Thursday, October 23, 2014

Eliot Dudik, Breaking Ground at the College of William and Mary, Fall 2014



Williamsburg, VA-based photographer Eliot Dudik has organized a show of work at the College of William and Mary, called Breaking Ground, which is packing them in. 

The folks at William and Mary are celebrating the event, go here, and here, for more information. 

Dudik has recently  joined the faculty of the College of William and Mary with the goal, and challenge, of setting up a program in photography for the College. 


Dudik chose to launch his project with a major exhibition of contemporary photography, including images, videos, and hand-made books by 110 contemporary photographers.

One goal behind the organization of this show was to gather a diverse body of work in this, the 175th anniversary of the invention of photography, according to Dudik, "to be as broad as possible, to show the vast breadth of contemporary photography."

This goal is a pedagogical one, to inform administrators and other faculty, and to inspire prospective students in this program, about the potential of contemporary photography to facilitate human understanding and visual creativity.


Dudik took the labor-intensive route to mounting this show, creating the prints himself. from high resolution digital files supplied by the artists.


This process raised significant questions about the images themselves, especially in relationship to prints of these images produced by the artists, once the William and Mary show is over on October 31st.

Dudik explains, "These prints can't be floating around in the world because they are not part of the artists' editions and limiting their print releases is partially what brings value to their prints."

 “A large, digital, printable file is one of the things an artist has to keep closest to them because it's their livelihood,” he said. “It's quite a lot to ask an artist to send you a very large, printable file … So the artists are entrusting me that I will treat it with respect, keep it organized and do with it what I say I'm going to do.”

So Dudik plans to destroy the prints after the show ends on Halloween by burning them in a bonfire.



Then, presumably, the distinctive vision of the new photography program at William and Mary will rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes. 

Or, at least some new work by Dudik, who plans to preserve some of the ashes, and, as W and M says, "immortalize the show by creating at least one piece of artwork from them."


For us, any time one makes a list or establishes a group of contributors, one makes choices. Whenever one makes choices, one establishes a kind of informal canon, a list of people and their work, who meet certain standards, however loosely defined.

I've chosen to illustrate this blog post about Dudik's fine show with images by Southern photographers, by at least some of the Southern photographers Dudik chose to include in his show, namely, in order, from the top, Jeff Rich, Susan Worsham, Anne Berry, S Gayle Stevens, and Lori Vrba.

Any of the rest of you who want to contact me and send along a 72 dpi file of the image Dudik chose for the show, I'll e happy to include it in an updated version of this post. And we will not need to burn anything when we are done. 


And we will end, as we began, with a shot Dudik posted to Facebook from the opening of the show. The image at the top shows the crowds at the opening. The image here shows a Southern Photographer (namely, Lori Vrba) who got to attend the show.

Here's Dudik's full list of the participants in this show:

Aaron Blum, Acacia Johnson, Adam Neese, Alex Leme , Aline Smithson, Alyssa C. Salomon, Amy Elkins, Amy Friend, Andrea Bonisoli Alquati, Angela Bacon-Kidwell, Anne Berry, Anthony Antonellis, Arnaud Teicher, Ashley Kauschinger, Ben Huff, Bill Schwab, Blue Mitchell, Brandon Thibodeaux, Brian Ulrich, Brittany Nelson, Bryan Schutmaat,Bryon Darby, Carla Richmond Coffing, Christa Blackwood, Cig Harvey, Clay Lipsky.

Also, Daniel Coburn, Dave Jordano, David Carol, David Emitt Adams, David Goldes, David Hilliard, David Leventi, Elizabeth Mead, Eliza Lamb, Eugene Ellenberg, Euphus Ruth, Frances Denny, Frank Hamrick, Gareth Phillips, Gordon Stettinius, Greer Muldowney, Holly Roberts, Ian C. Bates, Ian van Coller, Jamey Stillings, Jared Ragland, Jason DeMarte, Jay Gould, Jeff Rich, Jennifer Chan. Jennifer McClure, Jess Dugan, Jim Fitts, JK Keller, John Mann, Jonathan Blaustein, Jon Horvath, Joshua Dudley Greer, Justin James Reed, Justin Kimball, Ken Rosenthal, Kevin Strickland, Kyle Ford, Kevin Parent  ,  

Also, Lawrence McFarland, Lisa Robinson, Lori Nix , Lori Vrba, Lottie Hedley, Mark Dorf , Mark Klett, Byron Wolfe, Matt Eich, Matt Gamber, Matthew Swarts, Matt Siber, Maude Schuyler Clay, McNair Evans, Meg Griffiths, Michael Tummings, Michele Tecco, Nate Larson & Marni Shindelman, Nicholas Kahn & Richard Selesnick, Nicole Killian.

