Friday, October 29, 2010

Appalachian Photographers Project

The Appalachian Photographers Project, based at East Tennessee State University, is a consortium of established and emerging photographers who live or work in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Their website hosts portfolios by 21 photographers, including western North Carolina's Rob Amberg, Richmond, Virginia-based photographer Susan Worsham, and Atlanta's Angela West.  Also included is Cullowhee, NC's Cathryn Griffith, whose image, Biker Rally (Cherokee, NC, 1996), is shown above.

The APP partners with ETSU's Center for Appalachian Studies, Now and Then Magazine, and The Reece Museum, to provide regularly scheduled exhibitions as well as publishing and sales opportunities. You can, for example, purchase through the website portfolios and books by Rob Amberg, David Spear, Mark Steinmetz, and other members of the project.

Membership at the moment seems to draw heavily -- but not exclusively -- from photographers working in the Appalachian region of the Southeast. The guidelines, however, clearly indicate a desire for involvement from a wide range of locales. Folks wishing to join them may submit their portfolios for review here.

Mary Shannon Johnstone in Critical Mass

Raleigh-based photographer Mary Shannon Johnstone's emotionally wrenching portfolio Breeding Ignorance, documenting the crisis caused by domestic animal overpopulation, has been selected as one of the top 50 portfolios submitted to this year's Critical Mass process. For more of Shannon's images, go here. For all 50 portfolios, go here.

ACP Winding Down, FOTO Week DC Starting up

Atlanta Celebrates Photography for 2010 is winding down with a closing reception at Atlantic Station on Saturday, October 30th, from 6-10, including a show of work by photographers affiliated with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

At the same time, events leading up to early November's FOTO Week DC are getting under way, including an exhibit of work by photographers associated with Brightest Youngest Things. For the full calendar of events, go here.

And PhotoNOLA is just around the corner!  Actually, I think they space these events out month-by-month so Mary Virginia Swanson can get to all of them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Steve Perille at the Light Factory

Charlotte-based photographer Steve Perille is having a major retrospective show of his work at Charlotte's Light Factory, open now through the end of January 2011.

Steve has been a major part of Charlotte's photography community for over 35 years. He moved to Charlotte to become a staff photographer for the Charlotte Observer from 1972 until 1983 and was named NC Photographer of the Year in 1975. He was a part of the first exhibit of photography mounted by The Light Factory, Charlotte's Museum for Photography and Film in 1973.

 Steve works in the documentary tradition of photography developing from Henri Cartier-Bresson's pursuit of the critical moment, so Byron Baldwin, who curated this show for The Light Factory,  speaks of Steve's "timing of gestures and expressions," his skill in capturing "fleeting, revealing moments" when "light form and content come together to form . . . timeless images."

Steve also shows the influence of Robert Frank and of street photographers like Gary Winogrand. He makes his images among ordinary working class Southerners. Traditional subjects in Southern documentary work make their appearance here, including barbershops and hair salons, stock car races, strip shows, and church meetings. Steve's work, nevertheless, has the freshness of a discerning eye and an impeccable sense of timing.

 Lots of his images have to do with automobiles and marketing, two central motifs in the life of Charlotte as a center of The New South. Charlotte is worth a trip, and the strength of these images gives us all the more reason to go. Or you can see many of the images on Steve's Flickr site, or buy them in a Blurb book, for sale here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kathleen Robbins, or, Memory and Vision in the Southern Landscape

Columbia, SC-based photographer Kathleen Robbins uses photography to engage with and explore her history and legacy as a Southerner whose family has deep roots in the Mississippi Delta. Her portfolios combine images of Delta landscapes with images of family members, their houses, and their possessions.

Much of her family's history survives in buildings and things as well as in people. Many of us are not so fortunate as to have so many tangible signs of the past.

Last weekend, my wife and I and some other relatives went to visit Walltown, a long-vanished community on the banks of the Pee Dee River that divides (or links, depending on your point of view) Anson and Richmond Counties in south-central North Carolina. My Wall relatives have lived in North Carolina, on the banks of the Pee Dee River, since the late 18th century.

