Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas in Graceland -- December 2014




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

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

The Southern Photographer will now take a short break from chronicling Fine Art Photography in the American South while your humble blogger attends to other professional and personal responsibilities.

Thank you for your attention, and especially your kind words of support during the past year. 

We look forward to resuming our chronicle early in 2015. 

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 December 25th all the way through until Twelfth Night, January 5th, 2015.

We'll be back by then. Happy New Year, y'all!

Jeff Rich takes in the Work at PhotoNOLA



Jeff Rich made it to New Orleans last week for PhotoNOLA, and filed a report on some of the highlights on his Eyes on the South blog for the Oxford American, here.

Rich especially singles out work by Baton Rouge-based photographer Jeremiah Ariaz (see image above), now on display at the Cole Pratt Gallery.


Rich also singles out tintypes by Kevin Kline and Bruce Schultz (see image above, which were on view for one day at a pop-up show at 809 Piety Street,  in New Orleans. For more information on this work, go here. 


Also on Rich's list is an installation at the Front Gallery featuring work by Lee Deigaard (see image above) from his "Crusher Run: exploring landscape a stone's throw from the interstate" portfolio.   

Finally, Rich was taken with the display of photo books curated by Tammy Mercure at the Press Street Gallery, and including books by a whole slew of folks (full list here), of whom Rich singles out Aaron Turner, David McCarty, Shawn Kelly, Tamara Reynolds, and Anne Conway Jennings for special notice.

Thanks to Jeff for this fine report, and for giving us stay-at-homes a taste of the riches of PhotoNOLA for 2014. 

David Simonton at the Framers Corner in Carrboro



Master North Carolina photographer David Simonton is having a show of his work at the Framers Corner, at 210 West Main St, Carrboro, NC, now up through December 31st, 2014. 

Simonton is a true master at finding the compelling image in the midst of the small town South. 

North Carolina is a state of small towns, and Simonton has found the place, the light, and the moment in dozens and dozens of them. 


Who knew, until Simonton taught us, that that bird house was right there, in just the right place, to turn a the back of a ramshackled cinder block building into a place of grace and beauty?

Or that Simonton would find that tree just there, in front of that truck, in that place, in that light, and with that sign on it at just that angle, to lead us in to contemplate the possibility of wonder in the midst of the truly mundane? 

Simonton teaches us to see, and see anew, everywhere he goes, which is a good reason to get over to Carrboro and check out his work. 

Tamara Reynolds in The Bitter Southerner



Beautiful work by Tamara Reynolds in the current edition of The Bitter Southerner, illustrating a story about Doug Seegers who is unknown in Nashville but a famous musician in Sweden.

Seegers is described as a busker whose "music has this Marvin Gaye-meets-Hank Williams-meets-Jimmy Webb-meets-Ray Charles thing happening."

The story is about the cold November rain, in Southern streets, down and out, and its about redemption, too.

Thanks to Reynolds for bringing us the look of that street in the rain, and the face and hands of Doug Seegers. And to the Bitter Southerner for bringing us Reynolds work, and Max Blau's work, and the story and the sound of Seegers and his work.

Bitter or not, that's the South.  As my father used to say, "Now, don't that beat all." 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Betty Press is Having a Splendid 2014 -- and It's Not Over Yet!




Hattiesburg, MS-based photographer Betty Press is having an outstanding 2014.

Press is one of eight Southern photographers selected by juror Richard McCabe, Curator of Photography at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, for inclusion in this year's edition of the annual Atlanta Photography Group's Portfolio Show, now up at the APG Galleries through February 1st, 2015.


Press has also recently been the featured photographer on the Lenscratch blog, here, also featured twice on the Creek Royalty blog, here and here, and in the Eyes on the South, here.

She has had work in the SlowExposures show, the Ain't Bad Magazine show at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, GA, the Cedars Juried Show in Jackson, MS, and the Plastic Camera show in San Francisco.


Press brings to her work in Mississippi the experience of having lived and photographed in Africa for many years, resulting in a book published in 2011 entitled I Am Because We Are.


So Press went from photographing in Africa to photographing in the Mississippi Delta, one of the major centers for the people and culture of the African diaspora. 

Press says she never expected to be living and working in Mississippi, but that she brings "a singular perspective to portraying the Southern experience, black and white, which is so intertwined, and keeps the South a unique region in our country."


After several years of living in Mississippi but not feeling fully at home there, Press says she set out "to deal with the uneasiness by exploring the state, still largely rural and agricultural, through a series of road trips."

