope this isn't shitty", that attitude has served me surprisingly well.   I will often come across strangers, tell them the general direction that I am headed and ask for any recommendations.  Most of these tips never pan out, but the chase is most of the fun - and when something does pan out - it's like Christmas in July.

As many of you know along with my insatiable appetite for travel, I also have an insatiable appetite.  North Carolina being 1 state of the Holy Trinity for BBQ lovers, I needed my fix.  Waking up yesterday, i wanted a good breakfast, and did some research, during that time 1 name kept coming up, Wilber's.  It was roughly 140 km from where I am based, but with the back road routes i like to take it adds up to 330 km round trip.  It was a little bit of a trek - made easy with country tunes playing and twisty roads to keep me engaged.

My "breakfast" was a combination platter of BBQ pulled pork, fried chicken, BBQ pulled beef (only made on Thursdays), and I had a side of baked beans and french beans (roughage i suppose).  The food was divine, but what really caught my eye were all the characters working there.  

Wilber's place isn't much to look at - it's people made the place exceptional.  Everyone was smiling and warm, it felt like I had been there before.  I approached Dennis, and asked if I could photograph some of them, skeptically Dennis said yes.  I wanted to do something with the environment inside the smokehouse or kitchen, but the smokehouse was far too dark and without any strobe, was a black hole.  The kitchen was just too busy to accommodate a busybody photographer, so i had to improvise.

Each "shoot" was roughly 4 minutes, which consisted of leaving the dining room, walking round back to the smoke house and standing them against the doorway.  I engaged in some light and easy conversation, and then started asking personal questions.  During the first 2 minutes, I don't even bring my camera to my eye; it's all about getting comfortable and reading the situation.  Once the more serious and personal questions come, that's when I start photographing.  24-30 shots per person, nothing more.  George Simhoni who I worked under for many years always said when asked if he should shoot more frames, "Why should I shoot more when i know i have it?"  

I had it.