We are all descended from this man, who wanted to be remembered as a native of Virginia, the descendants of whose sons and daughters fill my childhood memories as my aunts and uncles and cousins.

We walked over this land and talked of who was related to whom and who was descended from whom, and who we had heard from lately and who had moved further south or further west and had been lost touch with. We talked of how these people must have lived, and what they grew on this land, and what happened to their houses, and who was going to take care of these graveyards in the future.

So much of that past is now fragmentary, broken, burned, or reabsorbed into the wilderness for which it came. Still, for a moment, we felt a connection to our ancestors and to each other that only family members can when we are aware for a few moments of our common heritage, more aware than we usually are amidst the concerns of our accustomed lives that have taken us on to many different places and opened possibilities and opportunities that gradually have separated us from one another.

Maybe that's why today when I found the work of Kathleen Robbins, I found it to be deeply affecting. Kathleen teaches photography at the University of South Carolina, and is affiliated with their Institute for Southern Studies. She is beginning to get wide recognition for the quality of her work. She will have work in a show this December in New Orleans, at the Du Mois Gallery, as part of PhotoNOLA and also has just been selected for an online show of her work by the Texas Photographic Society, perhaps in November or December of this year.

Kathleen has used her skills and vision as a photographer to connect with the lands of her southern ancestors, not settling for walking their land but actually living in their homes and exploring their stuff and photographing the landscapes of her childhood and their past.

Kathleen says her work is "based on the significance between time and memory and the relationship between place and identity," clearly Southern concerns. On her blog -- unfortunately not too active of late -- she raises the question of Southern photography as an "issue of perspective."  "Is there a difference," she wonders, "in the way we view “Southern photography” in the South vs. outside of the South? Is there a difference between the self-image created by photographers who have grown up in the South, and the “outsider” image created by non-Southern photographers who have relocated to the South?"

More of her thoughts on this subject are in an essay in the Journal of Visual Culture.

Her work might be seen as providing some answers to those kinds of questions. Starting in traditional black and white but moving more recently to color, she has documented the lands her ancestors farmed and the houses they lived in and the things they cared for. Her approach to image-making is very contemporary, but her choices of subject matter produces images that will haunt the imaginations of those who like her have roots in the South.

Kathleen quotes Sally Mann, "The repertoire of the Southern artist has long included place, the past, family, death, and dosages of romance that would be fatal to most contemporary artists. But the stage on which these are played out is always the Southern landscape, terrible in its beauty, in its indifference."

That's a good way of thinking about the purpose of this blog as well. I'm grateful to Kathleen for pointing it out to me, and for her work, too. She's definitely a Southern Photographer we will watch out for.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Laura Noel, Guerrilla Photographer

Atlanta photographer Laura Noel is a major part of this year's Atlanta Celebrates Photography Festival with multiple exhibits, especially in what she calls her Guerrilla Photography series. This has involved 4 exhibits, one opening each week of ACP, in public but secret locations around Atlanta. Laura gives clues to the location of each show on her blog, All'sFair, and one can go out into Atlanta and find them.

This is to me an intriguing concept, both for the idea and for the execution. Laura says she started with an understanding of street photography as "an adult version of a treasure hunt," fueled by the "possibility of finding a hidden gem of a picture in the mundane world." Her All's Fair Guerrilla Exhibitions are intended to "mimic this process of unexpected discovery for the viewer"

Thus, the first show, which opened October 1st, is in the parking lot of a now defunct Atlanta strip club and motel, the Clermont Lounge, and included prizes of free prints. A week later the work was still up:

The second show opened on October 8th at the Krog Street underpass, where Laura's images joined layers and layers of grafitti.
The third show opened last week in Noguchi Playscape in Piedmont Park, a playground designed by the distinguished Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi. This exhibit featured Laura's work done in Cuba and Ecuador.

