Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Gillian Laub and Southern Rites at Manhatttan's Benrubi Gallery

NYC-based photographer Gillian Laub is having a show of work from her Southern Rites portfolio at the Benrubi Gallery in Manhattan, up now through June 27th, 2015. 

This is deeply significant work, the result of twelve years of effort on Laub's part to document the ways in which longstanding issues of race, equality, and the uncertain path toward the integration of public education in the American South have played out in Montgomery County, Georgia. 

This project builds on Laub's earlier project A Prom Divided, published in the New York Times Magazine in May of 2009. 
That piece documented Montgomery County High School’s practice of holding racially segregated homecoming celebrations and high school proms over 50 years after the Supreme Court's order to integrate public education. 

The attention that Laub’s photographs brought to the Montgomery County school system led to several positive developments, including the integration of the high school's prom and an effort to elect the county's first African American sheriff.

Unfortunately, this sense of progress was complicated by the murder of a young black man -- featured in Laub's earlier portfolio -- by an older white man who, at least at the time of the events documented in Laub's work, remained at large. .
The folks at Benrubi Gallery capture the heart of this work, thus:

"Through her intimate portraits and first-hand testimony, Laub reveals in vivid color the horror and humanity of these complex, intertwined narratives. 

"The photographer’s inimitable sensibility—it is the essence and emotional truth of the singular person in front of her lens that matters most—ensures that, however elevated the ideas and themes may be, her pictures remain studies of individuals [and provide] a chronicle of their courage in the face of injustice, of their suffering and redemption, possessing an unsettling power."

For those of us who cannot get to the Benrubi Gallery while Laub's work is on display, her work also appears in a new book also entitled Southern Rites, available here. 

Laub has also directed a documentary film, also called Southern Rites: What Changes and What Remains, now showing on HBO.

You can see the trailer for Southern Rites here:

You can watch the documentary itself, here. 

You can find much more about Laub, and all the facets of the Southern Rites project, here, on its own website.  

I agree fully with the folks at the Benrubi Gallery that this "film, book, and exhibition constitute a major cultural and artistic achievement by one of the most daring, wide-ranging photographers at work today."
Gilian Laub has certainly earned the right to be considered an Honorary Southern Photographer. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Doing Good in the Alabama Black Belt -- Summer 2015

I'm grateful to Alan Rothschild of the Do Good Fund of Columbus, GA, for news that the Fund has brought three major photography exhibitions, including over 80 photographs by 40 Southern photographers, to the towns of Marion and Greensboro, Alabama.

This region of the South is especially well-known in the world of photography because of the photography of Walker Evans and William Christenberry.

The Fund is making this possible through collaboration with the University of Alabama’s Honor College, the Smith Building Art Gallery, and the Greensboro, AL-based Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization (“HERO”). 

This work is appearing in three interrelated shows, all of which opened on May 15th and will be up through July 31st, 2015.

One of these, entitled Eternal Moments: Photographs of the South, is up at the Smith Building Art Gallery, in Marion, Alabama.

The other two are in Greensboro, Alabama, 25 miles to the west of Marion.

The Greensboro shows include Gordon Parks: The Segregation Portfolio (see image above) on view at 1116 Main St., and A Changing Nature:  Photography of the South, 1963-2014, on view at 1118 Main St., in Greensboro, Alabama. 

For full information about hours for viewing and other necessary details, go here to the Do Good website. 

In addition to the three shows, The Do Good Fund also plans a photographers' gathering in the Black Belt, scheduled for the weekend of June 26-28.

These shows bring together a remarkably deep and rich collection of Southern photography, including two images made in Hale County, Alabama, by William Christenberry.

Other individual highlights of these shows include the complete 12 image Gordon Parks Segregation Series portfolio, an image from New Orleans photographer Keith Calhoun's Angola Prison series (currently featured at the Venice Biennale), and work by the newest Guggenheim Fellow photographer, Susan Lipper.  

In addition to Gordon Parks, here's a complete list of photographers -- a veritable who's who of Southern photography -- selected by curators Chip Cooper and Kenzie McNeilly for inclusion in Do Good’s summer Black Belt shows:

Shelby Lee Adams, Dave Anderson, Rachel Boillot, Debbie Fleming Caffery, Keith Calhoun, Aaron Canipe, Keith Carter, Orien Catledge, William Christenberry, Maude Schuyler Clay, and Dennis Darling.

