Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas at Graceland

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

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

The Blog about Southern Fine Art Photography will be taking a short break for the Holidays.

Back soon for 2012!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kathleen Robbins on Design Observer

Kathleen Robbins has 19 of her wonderful images of cotton farmers in the Mississippi Delta on the Design Observer website today, go here.

This is splendid work, well worth your visit.

David Strohl and Aaron Canipe in One:One Thousand

One:One Thousand is featuring two photographers for the end of 2011, Austin, TX-based photographer David Strohl (see image above) and Washington, DC-based photographer Aaron Canipe.

David is showing a portfolio of color images made in Savannah, GA, entitled To Drift Savannah. Aaron has on offer a portfolio of B&W work entitled My Aggravating Ways (see image below).

David's work is, according to David, the result of his growth as a photographer as he has sought out the unfamiliar parts of the urban space that is most familiar to him.

As he has wandered the streets of Savannah, he has become aware of "the complexities of the area" as well as his own "progression of understanding." The result is a body of work that David believes reflects his discovery of "a rich tapestry of cultural heritagethe people, the details, and the landscape itself [that] have become a deep and interwoven narrative."

David clearly has learned to develop a rapport with people he meets in the street, a necessary component of the kind of photography he offers in this portfolio. His subjects become collaborators with him in the creation of images that engage Southerners in the course of their daily lives. His images are well-seen; he honors his subjects as he presents them to us. 

Aaron's work is more immediately personal, a meditation on the realities of pain, mortality, and loss instigated by the death of his grandfather Sam, a man to Aaron a "man of staunch independence and firm determination in love and faith."

Aaron here presents images that represent his goal of understanding his grandfather's world through images that become symbols, "concrete statues became dilapidated versions of our own mortality, bags on conveyor belts became coffin-like, and I saw jobs and tasks left undone all of which seemed to point to a Higher calling."

Aaron concludes, "After investigating his world, I realized his life had always seemed to point to something greater and perhaps spiritual. [T]he sorrows of death were fading away, only to reveal and follow the line of life past the grave and into a peaceful and natural afterlife."

This is challenging work for a photographer to take on, a search for depth within surface, for light in the gathering darkness. I suspect Aaron's grandfather would feel honored and appreciated by his grandson's efforts to apprehend his full measure as a man and to deal with his loss.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Good News from Nancy McCrary -- Mike Smith, SXSE

Nancy McCrary reports exciting news for Tennessee-based photographer Mike Smith, who has been awarded the Lowe Foundation Prize for 2011, in the amount of $50,000, for his portfolio Seeing Rural Appalachia, A Photographic Journal (see image above).

Also, news which probably makes Nancy even more pleased, is that the first print edition of SXSE is out and available now.

 This issue contains work by Laura Noel, Jack Spencer, Shelby Lee Adams, Birney Imes, Michael West, and a whole slew of others familiar and unfamiliar to readers of this blog.

 You can see a preview of it here. Those who have been waiting to become subscribers now have no excuse.

This is a beautiful piece of work, a tribute to all the long hours and the love and the commitment to Southern photography that Nancy and her partners have put into this project.

Great work, y'all!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lori Vrba's Opening at Jennifer Schwartz Gallery

For those of us who could not get to Atlanta for the opening of Lori Vrba's show at the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery, at 1000 Marietta Street, in Atlanta, on Friday, December 3rd, at the reception from 6-9 pm, this video puts us in the space at the time.

Looks like a grand occasion. Congratulations to all!

Lori Vrba, "Southern Comfort" Talk from Jennifer Schwartz on Vimeo.

Looking at these images, I now realize that I saw Lori in Atlanta, in Jennifer Schwartz' Gallery, planning this show, while I was doing my whirlwind visit to ACP in October.

While I was taking in the work then on display, I noticed a tall woman speaking with a member of Jennifer's staff.Not knowing then what I know now, I missed the opportunity to say hello.

Lori's show is up through January 28th, so there's still time to see it in person, if you are in Atlanta.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Day of Photography in Durham, NC

Sometimes, lots of good things come together. Saturday was a day like that. Durham, NC, is a small Southern city still struggling to overcome the decline of the tobacco and textiles industries. But there are strong educational and cultural institutions in Durham, like Duke University and NC Central University, and the old warehouses are being turned into studios and condos and restaurants, and, at the moment -- at least for photography -- there are lots of great things going on.