Final Group -- Paula McCartney, Petra Cortright, Polly Chandler, Rachel Jerome Ferraro, Rania Matar, Rebecca Nolan, Rebecca Norris Webb, Richard Bram, Rollin Leonard, Rob McDonald, Robert Sulkin, Ryan Zoghlin, S Gayle Stevens, Sara Macel, Stan Strembicki, Stephanie Shively,Susan Burnstine, Susan Lipper, Susan Worsham, Suzanne Elise, Terri Warpinski , Tim Hyde, Tom Rankin, Walker Pickering, Yoav Friedländer, Zach Nader.

And there you have it, an epic photography event!  And in the South, too. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lenscratch Celebrates Slow Exposures




The Lenscratch Photography Blog is celebrating the Slow Exposures Photography Festival this week, bringing some exceptionally-well deserved love to Chris Curry and all the good folks in Pike County, Georgia, who make Slow Exposures a joyous event every year.

Chapter One of this series is here, from October 20th, and features a report by Aline Smithson, one of this year's jurors, on her experience with Slow Exposures this year. 

Chapter Two, for October 21st, gives us the statements about this year's show by jurors Smithson and her co-conspirator in the jury room, Alexa Dilworth, as well as a generous selection of images from the main show at Slow Exposures and a list of the overall winners as well as all those juried into the show. 

Chapter Three profiles MacNair Evans and his solo show, Confessions of a Son, a show growing out of Evans' first place award at the 2013 Slow Exposures juried show. Evan's work is deeply personal and also documentary, linking his own coming-to-terms with his late father and the economic crisis faced by many Southern small towns while Southern big cities boom.

Chapter Four, for October 23, 2014, features the pop-up show organized and presented by a group of photographers collectively known as The Posse, and individually known as Lori Vrba, Bryce Lankard, Ann George, Anne Berry, and S. Gayle Stevens.

Their installation, called Time, Place, and Eternity: Flannery O’Connor and the Craft of Photography, went up in Chris Curry's horse barn. Aline Smithson, writing for Lenscratch,  calls it "one of the most interesting and innovative exhibitions I’ve seen in a long while.

Great for Slow Exposures to get this kind of, well, exposure. 

The Lenscratch folks nailed it when they said, "The entire show was filled with stellar work."

Make sure you check this out.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Susan Harbage Page in Italy, and in North Carolina



Distinguished Southern Photographer Susan Harbage Page is opening a show of work from her Objects from the Borderlands: The US-Mexico "Anti-Archive" Project portfolio in Rome, at La Stellinia Arte Contemporanea (The Gallery of Contemporary Art) in Rome, Italy.

Harbage Page describes this work as capturing a "collection of objects found along the border between the United States and Mexico that witness a silent immigration that people do not want to see."

Harbage Page says she "began this work on the border after I heard a radio broadcast on National Public Radio. 

"They said that 20% more women and children than men die crossing the U.S.–Mexico border without official papers. I couldn’t get this statistic out of my head, so I decided to go see it with my own eyes. 

"I began to make yearly pilgrimages to the border to photograph the objects that are left behind by border-crossers. 

"The objects that I find speak of a difficult journey and the risks that these individuals are exposed to when they enter the United States. 

"I didn’t want to photograph the individuals in the traditional documentary manner—media and popular culture already do this. I wanted to show these left-behind objects as reliquaries, imbued with power." 


If you are in Rome, the Gallery is at 93 Via Braccio da Montone.
There will be a reception and artist's talk at the Gallery on Friday, October  24th, 2014, at 6:00 in the afternoon.

We've discussed this work before, here and here, and it's really great to see this work receiving attention in another country where the possibility of a better life tempts large numbers of people to risk literally everything for the chance to pursue it.

Page is also busy this month, with work in two group shows in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area as part of the CLICK! Triangle Photography Festival.

