Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Eliot Dudik in One One Thousand

Savannah, GA-based photographer Eliot Dudik is the latest photographer featured in the ezine of Southern Photography One One Thousand, with a portfolio that in the words of the editors "celebrates the culture and landscape of rural South Carolina, specifically between Savannah and Charleston."

Dudik's featured portfolio ROAD ENDS IN WATER is also available in book form, available from his website.

Dudik says of his work that it is about the consequences for the Southern landscape and culture of the widening of US Highway 17, the highway that runs from Winchester, VA to Punta Gorda, FL, on the Gulf Coast of Florida. But what matters to Duduk is the part of US 17 that runs along the coast of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, earning it the name the "Coastal Highway."

As a result, Dudik says, in his remarkably clear and helpful Artist's Statement,  "change is descending upon an otherwise quiet, unhurried, unobtrusive, place," as the "main highway, U.S Route 17, that bisects South Carolina's "low country," north to south, is being widened to accommodate commerce, tourists, and urban refugees."

"Not only," he goes on, "are many homes, some historic, disappearing before the tracked blades of expansion, but also the new, faster thoroughfare encourages greater disregard and obliviousness to the charm and culture of the basin harbors."

The goal he has for his images, therefore, is to form "a tribute to, and an acknowledgment of, the respect that the modest souls of this region, obscure from the mainstream, deserve for their tenacity, good humor, social commitment, and acceptance of the ebb and flow of the often incomprehensible vagaries of existence."

Dubik's work exists at the juncture of several genres of photography, including for example color landscape work (he shows the swamps and byways of coastal South Carolina elegantly and with grandeur and in the most favorable light) as well as a touch of the anti-Ansel Adams school of landscape photography (sneaking in the "hand-of-man" on occasion -- for example, even though the image above is called "Alligator Alley," those aren't alligators floating among the trees).

There is also a good bit of documentary work here with the environmental portraits of hunters, fishermen, and folks who live by the water. There are also signs of change in the abandoned drive-in movie theaters and the smoke of fires rising up that suggest land is being cleared and tranquil places are being disturbed.

Dudik in this work avoids the documentarian's itch to confront us with harsh realities, and mostly, though not always, finds a place to see that stops short of the Southern tendency to romanticize the land and and its people and its past.There are elegant images here of people who live by the water that either find dignity in ordinary human existence or obscure the struggles of a lot of hardscrabble living.

Or maybe both. Let's say Dudik is off to a fine start as a Southern photographer and end with an image that I think invites contemplation and evokes a sense of restfulness, but stops short of romanticizing. Its simply there, where it belongs.

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