Her work "reveals a slightly surreal, hidden narrative of Mississippi’s landscape and the indomitable spirit of the people—sometimes fanciful, humorous, quirky, mysterious, and at times disturbing."


I had the great good fortune to meet Press at the ACP Portfolio Review this past October.

Her work stood out as exceptionally well-seen and well-recorded, especially through her use of toy and plastic cameras, whose distortions, vignetting, and irregularities of focus help Press to engage our attention, drawing us in to recognize and appreciate the details of lives we take for granted or find too ordinary to appreciate.

Press does fine work. Its good to see her get the kinds of recognition she so richly deserves.

For the record, the list of those in the Portfolio Show in Atlanta also includes Dennis Church, whom we devoted a blog entry to when his work appeared in Eyes on the South, as well as Justin Andre Cordova, Teri Darnell, Laura Noel, Lissette Schaeffler, Jerry Siegel, and Laine Wyatt

Susan Harbage Page and Richard Misrach Photograph the Border


                                                                                                          (Image by SHP)

Chapel Hill-based photographer Susan Harbage Page has been photographing along the border between the USA and Mexico since 2007, producing award-winning work that attends to signs of the transition in personal identity from one culture and nation to another by documenting the personal things left behind as people make that transition. 

                                                                                                          (Image by SHP)

Page photographs the objects where she finds them, then removes the objects from that setting and brings them to our attention by caring for them and exhibiting them as though they were objects of value in a museum collection rather than an item of ephemera cast aside as need dictated to the original owner. 

                                                                                                          (Image by SHP)

Page has exhibited this work widely over the past several years, in gallery and museum settings as well as in Installations in public spaces, contributing to our understanding of the experience of transition gone through by people whose emigration to the American South is transforming our culture. 

                                                                                                          (Image by SHP)

Page's work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and has been recognized by awards and grants to support her continued efforts to bring attention to the scandal of America's immigration policy and to the people who give up their identities and assume new ones in their efforts to find a safe and secure place to do their work and live their lives with dignity. 

                                                                                                     (Image by RM)

Now, it turns out, the distinguished American photographer Richard Misrach (see image above) has recently produced a body of work in which he photographs along the border between the USA and Mexico, attending to signs of the transition in personal identity from one culture and nation to another by documenting the personal things left behind as people make that transition. 

                                                                                                                (Image by RM)

  Misrach photographs the objects where he finds them, then removes the objects from that setting and brings them to our attention by caring for them and turning at least some of them over to a musician named Guillermo Galindo, who turns these items into musical instruments. 

                                                                                                             (Image by RM)

Misrach them photographs them again as objects that engage us as objects of value in a museum collection rather than an item of ephemera cast aside as need dictated to the original owner.  

You can read more about Misrach's work here, from the California Sunday Magazine, and here, from a story from National Public Radio, where we learn that Misrach's work will be on display at the San Jose Museum of Art in the spring of 2016.

                                                                                                           (Image by SHP)

The confluence of these two projects raises for us as photographers and artists a number of questions, it seems to me. 

I've deliberately copied my language in this account of two artists' work to highlight the similarities between them in subject matter, concept, and execution, a similarity that extends to specific images, such as Page's image, above, of tires linked together and covered with dust and Misrach's image, below, of tires linked together and covered with dust.

                                                                                                            (Image by RM)

Or, of Page's image of a fence separating the USA from Mexico, below, or Misrach's image of a fence separating the USA from Mexico, below Page's image.

 Not to mention their photographs of combs abandoned at the border, see above.

                                                                                                      (Image by SHP)

In my regular line of work, which is about studying the history and interpretation of literature and culture, we look for traces of artistic development, noticing signs of influence and response among writers and artists as careers in the arts unfold. 

                                                                                                                 (Image by RM)

In my field, we recognize borrowing and indebtedness as well as the extent of transformation as one artist draws on the work of another artist in a variety of ways. 
 
In my field, we also practice a discipline which recognizes that while there are an endless array of possible ways of approaching and interpreting the subject of our study, we always build on the work of others, and always acknowledge our sources, models, and other kinds of indebtedness to those who have preceded us in our common pursuit of understanding, enabling and inspiring our own endeavors. 

I'm wondering to what extent issues like these are relevant to the relationship between living artists today working in a field in which originality is highly valued, but in which appropriation of another artist's work can in itself be regarded as an expression of creativity. 

So, our question for the day -- what does Richard Misrach owe Susan Harbage Page? 