 
The first is now up at Light Art + Design in Chapel Hill, and features photography by Taj Forer, Jimmy Fountain, Susan Harbage Page (see image above), Harrison Haynes, Jeff Whetstone, and Laura Williams.

This show is up through October 25th, 2014 at 601 West Rosemary Street, in Chapel Hill, open from 11:00 to 6:00 pm every day except Sundays and Mondays.

The second show is at the Flanders Gallery in  Raleigh, at  302 South West Street, up now through October 29th, 2014, on Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11:00 -6:00 pm

In addition to Harbage Page, this show of photographers and artists in other media includes the work of Derek Toomes, Damian Stamer, Lydia Anne McCarthy, Kenn Kotara, Ian F.G. Dunn, Bill Sullivan, Mia Yoon, Holly Fischer, Ashlynn Browning, Jason Craighead, and Peter Glenn Oakley.

Great to see Harbage Page becoming both a locally- and internationally-celebrated photographer!

The Southern Photographer at ACP -- October 2014



The Southern Photographer was honored to take part last weekend in the Portfolio Review conducted as part of this year's Atlanta Celebrates Photography Festival.

We saw lots of fine work, much of it by photographers working in the American South, of whom we will have more to say in future posts.

For now, my thanks to Amy Miller and her staff members Waduda Muhammad and Michael Murphy for organizing an exceptionally well-run event.

Part of the event for us was a gallery tour, which included stops at Jackson Fine Art, the Hagedorn Foundation Gallery, the Lumiere Gallery, and the High Museum of Art

These stops were well-chosen to give us an overview of fine art photography from the days of black-and-white to the present, when shooters are using a wide range of imaging skills to expand photography's subject matter from direct representation of the external world to exploration of imaginative worlds and presentation of unique visual experiences.

 At the Jackson, gallery owner Anna Skillman treated us to delicious food and good conversation about the gallery's current exhibits of work by the European photographer Rudd van Empel, New York-based photographers Richard Selesnick and Nicholas Kahn, and Atlanta-based multimedia artist Carolyn Carr

At the Hagedorn,  Brenda Massie, the gallery's Director, showed us work by a wide range of contemporary photographers Not From Around Here.


This included the work Amy Miller and Waduda Muhammad are looking at in the image above, by Atlanta-based photographer Steve Aishman,  whose work comes with imbedded videos of the composition of the work, so that the image one sees on the wall is only the beginning of the visual experiences Aishman has to offer.

Also at the Hagedorn at the moment is work by New York-based (but educated at SCAD) photographer Claire Rosen and Argentinian photographer Guillermo Srodek-Hart.

Massie graciously showed us the storage room at the Hagedorn, crammed with an incredible array of work, among which I was glad to see Chapel Hill-based photographer Susan Harbage Page well represented. 



All of the work in view at the Hagedorn was presided over by this fine furry critter, who seemed not at all confident that we strangers were up to any good. 

Nearby, at Lumiere Gallery, owner Robert Yellowlees and his assistant Tony Casadonte gave us a tour of their historically-oriented current exhibits Masters of Photography,  including works by Berenice Abbot, Dorothea Lange, and other major 20th-century photographers, and Radiant Energy: Wynn Bullock, a show exploring the career of this distinguished photographer whose work is also on view now at the High Musuem of Art (see more on this below).

Yellowlees and Casadonte also showed us early results of their project to recover videotaped interviews of photographers, including Ansel Adams, from the heyday of large-format and documentary photography in California, just as photography was beginning to be recognized as a legitimate fine-art medium.

At the High, we were treated to a tour by Brett Abbott (see image below), the High's curator of photography.


Abbot spoke with well-deserved pride of the growing collection of photographs (now over 6,000 images), the opening of the Lucinda Bunnen Gallery, a space in the museum providing permanent exhibition space for photographs, and the current major show, a retrospective of photographs by distinguished American photographer Wynn Bulloch

The Bunnen Gallery honors Lucinda Bunnen, long-time Atlanta photographer, patron of the arts, and creator of the Lucinda Bunnen Collection of photographs at the High Museum.

Abbott also pointed out how photography is also included in the High's general display galleries when appropriate for the gallery, not isolated in designated display areas.


One example is the large-scale photograph shown to the right in the image above, by world-renowned contemporary photographer Thomas Struth, made in the Atlanta aquarium and on exhibit in the High's galleries of contemporary art. 