Also, Eliot Dudik, Joshua Dudley Greer, William Greiner, Cynthia Henebry,  Lauren Henkin, Birney Imes, Jane Robbins Kerr, Kevin Kline, Baldwin Lee, Susan Lipper, Sophie Lvoff (see image above), and Richard McCabe. 

Also, John Menapace, Charles Moore, Don Norris, Walker Pickering, Tamara Reynolds, Whitten Sabatini, Jerry Siegel, Mike Smith, Magdalena Sole, Rosalind Fox Solomon, Mark Steinmetz, Rylan Steele,Marilyn Suriani, Brandon Thibodeaux, and Susan Worsham.

Congratulations to the folks at the Do Good Fund, and to all their collaborators, and to all these photographers, for this exceptionally visionary and transformative undertaking.

Please, folks, keep me posted as to how this project works out for the good citizens of Alabama.

AINT-BAD Calls for the Southern Selfie

The Savannah-grounded AINT-BAD MAGAZINE -- which is not limited in its coverage to Southern photography but always seems to find room for a Southern photographer or two -- has issued a call for entries for both print and online publication of selfie photographs. 

Here's what the fine folks at AINT-BAD say about the Selfie in today's photographic culture, and about what they are looking for:

"The Selfie is privacy made public. It is the ultimate in contemporary TMI, at once new and as old as the portrait itself. And though the selfie seems to be here to stay, there is debate about its effect on personal and collective self-awareness. 

"Has it left us with a fetish of the self, senselessly archiving the banality of our everyday lives? Or is it simply a convenient, healthy channel for self expression? 

"In this issue, we want to see your face. Or we don’t. We want your selfies in all forms of interpretation. Give us the formal, give us the beyond-informal. 

"Show us the whole story, or reveal a fragment of your unrelenting procession of time. 

"Aint-Bad seeks work that explores the visual representation of self documentation and temporal existence in both representational and conceptual photo-based, multi-media platforms. 

"This carefully curated issue of Aint-Bad Magazine will present photographic work and essays dealing with the concept of the selfie. 

"We invite proposals from established, emerging, and simply self-motivated photographers and writers. A selection will be included in our print edition and an expanded selection of selfie images will be included on our website, aintbadmagazine.com

"To submit, please send 10-15 photographs that define “The Selfie” for you. Accompanying your submission, please include at least one self portrait taken via cell phone or handheld camera."

The deadline for submission is July 15th, 2015. Full details on submitting are here. 

Thanks to Parker and all the other fine folks at AINT-BAD for news of this opportunity.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Southern Landscapes at MOCA Jacksonville

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville, Florida has recently opened a major group show of landscape photography made in the American South by a distinguished gathering of mostly Southern photographers.  

The show is entitled Southern Exposure:Portraits of a Changing Landscape and is up at MOCA Jacksonville through August 30th, 2015. 

Artists represented in this show include William Christenberry, Deborah Luster, Sally Mann, Jeanine Michna-Bales (see image above), Richard Misrach, Andrew Moore, and Alec Soth.

According to the folks at MOCA Jacksonville, the work on view in this show is intended to address several issues in the landscape photography of the American South.

They include the question of "timelessness" in depictions of the Southern landscape, the mental world where "moss-draped oaks create canopies over enormous columned mansions" and "lazy rivers wind through verdant shores teeming with wildlife."

But they also include the deeply time- and place-bound  questions of "the multifaceted relationship between man and land across time, from what remains in Civil War battlefields to roadsides and urban scenes to the ecological degradation studies along the iconic Mississippi River."

In any case, the folks at MOCA Jacksonville hope the images in the show "address the complex histories, extraordinary spirit, and unimaginable contradictions inherent in the American Southern landscape."

This all sounds exceptionally promising. well worth your visit if you are in Jacksonville, Florida this summer. 

Check it out and let me know how it works for you. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

News of Photographers from the American South -- High Spring 2015

Here are a few items of interest, liable to be updated at any time. 

1. Richmond, VA-based photographer Susan Worsham (see image above) received a Juror's Pick Award in Lens Culture's Portrait Award competition for 2015. 

2. Columbia, SC-based photographer Kathleen Robbins and Williamsburg, VA-based photographer Eliot Dudik are among the photographers with work in an on-line group show The Everyday, curated by Willson Cummer, in Issue 74 of fraction Magazine, here
3. Dudik also was a winner in the Magenta Foundation's Flash Forward Emerging Photographers Competition.

