Thursday, November 17, 2011

McNair Evans in One One Thousand

One One Thousand, the online portfolio of Southern photography, features in this issue the work of North Carolina native photographer McNair Evans, in a body of work named, appropriately, A Journal of Southern History.

The Journal of Southern History is, by the way, the official publication of the Southern Historical Association.

In Evans' portfolio of Southern images, the history is more personal and immediate than the JSH usually deals with. His concerns are with perennial Southern issues -- family, history, economic and personal loss, the relationships between the generations-- as they affected his family in Laurinburg, North Carolina.

Evans says of this work, "A Journal of Southern History combines emotive expression, persistence of family and a landscape of loss to reveal inherent dichotomies in my rural North Carolina home."

When Evans' father died, his family discovered to their surprise that he was a failure in business. The emotional after effects of this discovery were years in the unfolding. Evans realized in 2010, nine years after his father's death, that he was still dealing with the consequences.

Evans told friends in California that he was going home to North Carolina to find his father. The result is this body of work, an effort, says Evans, "to retrace his [father's] life using photography as a vehicle of resolution."

Evans goes on:

"I photographed his family, friends, schools and businesses while researching his character and actions. Within my immediate family, I witnessed intense affliction and perseverance. My subject became emotional states and the photographs narrate my journey between isolation and acceptance. Finally understanding that some questions can never be answered, this series evokes critical moods without definitive explanations."

Southerners know that Evans in this work is dealing with basic issues for all of us from "around here." So much of the Southern experience for natives is caught up in dealing with the past, and with the decisions our forebears made, and their afterlife. This is the Bible Belt, and for us one of the most haunting verses from that book is the one about how the sins of the fathers are visited on their children and their children's children.

Evans now lives and works in San Francisco, where this body of work has earned him the Curator's Choice Award in a competition sponsored by Santa Fe's CENTER for Photography. The juror, Erin O'Toole of San Francisco's MOMA, said of this work, "McNair Evans garnered first prize for his lyrical use of light. All of the photographs he submitted are suffused with a warm, moody glow. They are emotional pictures whose languid dreaminess is tinged with melancholy and a palpable sense of loss."

Southerners will recognize the "warm, moody glow" in Evans' photographs as one of the the distinctive characteristics of Southern light.  I grew up about 30 miles from where Evans did, and many of his images hauntingly remind me of the landscapes I revisit when I go home.

This is rich, haunting work, enthusiastically recommended.

You can see more of his work here, at the Black Harbor website.

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