On a personal note, the guy in the white cap in the image above is the witty, personable, and exceptionally knowledgeable New York-based photography collector, curator, and consultant W. M. (Bill) Hunt, also in Atlanta to participate in the ACP Portfolio Review. 

I hope to catch up with Bill later this month when he  gives a talk at Raleigh's Contemporary Art Museum; for details of Bill's appearance at CAM Raleigh, go here.

The opportunity to view even a small sample of the photography currently on view in Atlanta is an excellent reminder of the range and diversity of imaging techniques and artistic visions now being employed by fine art photographers.

It is also an excellent reminder of how Atlanta has become an international center of interest in photography, making a home for outstanding galleries and exceptional museum collections, and for ACP, the festival that pulls all this richness together for us every October.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

CLICK! in the Triangle




We in the Triangle are having our own festival of photography this October, titled CLICK!  

A full schedule of events is here

For those unfamiliar with North Carolina, the Triangle is of course the Research Triangle, bounded to the west by Chapel Hill, to the North by Durham, and to the east by Raleigh. witht e Research Triangle Park in the middle.

Major events for CLICK! -- in addition to the John Menapace and Elizabeth Matheson shows we discussed earlier, at the Gregg Museum here in Raleigh and at the Cameron Allen Gallery in Durham -- include special exhibitions at Chapel Hill's Ackland Museum, Raleigh's North Carolina Museum of Art, and Durham's Center for Documentary Studies

Together they provide an overview of photographic practice from its beginnings to the present, as well as an in-depth look at some of the many ways contemporary  photographers are going about their work. 



The show at the Ackland (the art museum of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) is entitled Photovision: Selections from a Decade of Collecting, now up through January 4th, 2015.

The Ackland collects photographs that illustrate the history of photography as a practice from its beginnings to the present. 

The current show has on offer about 150 images that have been added to the Ackland's collection in the past ten years, organized into thematic groups, including "Photography and Multiplicity," "Sacred Spaces" (see image above), "Process and Product," and "Staging the Image."


The show at the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh is entitled Private Eye: Allen G. Thomas Jr. Photography Collection and features a large collection of contemporary photographs recently given to the museum by Allen Thomas. This show is up now through March 22nd, 2015.

Thomas, a resident of the small eastern North Carolina town of Wilson, has amassed over the past few years a major collection of contemporary photography. This represents his second major gift to the museum's collection.

For this gift to the NCMA, he has chosen a selection of work by the following shooters:

Jeff Bark, Matthew Baum, Jordi Bernadó, Jesse Burke, Anthony Goicolea, Bill Jacobson, Chris Jordan, Sze Tsung Leong (see image above), Chris McCaw, Ryan McGinley, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, Jack Pierson, Kerry Skarbakka, Alec Soth, and Shen Wei.

The NCMA describes the show as presenting "a range of photographic techniques and processes, from straightforward photography to highly manipulated, staged, and constructed images," including "expressive portraits, otherworldly landscapes, and abstractions of the natural world." 

The NCMA -- and the state of North Carolina -- are fortunate to have in Allen Thomas a patron who combines outstanding aesthetic sensibilities and a passion for photography with a generosity of spirit and a willingness to share his gifts with his fellow citizens. 

October brings two shows to Duke's Center for Documentary Studies in Durham. 


Up now through this weekend is a show entitled  Hard Art, DC 1979: Photographs by Lucian Perkins.

Perkins (see image above), a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, offers here a series of black and white images that document, according to the folks at CDS " the early days of a hardcore punk scene in the nation’s capital on the eve of the Reagan presidency, an enormously influential artistic and cultural movement inspired by then unknown bands like Bad Brains, the Teen Idles, and the Slickee Boys."


Opening October 27th and up through January 24, 2015 at CDS is a show of work entitled City under One Roof by Jen Kinney (see image above), winner in 2013 of the Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize for documentary photography.

Kinney explores in this body of work “shared spaces" in Whittier, Alaska, a town she describes as an “unlikely crossroads of community and solitude, isolation and claustrophobia.” 

A community of just over 200 people, 90% of whom live in one 14-story building, Whittier is one of the most isolated communities in the USA.

Kinney documents in this work, as she puts it, "how the structures that people inhabit shape and order their lives; how, in turn, people construct, alter, and destroy spaces; and how these constant renovations to our physical world mirror changes in the stories that we tell ourselves, and how we structure our lives to these stories."