Royalties, perhaps, for replicating her ideas, methods of working, and types and kinds of images? Or at least an acknowledgement of his indebtedness to her? 

Does their common agenda make their work complimentary or does it make Misrach's work derivative? 

Does Misrach's work constitute a case of plagiarism? Or does our understanding of artistic creativity privilege the individual vision so much that such considerations are irrelevant? 

Does it matter that Misrach, with a much higher profile in the world of photo culture, gets national media attention for work that clearly replicates Page's work, in spite of Page's award-winning recognition for her work in North Carolina and the Southeast? 

Questions to ponder -- I hope to provoke some conversation. Feel free to join in.

Page makes a self-portrait each year she works on the border, showing her against the Fence in silent protest of America's immigration policy. 

Here is this year's photograph.

                                                                                                          (Image by SHP)

Seems to me,  this year, Page has even more to protest about than she's had in previous years. And this time, its personal.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tamara Reynolds in the New York Times -- and Other News of the Season



Work from Nashville-based photographer Tamara Reynolds' Southern Route portfolio was featured in the New York Times' Lens blog in late November, go here.

This is Reynolds' second appearance in the NY Times this year, the other coming back in June, go here.

I think Reynolds is one of the finest photographers working in the South today, so this recognition from the NY Times is richly deserved. 


In addition, Columbia, SC-based photographer Kathleen Robbins, another of the finest photographers working in the South today, was featured in an interview with Eliza Bourne, managing editor of the Oxford American, and you can read that interview here.


Terri Garland, another fine Southern photographer, published a portfolio of her work called Louisiana Purchased, in the Oxford American, and you can see it here.

Other Southern photographers featured recently in the news include the following photographers recognized by Jeff Rich through inclusion in his Eyes on the South feature of the Oxford American, since we last checked:

Brant Barrett, Fred Hirschman, Cody Cobb, Michael Clausen, Dennis Church, Marcie Hancock, Lara Shipley, Antone Dolezal, Carey Gough, Adam Forrester, Missy Prince, and Johnathon Kelso.

And, last but not least, Eliot Dudik's show at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, GA, with work from his Broken Land portfolio, has been extended beyond its original mid-December closing date, so you wtill have time to get over to Augusta and see this fine work.

Eugene Richards and Other Southern Photographers in Print -- Late Fall 2014



Honorary Southern Photographer Eugene Richards had to fund the publication of his most recent book through a Kickstarter campaign, but Red Ball of a Sun Slipping Down is beginning to show up on multiple lists of the best photography books of 2014.

The New York Times lists it here, Time lists it here, the Wall Street Journal lists it here, and I have a feeling this powerful book will show up on more such lists as the end of the year approaches.

In the meantime, other Southern photographers have new books, or books in process.

Laura Noel has started her own publishing company, called All's Fair Press, and its off to a booming start. 

Her books Withdrawn and All's Fair Volume One were selected to be part of the Filter Photo Festival in Chicago, September 24-28, 2014. 

Others of her books, Law & Order Gets Me Through the Night and Killing the Day, Volumes 1-4 were selected for the InFocus Juried Exhibition of Self-Published Photo Books, held at the Phoenix Art Museum Gallery for the Center for Creative Photography, August 23- September 28, 2014.  

Some books to look forward to:

Kathleen Robbins' forthcoming book Into the Flat Land has already been announced and will be out in January.

Lori Vrba will publish her book The Moth Wing Diaries with Daylight Books in the spring of 2015.  

And I am sure there are others -- if folks will let me know their plans and publication schedules, I'll add them to this list.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Elizabeth Moran Photographs the Ghosts of Memphis




San Francisco-based (but deeply rooted in the American South) photographer Elizabeth Moran is giving a literal spin to the old metaphor that the American South is haunted.

Her portfolio Record of Cherry Road, now on exhibit at the Gulf and Western Gallery at New York University through January 17th, 2015, in Moran's words, "investigates the myths that surround my family's home, the farmhouse of an old plantation in Memphis, Tennessee," on Cherry Road. 

More on this exhibition here. 

Moran explains the background of her project thus: "Storied to be haunted, the house contains a multitude of histories that are ever-present yet hidden. With the help of my aunt and uncle, both paranormal investigators, the project seeks a presence that exists within familial lore."


Moran says that her work explores "my family’s own haunting as the dead continue to live through the recurrence of names, like George and Cary, through multiple generations. 

