Thursday, May 30, 2019

The History of Southern Photography


There is a very fine article on the history of photography, and the history of the South,  available from the fine journal Southern Cultures, here.

The title of the article is "Photography as History in the U.S. South," and the author is Grace Elizabeth Hale, who is Commonwealth Professor of American Studies and History at the University of Virginia and a 2018–2019 Carnegie Fellow.

She says, of her subject:

"We understand the South as a major site of U.S. history, a landscape littered with evidence of the past, from plantation slavery and the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. 

"What fewer people know is that the region is also an essential location in the history of photography. 

"For photographers making work in the world rather than the studio, the South has been a rich place to make images. 

"At odds with the grand story of America as expanding freedoms, the region has been understood as both the national reservoir of cultural authenticity and the national cesspool of white supremacy. 

"The contradictions [have given] artists a lot to look at . . . . . 

"[Parts of the rural South] became de facto open-air museums where poverty, vernacular culture, and a material sense of the past in the present seemed to be permanently on display, even if as time went on you had to crop the Dollar General out of the frame.”

Hales mainly talks about the work of Emmet Gowin, William Christenberry, and Sally Mann, but the ideas she works with are worthy of consideration for a whole wide range of photographers. 

This piece is must reading for anyone who photographs, or who values life, in the South.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Christmas at Graceland -- December 2018

In the words of Paul Simon, "I have reason to believe we all shall be received in Graceland."

Best wishes for a joyous holiday season to Southern photographers and Southern photography fans everywhere. 

Thank you for your interest in The Southern Photographer, and especially for your kind words of support for this blog during the past year. 

I especially appreciate your patience with me during my Sabbatical. We are back now, with what I hope is a sustainable practice. 

So I know I'm a bit behind right now in chronicling the world of fine art photography in the American South. 

Nevertheless, the Southern Photographer must now take a short break, while yr humble blogger attends to other professional and personal responsibilities.

We look forward to resuming our chronicle after the 1st of January 2019

In the meanwhile, remember that Christmas is a season, not just a day, and the season of Christmas is 12 days long.  

So its Christmas from the eve of December 25th of 2018 all the way through until Twelfth Night, January 5th, 2019. 

Graceland, of course, the home of Elvis, who became famous by appropriating the music of Arthur Crudup and Big Mama Thornton. They wrote the music, and he made the money.  

But what he spent it on was this tacky McMansion in Memphis. 

That's one of the things I believe about the South -- it can set you free and break your heart, all at the same time. 

Happy holidays, everyone!

Southern Photography at the Nasher

The Nasher Museum at Duke University has up an important show of Southern photography entitled Across County Lines: Contemporary Photography from the Piedmont.

While concentrating on photographers who live and work chiefly in Piedmont North Carolina, the show demonstrates the diversity of subjects, styles, and interests of several generations of Southern photographers. 

 Photographers in the show include Ben Alper, D.L. Anderson, Bill Bamberger (see image directly above), Endia Beal,  Diego Camposeco (see image below), Aaron Canipe, Kennedi Carter, Faith Couch, Phyllis Dooney, Tim Duffy, William Ferris, Maya Freelon, Tamika Galanis, Michael Galinksy, Alex Harris, Harrison Haynes, Titus Brooks Heagins (see image at the top of this blog post), Colby Katz, Anna Kipervaser and On Look Films, Jeremy M. Lange, Bryce Lankard, Jim Lee, Elizabeth Matheson, Lisa McCarty, Lindsay Metivier, Susan Harbage Page, Tom Rankin, John Rosenthal, Margaret Sartor, MJ Sharp, Christopher Sims, Heather Evans Smith, Leah Sobsey and Tim Telkamp, Hồng-Ân Trương and Hương Ngô, Burk Uzzle, Caroline Hickman Vaughan, and Gesche Würfel.

This show is up through February 10th, 2019. It's very worth your while to make the journey. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

PhotoNOLA for 2018

PhotoNOLA, the annual photography festival in New Orleans, this year runs from  December will bring us  this year running from December 12th-15th, 2018. 

For the full calendar of events for this year's festival, go here.

A special feature of this year's festival is the show now up at the Ogden Museum, entitled New Southern Photography, featuring the work made in the past 10 years by 25 photographers, many of whom are familiar to readers of this blog. 

The photographers chosen for this show include David Emitt Adams, Kael Alford (see image above), Elizabeth Bick, Christa Blackwood, John Chiara, Scott Dalton, Joshua Gibson, Maury Gortemiller, Alex Grabiec, Aaron Hardin, Courtney Johnson, Tommy Kha, Brittany Lauback, Carl Martin, Jonathan Traviesa & Cristina Molina, Andrew Moore, Celestia Morgan, Nancy Newberry, RaMell Ross, Whitten Sabbatini, Jared Soares, Louviere + Vanessa and Susan Worsham (see image below). 

According to the folks at the Ogden, "New Southern Photography explores the role photography plays in formulating the visual iconography of the modern New South."

They go on: "Regional identity in an interconnected and global world is central to the exhibition’s narrative. 

"Themes and ideas addressed in New Southern Photography include: memory, the experience of place in the American South, cultural mythology and reality, deep familial connections to the land, the tension between the past and present, and the transitory nature of change in the New South." 

If you can't make it to PhotoNOLA this year, the show at the Ogden is up through March 19th, 2019. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

SOUTHBOUND: Photographs of and about the New South, the show now up at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in Charleston, SC, has received appreciative coverage from the New York Times, go here.

The Times story features a number of images from this show, including Blizz and Brooke by Jares Soares (see image above). 

The story argues that "Accepting the South for what it is, instead of what we imagine it to be, is not easy. “I think that if you were to Google ‘Southern photography,’ you’re going to come up with the images of a rusted pickup truck in a field,” Richard McCabe said. “But the South is as much Houston as it is the Mississippi Delta. I think what we don’t realize is the place is just as connected as everywhere else.”
It goes on: “New Southern Photography” . . .  challenges the outdated assumption that the South is disconnected and isolated. Many people have tried to create a new visual language for the South, only to fail because they’d presumed there was a singular, representational way to do that. Mr. McCabe, who is the museum’s curator of photography, didn’t make the same mistake.
“‘New Southern Photography’ is not intended to define the South,” Mr. McCabe wrote in the exhibit’s catalog, “but rather to create an open discussion.”

And so it will.  

The Times article also brings to my attention a new book by historian Scott L. Matthews, Capturing the South: Imagining America’s Most Documented Region,” which examines documentary work of the South throughout the 20th century.

Matthews is quoted in the Times piece as arguing “that as early as the 19th century, portions of the South — particularly the rural South and what was almost considered the West at that time, but what we would now think of the Deep South — became this frontier culture that stood in stark contrast to the rapidly-modernizing cities of eastern America, that were not only becoming industrialized, but beginning to experience rapid immigration from Europe.”  The South remained true to itself while “emerging markets were standardizing the rest of America. 
 This book will be on my wish list for Christmas, for sure.