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Behind the Lens with the Barn Hunter

This article introduces Cal Avery, the "Barn Hunter," whose passion for photographing barns across the Southeast has made him a social media sensation. Inspired by his late wife, Marisue, Avery's journey is a captivating exploration of rural beauty and heritage, where each image tells a story of discovery and the enduring power of inspiration.

The tone of the phone call was nothing short of emotional, moving, and inspiring. Listening to Cal Avery, it became clear that his profound love for his wife, Marisue, deeply influenced his photography, leaving a significantly enriched perspective on his work.

Avery, a local photographer who has recently gained traction on social media for his stunning, unique high-quality pictures of barns throughout the southeast and beyond, shared a story that is both a humble quest and a moving honor to his late wife, Marisue.


Avery's personality shone through the conversation, with laughter coming easily within the first few minutes. He recounted the origins of his journey as the "Barn Hunter," a story deeply rooted in a trip he took with Marisue in 2010. They were celebrating 30 years of love and decided on a spontaneous cross-country road trip from southeast Georgia to the Oregon coast.

Avery shared, “We didn’t plan anything, not even the route we were taking, until the day before, and that carried us through our trip and back. It was definitely the adventure of a lifetime, and I got to do it all with her. But my son, Will, he said, if y’all are going on a trip like that, you’ll need a nice camera, something a little more than a point and shoot.”

Following this advice, Avery recounted how he and Will went camera shopping, eventually walking out with his first Canon DSLR because “Whenever people ask me, 'Well, why did ya go with a Canon over a Nikon?' I just look at them and say, 'it was on sale,'” shared Avery with a hearty laugh.


After acquiring his camera, Avery joined a few Facebook groups for amateur photographers, practicing around his home and town in anticipation of the anniversary trip with Marisue. It wasn’t until retiring from teaching in 2013 that Avery began taking photography seriously, focusing on landscape photos. His dedication to barns came a year later, inspired by a friend and mentor, Gary McDaniel, another talented and well-known photographer who Avery credits for inspiring his niche.

Avery shared about his beginnings, recalling that he was initially uncertain how it would all go. 

“So in 2014, I started my page, The Barn Hunter, but I wasn’t sure where I was going to find any barns around my area," he said. "I couldn’t think of a single one near me, but I quickly learned, that there were in fact barns out there. But it wasn’t until I started looking, that I started to see them.”

Over the years, his portfolio has showcased barns mainly in his home county of Emanuel, but also across Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina.


Marisue was always one of Avery’s greatest inspirations, pushing him to hone his craft. “She would always encourage me to go out and shoot if I hadn’t made time to recently,” Avery shared fondly, adding, “she would always send me off with her good graces and welcome me home with open arms.”

Avery's love for Marisue was palpably deep, as he shared, “We had been married for 43 years, 29 days, 5 hours, and 16 minutes when she passed on April 28th. Life will never be the same... she was my love, my everything, she inspired me so much, and my days are darker without her,” his voice carrying a heavy weight.


Following her passing, Avery took time for himself, visiting his son, Will, in Ireland, who had lived there since 2016. Avery stated that, coincidentally, since that trip in August, his page has almost doubled in followers over the past 6 months, rising to 26,000 to date.

“I feel humbled, and truly blessed. To me, it was never about the followers, and I never imagined it would grow this way, but it’s what brings me joy, and it helps me honor her,” Avery continues, “and so what’s truly specific to me is when my photos inspire a memory for someone else. Just recently, I posted a picture of an old rocking chair on a front porch and someone said, ‘I can see my grandmother in that chair and my cousins and I laughin' around her.’ and when I see stories like that, I know I’ve done my job.”


Despite his enthusiasm for sharing his work, Avery faced challenges, including the grief of losing Marisue and privacy concerns.

“I’ve always strived to be as professional and confidential as possible, and while I understand the curiosity, I do, I want to protect these spaces as much as I can, so I have chosen to not release the specific location of my photos. It can be disheartening to see others going against that.” Avery continued, “but then I remember the impact. The importance of sharing these photos, and these stories, and helping create a conversation around these. The good always outweighs the bad, and I want my page to continue being a place of positivity.” He remained committed to keeping his page a beacon of positivity, free from controversy.


Recently, Cal Avery has started sharing photos of his meals while traveling to photograph barns, a new venture that he initially reserved for his personal page. Driven by curiosity, he decided to see how his "Barn Hunter" audience would react to these culinary snapshots. The feedback was incredibly positive, with many followers showing interest in the food photos.

Avery enjoys highlighting small-town, mom-and-pop restaurants that offer exceptional food often missed by many. This addition to his work allows him to promote these hidden gems alongside his photography, reflecting his ongoing exploration and passion for trying new things in photography.


After a decade of work, Avery explains he continues his photography of barns and southern landscapes because he knows they won’t be there forever. With his work, he has 3 goals:

  • To create a record of old structures in the southeast 
  • To bring back fond memories of days gone by
  • To encourage people to get out and see what’s down the road or around the corner in their very own community

From the first question, “How did you become the Barn Hunter?” stemmed an entire interview that resembled more of a heart to heart between friends. Before concluding the call, Avery laughed, and shared, “Well, I think I answered your first question. What else is there to say? Well other than this: the purpose of my page, The Barn Hunter, is for it to be a place people can visit and forget about the cares of the world for a little while. There is always an open invitation to come up on my virtual porch, grab a rocking chair, have a glass of sweet tea, and enjoy the view.”

See more from the Barn Hunter on Facebook