Moran expands on the concept of haunting: "With my given name, Elizabeth Cary, I continue the Record of Cherry Road that another Cary began during her time in Memphis in the 1960s. The city itself, with its conflicting landmarks of Egyptian pyramids and Christian crosses, remains haunted by its own troubled past."


Moran links her work to "Documentation of paranormal activity from my mother’s childhood, like a map of footsteps or a flash in a window, {that] further conflate myth and history."

She notes links between "spirit photography from the nineteenth century, when ectoplasm was made of cotton" and the traces of cotton crops that haunt Southern fields, as well as "contemporary images of the paranormal, where chromatic aberrations are not just an artifact of a digital sensor, the project questions our continued reliance on photography to prove a belief."


Moran's work is getting a significant amount of attention, featured in Lenscratch last summer and more recently in the New Yorker in connection with the show at New York University. 

The New York TImes has also featured it, as has Wired and the Don/Dean Photogaphy blog, here.
 
I must say that I am not generally a fan of conceptual photography in which the idea that unites a collection of otherwise disparate images seems contrived or artificial, especially when the images that are informed by the idea are not compelling or engaging on their own. 


Moran's work, however, does stand on its own. In addition, the interaction here between the various meanings of "haunting" and the personal histories of Moran's engagement through photography with her own history and sense of place and culture earn for this work all the good recognition it is now receiving. 


Good photography complicates and deepens our relationship to the world we ordinarily inhabit. I have a feeling that after seeing Moran's work, I will sense just a bit of a chill when I see some of those features of the Southern landscape we usually take for granted.

Good to be reminded of the generations that have gone before us, and of the ways their continued presence abides among us. Maybe that is a characteristic of Southern photography, more generally considered.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

S[x]SE for Late Fall, 2014



Nancy McCrary and all the good folks at South x Southeast Photo Magazine (SxSE) have now brought us S[x]SE for November/December 2014.

This issue offers lots of fine work that gives us much to contemplate in this season when, as the song goes, it is time for us to stand and watch the seasons turn.

Much of this issue is given over to a series of interviews, including Jennifer Shaw's conversation with Judy Sherrod about PhotoNOLA 2014, and about life on New Orleans. 

Also included are three interviews that Jerry Atnip conducted for S[x]SE, one with Jack Spencer (see image above) on his new work, another with Alan Rothschild on the Do Good Fund for Southern Photography, and another with the good folks at Digital Arts Atlanta

This issue also features Lorrie Dallek's portfolio of work made on tobacco farms in Cuba -- interesting to see how tobacco looks growing in another country. 


Also included are portfolios of work by winners in this year's competition sponsored by the Arts Clayton Gallery, a non-profit community art gallery in Clayton, GA. 
The winners include Tricia Sterns (see image directly above), Marla Puziss (see image directly below), and Donna Thompson (see image below Puziss' image).


And you can have access to all this fine -- and award-winning -- work for a very reasonable fee.

 
You can subscribe to the online version here.

Don't put it off any longer. You know you should subscribe.

 You know it, you really do. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Gowin and Eggleston -- Distinguished Southern Photographers in Paris



The Foundation Henri Cartier Bresson, in Paris, is celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year with a series of shows, including two dedicated to the work of Southern photographers. 

The first of these was up from May 14th to July 27th, 2014, and featured a major career retrospective of the work of Distinguished Southern Photographer Emmet Gowin (see image above). 

For more on this show, HERE, or HERE, or HERE.
 
This show closed in late July, but it lives on in the Aperture monograph prepared in connection with this exhibition,  Emmet Gowin, available here.


The secpond of these shows features Distinguished Southern Photographer William Eggleston (see image above), and is up now through December 21st, 2014 at the Foundation Henri Cartier Bresson.

The show is entitled William Eggleston: From Black and White to Color. It documents Eggleston's career as a photographer, emphasizing the influence of Cartier-Bresson on his work, and tracing his transformation from a photographer in black and white to a color photographer. 

In the process, of course, Eggleston is credited with transforming the practice of fine art photography.

For more on this show, go HERE.  If you can't make it to Paris to see the show, you can buy the book HERE.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Robert Frank is 90



Robert Frank, the distinguished photographer whose work in The Americans redefined fine art photography in the middle of the 20th century, is now 90 years old. 


Frank's unflinching look at 1950's America produced many of the iconic photographs of that era, including a number made in the American South (see Charleston, SC, and Savannah, GA, above, and Trolley, New Orleans, below) .


There are a thorough, and thoughtful, profiles of Frank in the Guardian newspaper, HERE, and HERE.