The final Guerrilla show, opening this Saturday at 3:30, is at City of Refuge, a non-profit organization that provides food, shelter and social services to the residents of one of Atlanta’s poorest neighborhoods. Sales of photographs will benefit the City of Refuge.
Definitely worth checking out.

Based on her comments, looks like Laura used this series of shows to review her own work and take stock of where she is with her photography. The idea of staging shows outside the gallery world and making prints available either free or for whatever one is willing to pay her is a radical concept and a really compelling one, exploring the concept of what constitutes exhibition space and recovering the role of art as a part of everyday life.

Laura continues her radical reconfiguring of the gallery scene in Atlanta with another image she has in a show called Post-Her, organized by Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta's premier photography gallery, in their Project Space in the White Provisions complex at 1170 Howell Mill Road.

This brings together work by a number of photographers, all printed in poster format, and made radically affordable, since all the images have been printed as 36x24 signed posters available for $50.00 each. You can see Laura's image and the rest of the work in this show if you go to this Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jimmy Williams, Southern Romantic Photographer

Raleigh, NC-based photographer Jimmy Williams is having a year to remember. His work has been featured several times in PDN, he won two awards from Canada's Applied Arts Magazine, he had a big show at Durham's Arts Guild and another at Durango, Colorado's Open Shutter Gallery, as well as work in a show at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Jimmy is a big-time commercial photographer in Raleigh,with his own commercial lab as well as his fine art photography business. His technical skill with lighting and with post-production carries over into his fine art work, which is, as they say, drop-dead gorgeous. The warmth of his colors, his skill with light, the formality and timelessness of his compositions, and his empathy with landscape and with people make this Southern romantic photography.

Jimmy's commercial experience also carries over into his skill with marketing his fine art work, a skill which has also won him major recognition, again from PDN, for his promotion of his Music Maker portfolio. The image at the top of this posting is from Jimmy's Music Maker portfolio; it shows Jimmy's skill with lighting as well as his sense of the moment, of character, and of composition.

What I like best about Jimmy Williams' photography, though, is his wit, his eye for finding the moment within a very formal composition that animates and enlivens that composition. Here's my favorite Jimmy Williams photograph -- its Paris, its about art, its an elegant, well-seen composition, but its also a really cute dog in just the right place.

 You gotta love it.  Jimmy Williams is definitely a Southern Photography We Admire.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jack Spencer, Southern Romantic Photographer

Nashville-based photographer Jack Spencer is featured in the current issue of the magazine Garden and Gun, a magazine out of Charleston, SC which bills itself as capturing the "Soul of the South." That's a bold claim for a magazine which is really about rich Southern white people with way too much time on their hands. The people in this magazine are not only all white, but they have nothing else to do except hang out at the country club or tramp around the woods in expensive tweeds while shooting at small furry or feathered creatures who would otherwise be free to go about their own business.

Being free to go about one's own business is a capability often highly prized in the South, and why these folks don't want to extend that privilege to Southern creatures of the woods and the air is beyond me. But they want to charge us $3 an issue so we can celebrate the joys of killing doves in McClellanville or ducks in Arkansas or pigs all over the place, not to mention the joys of building McMansions in the Georgia woods.

To bring this back to photography, they will even sell you a full-color photograph of a chicken, printed at 16x20 on "premium photo paper" and  "signed by the photographer," for only $300. This is Southern culture as kitsch, and they will make you a full member of the club's "Secret Society"  for only $500 a year, without checking on who your daddy is. Which tells you this is really about marketing, not Southern culture.

It is for people who aspire to be patrician, country-club white Southerners, not the real thing. If you are, you are, and you have to live with the consequences of your pappy's decisions, like all Southerners. After all, any publication that claims to be Southern but which thinks that Beach Music has anything to do with Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash is talking about a different South than the one I live in.