Much fine photography to see in the Research Triangle this October, and many thanks to the folks at CLICK! for organizing and coordinating it!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

John Menapace at the Gregg Museum, Matheson at the Craven Allen Gallery



The Gregg Museum of Art and Design at NC State University in Raleigh is having a major retrospective exhibition of the work of John Menapace.
  
Entitled Smokes and Mirrors: Reflections of the Self in Photographs by John Menapace, the show draws heavily on the archive of images and negatives Menapace bequeathed to the Gregg Museum at his death in 2010. 

The Gregg is located at 1903 Hillsborough Street, in Raleigh. This will be the permanent home of the Gregg once construction of new and expanded exhibition space is completed.

For the time being, this show is open by appointment between 9 and 5 on weekdays. One can arrange to see the show by calling 919.513.7244 or 919.515.3503, or by emailing Zoe Starling, the Museum's exhibit manager.



Menapace, who died in 2010, was a native of Pennsylvania who moved to North Carolina in 1956. 

The story goes that in 1955, Menapace bought a second-hand camera to take on a trip to Mexico. He never got to take the trip, but he held onto the camera. 

Menapace began to earn recognition for his photographs in the early 1970's, when he also began to teach photography at Duke University, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and also at the Penland School of Crafts in western North Carolina.


In 1984, the NCMA recognized the importance of Menapace's work by giving him their first show devoted solely to photography.  

He is widely credited with creating a tradition of fine art photographic practice in North Carolina, both through his own work and through the work of generations of North Carolina photographers whom he taught or inspired.

Among the first generation of his students were Elizabeth Matheson and Caroline Vaughan, who along with Menapace were among the first photographers collected in depth by the North Carolina Museum of Art.


This show of his work at the Gregg reminds us that Menapace had an unerring eye for design and composition. One has a very strong sense that in his often complex arrangements of items in an image everything is in the right place. 

Gene Thornton, reviewing a show of John's work in the New York Times, pointed out Menapace's "impeccable taste and a faultless sense of design," transforming "perfectly ordinary bits of landscape - the curved border of a garden pond, a cyclone fence silhouetted against a hazy sea - into elegant semi-abstractions in black and white." 


The Gregg show also offers us a more playful side of Menapace's work, especially in the series of self-portraits which show Menapace posing for his camera while wearing an interesting series of outfits and hats, but always holding his apparently ever-present cigarette. 
 
Menapace's show is being mounted as part of the CLICK! Triangle Photography Festival, now unfolding in the neighboring cities of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, NC.

The distinguished Raleigh-based photographer David Simonton will discuss Menapace's work at the Gregg on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014, at 6:00 pm.



Elizabeth Matheson (see image above), one of Menapace's first students, has her own show up now, also as part of the CLICK! Festival, with work from her CUBA portfolio of new work, at the Craven Allen Gallery in Durham. 

Matheson's work is clearly grounded in Menapace's devotion to composition, to the organized display of forms and relationships, although she uses color and engages with people in ways that expand the range of concerns she learned from Menapace. 

Wonderful to have both of them on display during this first CLICK! Festival.


Kathleen Robbins in Competition for Visual Artist of the Year




Columbia, SC-based photographer Kathleen Robbins is a finalist for Visual Artist of the Year in central South Carolina, in a competition hosted by JASPER, the arts magazine for the Columbia, SC area.

We can help.

We can help Robbins to some well-deserved recognized, and, at the same time, help support photography as a fine art discipline. The other two artists in the running are painters. 


You can see the full list of finalists if you go here.  Scroll down past the Theatre and Music folks until you get to the Visual Arts section.

Then, go to this page here and click on the link to the Artists of the Year Ballot, choose Kathleen Robbins, and register your vote.


I just voted. You have until midnight on November 3rd to cast your vote.

Winners announced on November 21st, 2014.

Go Kathleen Robbins!

Beatrice Chauvin Photographs in the Delta, Or, How to Become an Honorary Southern Photographer



Paris-based photographer Beatrice (Bea) Chauvin (see image above) has been photographed extensively in the Mississippi Delta and is now traveling across the South doing installations of her work at a number of places from the Delta and across the South, to Washington, DC. 


