Ghost Images: the Photography of Don Dudenbostel

Documenting an East Tennessee that's soon fading from memory

If you've lived in Knoxville or anywhere close in East Tennessee since the '70s, you'll remember the "Acts 2:38 or Hell" guy.

If you weren't here then, you probably won't recall the iconic street preacher or the bicycle he rode around Knoxville. The bicycle was rigged with the plastic sheets, and cardboard. His message was lettered on the poster board and on the back of his black leather jacket with white shoe polish, and it was fairly straightforward: either accept the Christian version of salvation or the Christian version of eternal damnation. "Take your choice," the message read. Well, no matter what your choice you couldn't forget the "Acts 2-38 or Hell" guy.

Don Dudenbostel wanted to make sure the street preacher, who was so much a part of Knoxville in his time, would be documented for future generations of Knoxvillians. He has been taking pictures of iconic East Tennessee scenes since the 1950s, black and white photos that record cultural fragments from our everyday lives.

His work was recently featured in the Vanishing Appalachia show that enjoyed an extended run at the East Tennessee History Center two years ago and in a book three years ago about East Tennessee's most famous moonshiner, Popcorn Sutton. The book was co-authored with Tom Jester, who also spent several years with Dudenbostel making field recordings for the Vanishing Appalachia show.

Here are prime selections from Dudenbostel's vast archive, along with the stories behind the shots.