Now Jack Spencer has nothing to do with Garden and Gun, except that he got featured in it, and in laudable terms, too. A guy in the photography business needs publicity, and I'm sure for Jack this is great publicity. After all, he's a serious photographer and anyone who learns about his work from reading this magazine and decides to buy one of his images is getting one hell of a lot better photograph than the photograph of the chicken the magazine is trying to palm off on its readers for $300 a copy.

Not to mention the photograph of a pan of cornbread, also 16x20, also $300 a copy.  This is a straight shot of a skillet of cornbread, like I don't know what one looks like. But let that pass. Back to Jack Spencer and his photographs.

Jack is a good shooter whose vision of the world comes out of the tradition of the Southern romantic, even, sometimes, the Southern gothic, tradition. He is a photographer but he's interested in investing the moment with timelessness, not about deciding on the right moment.

This means, of course, that he does have the magnolia thing working for him.  I think we ought to declare a moratorium on Southern photographers shooting magnolias for at least a decade or two, but that's just me. I will grant that Jack's magnolias are well-seen, for Jack has a eye for elegant composition, and a way with technique that gets lots of texture and contrast into his images.

I did not previously know of his work, but he's had shows at the Andrew Smith Gallery in Santa Fe, NM  and the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago, as well as in museums and galleries across the South, from Jackson Fine Art in Atlanta to the Corcoran Museum in Washington, DC.

And he's definitely a Southern photographer, too. He has branched out in his choice of subject matter in the past few years, finding images to make in other states and countries, but somehow even very different locales -- like this shot from New Mexico -- come out in his images to look surprisingly Southern.

I'll give Garden and Gun this credit -- before I saw their current issue, I did not know of Jack's work, and now I do, and I'm glad of it. He's definitely a Southern photographer we'll watch out for.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Major Photography Show Coming to Raleigh

Folks in Atlanta, Washington, Miami, and Dallas get major photography shows all the time, but we folks who live in North Carolina are excited about an upcoming show at Raleigh's Flanders Gallery of work by a large number -- and wide range -- of contemporary photographers, including North Carolina photographers Burk Uzzle, Taj Forer, and Pamela Pecchio, a sample of whose work is pictured above.

This show, curated by major Wilson, NC, photography collector Allen Thomas, opens with a reception on Raleigh's November First Friday, November 5th, 2010, from 6-9 pm, and will be up at 302 South West Street, in Raleigh,  from November 5th through the end of 2010. Other photographers slated to have work in this show include Keliy Anderson-Staley, Tim Briner, Jesse Burke, Katrina D’Autremont, Ian F.G. Dunn, Nils Ericson, Dan Estabrook, Jody Fausett, Anthony Goicolea, Allison Hunter, Michael Itkoff, Bill Jacobson, Sarah Anne Johnson, Carrie Levy, Chris McCaw, Kristine Potter,   Francesca Romeo, Kerry Skarbakka, Tema Stauffer, Bill Sullivan, Tim Tate, Brian Ulrich, Stacy-Lynn Waddell,  Shen Wei, and Cosmo Whyte.

This ought to be a fine show, since Allen has excellent tastes in contemporary photography (he curated a major show of work at the NC Museum of Art a few years ago, drawn from his own collection). Hope lots of you can join us for this show.

The Festival Season, Round Two

While Atlanta Celebrates Photography is going full tilt the entire month of October, PHOTOTexas XVI is also up and running from October 13th through October 24th, with events scheduled in San Antonio, Austin, and Johnson City. highlights include the opening of the Captivar La Luz: A Latino Experience show in San Antonio on the 13th of October and of TPS 19: The International Competition show, sponsored by the Texas Photographic Society, on October 23rd at A Smith Gallery in Johnson City.

Other Southern photography festivals are preparing for their time in the Southern sun. Early November brings FotoWeek DC (November 6-13, 2010) and December offers PhotoNOLA  (December 2-11, 2010).

Already we can see winners of various contests associated with FotoWeek DC here, including the work of Raleigh photographer Jimmy Williams, an example of whose work is pictured above.