 4. Jeff Whetstone (see image above), who is for another few days professor of photography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will soon be moving north to join the faculty of the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University.

5. Atlanta-based photographer Marilyn Suriani has work in a group show on the Through the Cracks blog, here. 

6. Mississippi-based photographer Betty Press is rallying support to save the Art and Design darkroom at the University of Southern Mississippi. 

If you wish to help her in this good cause, Betty says, "like and share Save the Art and Design Darkroom at USM

"Also please get in touch with the department chairs of Art and Design Howard Paine (howard.paine@usm.edu) and Mass Comm Dr. Dave Davies (dave.davies@usm.edu)."

6. Raleigh-based photographers Dwane Powell (see image above), Carson Boone, and Jim White have tracked down a country store in Person County, NC, that figures large in a classic Dorothea Lange WPA photograph. 

 See the whole story here, in Raleigh's Walter Magazine.

And that's all for now -- but watch this space, as they say, for updates still to come.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Roger May's Appalachia in the New York Times

Raleigh-based (but with deep West Virginia roots) photographer Roger May (see image above) is having an exceptional 2015. 

His Looking at Appalachia Project (which we described a while back here) is opening its first prints-on-the wall exhibition on May 21st at the Spartanburg County Public Libraries Headquarters, 151 South Church Street, Spartanburg, South Carolina. 

This fascinating project has, today, May 20, 2015, captured the imagination of the New York Times' David Gonzalez, who features Roger and the Looking at Appalachia Project on the NY Times' LENS blog, here.

Congratulations to Roger and his colleagues in the Looking at Appalachia Project.

Y'all are using photography to address basic issues of public perception, an ongoing challenge for all of us in the American South. 

We're proud to know you and look forward to seeing how all this works out. 

But most of all, we look forward to the photographs. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Castell Gallery Closing

Today's email brings the sad news that the exceptionally fine Castell Photography Gallery in Asheville is closing. 

We are told that Gallery owner Brie Castell is moving to Another Land, precipitating her decision to close the Gallery after six years of operation. 

The final show is the one now up, which will close the Gallery when it ends on June 20th, 2015.

This is all well and good, and a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do, and Brie Castell  is a Fine Person, exceptionally able, organized, creative, and imaginative, who deserves to thrive and prosper and to find her own way in the world.

But, still, one dreams of a time when a place like Asheville -- of all places in the American South -- would support and sustain a person like Castell and an enterprise like the Castell Gallery for the long as well as the short term.

In my experience, in smaller cities especially, when a gallery folds up, there is a tear in the cultural fabric that is hard to repair.

This will be especially true, I think, of the Castell Gallery, with its elegant and well-designed interior, with the thoughtful selection of outstanding photographs by exceptionally talented photographers, and, of course with its really cool address in downtown Asheville. 

One hopes that places like Asheville, or for that matter, any of the smaller cities in the South, can be their own places, serving as incubators for folk's energy and creativity and celebration of the arts.

Clearly, that time is not yet. 

But in the meantime, we can celebrate the six years that the Castell Gallery has graced downtown Asheville, at 2C Wilson Alley.

We can congratulate Brie and her Gallery Director Heidi Gruner on their six-year run, celebrate all the fine photographers whose work has been on exhibit at the Castell Gallery, and enjoy -- if we are able -- a farewell party for the gallery on Friday, June 19th, beginning at 6:00 pm. 

I'll be there in spirit, if not in body. 

Blessings to both Brie and Heidi, and good wishes as they continue their journeys in the wider world of fine art photography.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Sally Mann in Vogue and Vanity Fair -- and on NPR and CBS and in the Oxford American

Distinguished Southern Photographer Sally Mann is definitely in fashion in this spring of 2015. 

Or at least in vogue. There is a fascinating interview with Mann on the Vogue website, here.

Mann is also interviewed in Vanity Fair, here.

Mann has also been interviewed on Fresh Air by NPR's Terry Gross, here, and by Charlie Rose, on CBS This Morning, here. 
It's intriguing to compare the approaches to interviewing Mann taken by each of these news outlets -- by the journal of fashion, by the journal of high-class gossip, by NPR's oracle of American popular culture, and by a prominent spokesperson for mass-market media.

For a completely different take, see this interview with Mann in the Oxford American, interviewed  (and photographed) by Southern photographer Maude Schuyler Clay.