Chauvin, like other folks I've designated as Honorary Southern Photographers, is Not From Around Here, but nevertheless photographs in the South in a way that engages effectively with the complex histories of race, gender, or class and economic exploitation that constitute the legacy of the South for Southerners, making meaning our of the experience of those legacies in the present-day South.


Chauvin showed her work recently at an installation at Delta State University's International Conference on the Blues

She is now in Memphis for a couple of shows, then will be back in the Mississippi Delta for shows at the Highway 61 Blues Museum on October 7th, at the BB King Museum on the 9th, the Dockery Farms Blues Foundation on the 10th, the Blue Biscuit Blues Club on the 11th.

She concludes her current tour of America in Washington, DC for a final installation on October 24th, all in 2014. 


Chauvin's portable installation of her work is from her Reflective Shades portfolio, which consists of 42 photographs that, in Chauvin's words "tell the beauties, mysteries, and emotions that we can find in the Land where the Blues began." 

Chauvin has chosen to engage with the legacy of the Delta in the form in which she organizes and displays her work. 

The Delta is at heart about cotton, so Chauvin's images are sewn into "a long piece of Indian hand-spun cotton, (a KHADI, symbol of liberty)," 22 meters long, that "can either unroll on walls and floors, or remain folded to open like a book."

Chauvin says she "chose to sew my images on a KHADI because its texture and beauty reminds me of the old Mississippi cotton bags and -- moreover, because the strong symbol of freedom that the KHADI conveys, has something in common with the Mississippi story."


Delta living is "In Cotton," as Kathleen Robbins terms it, so Chauvin's images, embedded in cotton, embody that life even as they reveal its faces, its places, and its objects of value. So one must engage with the very fabric of the Delta as part of the experience of her work. 

This thoughtful engagement with the terms of life in the Delta, the place some have called the "most Southern place on earth," characterizes Chauvin's work, and makes her worthy to be known as an Honorary Southern Photographer.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Alec Soth Photographs in Georgia, Or, How Not to Become an Honorary Southern Photographer



In the process of setting up this blog, I felt the need to designate some of the folks whose work shows up here as Honorary Southern Photographers. 

These are photographers who are Not From Around Here, as we say, but who engage in their work with the complex narratives and experiences of family, race, gender, class, and economic exploitation that constitute the legacy of Southern history for Southerners, seeking to make meaning out of that legacy in the present-day South.

These issues are at the heart, for example, of the writings of William Faulkner, especially that group of novels -- Go Down, Moses, The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom -- that I believe represent his most enduring achievements. 

Over the years the list of Honorary Southern Photographers has grown to include, among others, folks like Carrie Mae Weems, Dana Mueller, Dawoud Bey, Eugene Richards, Magdalena Solé, and Myra Greene.

This list does not include, however, the name of Alec Soth, even though he has worked in the South on more than one occasion. He did some, although not nearly the majority, of the images in his signature Sleeping by the Mississippi portolio in the South. He did a portfolio of work for the High Museum in Atlanta as part of their ongoing "Picturing the South" series, back in 2009. 

Long-time readers of the blog will remember that I was not happy with Soth's work for the High Museum. 

His work on that commission seemed to me then, as it still does to me now, superficial and derivative, trying through technique to elevate the quirky, the random, and the bizarre to the level of the profound. 



Samples of Soth's more recent work published recently in the New York Times do nothing to change my mind. The back story for this body of work, however, clarifies Soth's working method in ways that help me understand my response to his work. 

Turns out, Soth made this work -- all in the state of Georgia -- in a two-week period, during which Soth and his buddy, writer Brad Zellar, traveled over 2400 miles.

So, a flying trip -- that's an average of nearly 200 miles a day, which reminds me of the old joke about someone on those old package tours of Europe, where you were promised you would see it all, seven countries in seven days. So, the inevitable question is, "Where are we?" to which the answer is, of course, "I don't know, but since its Thursday, it must be Belgum."

Well, in this case, every day it was somewhere in Georgia, but unlikely to have been the same place two days in a row. But what helped these guys was, they knew what they were looking for before they went. 


The title of the NY Times portfolio draws, of course, on language that is part of a whole tradition of cliches about the South. It is "Southern Gothic: Hunting for the peculiar soul of Georgia." 

As Zellar points out in a sidebar interview, he and Soth were looking for the "peculiar" in Georgia, starting from the assumption that the complex state of Georgia has a single "soul," and that the soul of Georgia is peculiar, and that they could find that peculiarity. 

