Photographer David Rolfe reflects on four decades of documenting Winston-Salem

I have been fortunate to carry a camera for the Journal - and earlier, The Sentinel - for more than four decades, immersed in the life of this city, meeting and sharing the lives of the countless people who have opened their homes, work, neighborhoods, churches and schools to my colleagues and me so that we may tell their stories as they create this enterprise we call Winston-Salem.

A friend once told me I go places and photograph things that our readers cannot see for themselves and, in sharing those images, enlarge the lives of anyone who picks up this newspaper.

Every day has been an opportunity for an adventure, never knowing what would come up, or what challenges I might face making sense of the scenes that unfolded before my lens.

I have flown in an open cockpit with stunt pilots, and in a small plane to shoot the Bonner Bridge collapse; crawled deep underground with cave explorers; drifted 12 miles off shore in a rubber raft with coast guardsmen; struggled to keep my feet in hurricanes; photographed presidents, poets, builders and dreamers, many heroes, and a few villains.

I have met and photographed children excited on the first day of school, and exuberant on the last; a young widow taking a chance on a tired country inn, turning it into a showplace; and a D-Day veteran ex-Marine, caretaking the summit of Mount Mitchell as a park ranger in the depth of winter. Among his duties was to plow the mountain roads buried in deep snow, and I asked what he did if his snowplow tumbled off the road.

"Try to turn it to go down backwards," he said.

The world has long been digital, but I shot film for the first half of my career. A roll of film had 36 frames, and eventually I could tell most stories on a single roll of film.

This month completes the story of my 41-year career at the Journal.

I will have shot my 36th frame.