Thursday, May 19, 2011

Joanna Knox at the Athenaeum Gallery

Mr. Bennette, patron saint of the Slow Exposures rural Southern photography festival, brings our attention this week to the work of Joanna Knox, who has a show of work up now through May 29th, 2011, entitled Seen and Unseen, at the Athenaeum Gallery in Alexandria, VA.

Joanna photographs spaces and places and things that have seen better days, that mark in their materiality the passage of time. Indeed, she says that she is fascinated "with the effects of time [and] of abandoned spaces."  She searches for "details of another time," for "what life was like for the people who lived in [those] spaces."

For Joanna, interiors of "abandoned structures are symbols of our own mortality" that "remind us of our past and simultaneously foreshadow our own growing age and death." The subjects of my photographs are not the walls themselves, rather the light contained by them."

These are all perennial Southern concerns, and Joanna photographs the light as it reveals traces of time's passing with an elegance and grace that mirror age-old Southern habits of seeking dignity in the midst of loss and scarcity. There is a strong touch of the elegiac in this work, an effect of an able compositional eye that puts things in the right place in the frame and finds the right moment of illumination to make this work's fading grandeur to show through.

Joanna now works in Rockville, Maryland, but she was trained as a photographer at the Savannah College of Art and Design and has done much of her photography in the back roads of Georgia in various abandoned farmhouses. According to the Athenaeum, one of her favorite techniques is "to set up her 4x5 camera in a decaying room, put the dark cloth over her head and see the light form an image with her old-fashioned camera."

She's a Southern photographer whom we are just getting to know, and we expect much more good work.

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