Zellar says, "The South was a source of fascination [for me] from a very early age, and by the time I was in high school, I had keyed in on Georgia as a confounding, fascinating and almost mythical place." To Zellar, Georgia was "weird, contradictory."

So, Georgia is "Gothic," "peculiar," "confounding," "mythical," "weird," and he's known it was that way for him since he -- and Soth -- were in high school in Minnesota. 


Thing is, Soth has built a career on being able to find the "peculiar" and "weird," even in Minnesota, witness the image above. He certainly does not need to be in Georgia to do so.

But now he is 42 (this whole trip was part of a birthday celebration for Soth at 42), and he's learned what to photograph to help advance his career, and since he knows that's what he wants to photograph, that's what he will find when goes out to photograph. 

Especially if he is covering 2400 miles in two weeks. Not much time there to look around, to be surprised, to engage deeply and responsibly with the people he meets. 


Some of Soth's photographs in this portfolio suggest that he ran across people with interesting stories to tell, or situations to account for, or understandings to disclose, but we won't find that kind of engagement or respect or concern in this work. 

Strange thing is, in Zellar's comments there is the core of a real idea. He notes that in Georgia we've got "the whole history of the country played out there at one time or another: the Revolutionary War, slavery, the Civil War, the Great Depression, the civil-rights movement and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." 

Zellar says, they found in Georgia "incredible poverty and segregation and  . . . bastions of immense wealth." Sounds like Georgia is therefore the Real America in microcosm, or, the words of Arlo Guthrie, "Good morning, America, how are you? Don't you know me, I'm your native son." 

So there is here, an idea, of Georgia as what it really means to be America. 

But Georgia persists, for Zellar, and therefore, presumably for Soth as well, to be "an entirely different planet from the world I was familiar with . . . absolutely nothing like any of the other states we visited."

This is, in microcosm, the conundrum of the South, to be the most quintessentially American place in America, yet for America at large to remain "an entirely different planet . . . absolutely nothing like any of the other states."

Soth's work in the South shows us surfaces and cliches (how many more photographs of kudzu about to overwhelm the built environment do we really need?), seeks to make peculiar what is to us ordinary, demonstrates in his work down here the same capacity he showed in his early work of finding the quirky and the sad, whether he is in Minnesota or Georgia.

There is no denying that Soth is a very skilful and successful photographer. In spite of his success, however, Soth continues to contribute to cliched images of the South. 

I'm sure he doesn't care, but for those reasons, Alec Soth is unlikely to join my list of Honorary Southern Photographers. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Opportunities in Southern Photography -- Shows Online and in the Galleries



A couple of opportunities for fame or for service to the cause! 

Tom Braswell, Director of the Wellington Gray Gallery at East Carolina University, in Greenville, NC, has announced the call-for-entries for the 9th Photographic Image Biennial Exhibition, to be held at the Gallery, opening in Januray and up through February of 2015. 

This Biennial is one of the major photography exhibitions in North Carolina. This year's show is being juried by Honored Southern Photographer Burk Uzzle

The deadline for submissions is November 1, 2014. You can find the Prospecus for this show, with all the details for submission of entries, here. 


Also,  the good folks at Southern Glossary have announced an Instagram site, and launched a search for people to serve as curators of the site.

Here is how they describe the position:

"Southern Glossary began just over a year ago with the idea of focusing on stories, artists, and performers from across a region instead of just in individual cities or towns. So, true to that mindset, we are looking for a variety of curators from all states in the south and across disciplines.

"While Instagram obviously favors the medium of photography, we are looking for more than that. We want to see the details of artists’ lives, their process, and their surroundings. Those are the same kinds of things we prioritize in our articles, and it’s how we want to differentiate our Instagram from others.

"Interested? Here’s what we’re looking for in a curator:
  • You’re an artist working in photography, visual arts, sculpture, or the documentary arts (sorry, no musicians or theater performers at this time)
  • You are a working (but not necessarily professional) artist with active projects
  • You already have an active Instagram account and are familiar with the app
  • You live in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, or Kentucky
  • You can commit to a week of sharing content
"We are also interested in having people document special events & festivals."
If you are looking for an opportunity to try your curatorial skills, here's your chance. For more details, go here.