Here's what was on offer in Durham, this past Saturday. Duke's Nasher Musuem, which has quickly established itself as a significant museum, especially in the display of modern and contemporary art, has up a major show of photography entitled Becoming: Photographs from the Wedge Collection.

The show, up through January 8th, 2012,  includes over 110 photographs by more than 60 African and African Diaspora photographers (see image by Camilo Jose Vergara, above) assembled, in the Nasher's words to "explore how new configurations of black identity have been shaped by the photographic portrait over the past century."
This work is on loan from the collection of Dr. Kenneth Montague, who organized the exhibition. Montague has built up a substantial body of work of global scope, organized around its concern for exploring expressions of black identity.

Across the lobby of the Nasher is another show, The Deconstructive Impulse: Women Artists Reconfigure the Signs of Power, 1973-1991, which is up through the end of this year.  This show is a survey of leading women artists "that examines the crucial feminist contribution to the development of deconstructivism in the 1970s and 1980s."

While not entirely about photography, still has major work by Cindy Sherman, Carrie Mae Weems (whose work is also featured in the Becoming show), and other women photographers active toward the end of the 20th century.

At the Center for Documentary Studies, just a mile or so away from the Nasher, is a show of work by winners in this year's CDS/Daylight Magazine competition for photography in the documentary tradition. On view is a major body of work by overall winner Tamas Dezsos.

These folks are from all over the place (literally, with home sites ranging from NYC to Italy to Spain to Singapore), though none are actually from the American South. The local connections, though, are several. One, that CDS is now a cultural center of sufficient renown to draw entries from all over the world to its competition.

Two, that, especially, the works of Baldomero Fernandez remind us that the rural South is now exceptionally difficult to distinguish from generic rural America. And three, that one of the winners is Shane Lavalette, who we know is spending the year roaming our region and photographing us for the High Museum in Atlanta.

Across town, at the TTL Gallery, at 503 East Chapel Street, in Downtown Durham, proprieter Roylee Duvall maintains the only gallery in central North Carolina devoted to photography. He has up a large body of work by Durham-based photographer Kevin Logge. Logge specializes in what he calls "hand-crafted photography," meditative studies of objects and faces made in the darkroom using historic and alternative photographic processes.

Just down the hill from TTL is the Bull City Arts Collaborative, at 401-B1 Foster Street, which at the moment has up an intriguing show of work by emerging Raleigh-based photographer Raymond Goodman. Goodman has set out to document the growing farm-to-table movement in North Carolina which is reviving small-scale farming all over the South, and especially in North Carolina.

This show is called BURLAP: Portraits of Piedmont Farmers, and it's up through the month both at the BCAC and next door at the Piedmont Restaurant, one of Durham's restaurants that serves food grown by local producers.

Back over near Duke's East Campus is Durham's Craven Allen Gallery, which has a strong representation of photographers among its artists,  including Caroline Vaughan, one of North Carolina's master photographers.

On view right now is a compelling body of work by Durham-based photographer MJ Sharp, called LIGHT CACHE. This show's images (which you can see here) are haunting because they show us a world we cannot see, a world available only to the camera, and only after long, long exposures. You can see one example at the top of this entry, and also HERE:

MJ's photographs are taken at night, with large format cameras, and on film, and under natural light. Frank Konhaous, the curator, along with MJ, of this show, gets this work just about right: "With the moon as her muse and mid-century large-format bellows film cameras as machine, she creates imagery not possible with modern digital equipment. She quite literally awakens the night and makes the darkness sing."

OK, so, that's how I spent my Saturday in photography, and in Durham, NC, too.

There was still more -- I did see a sign that promised to direct me to something called "The Church of Photography," but I had to leave that to another day.

I think there is a renaissance of fine art photography in the South, and I think Durham is becoming a major center of it. Stay tuned.

Charleston for Thanksgiving

We were in Charleston for Thanksgiving, and had the pleasure of looking in on a major photography show at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC, called Masters in Photography, which will be up through January 8th, 2012.

The Gibbes' account of this show says that it "features twentieth-century, masters of photography selected from the Gibbes permanent collection and local private collections including works by Alfred Stieglitz, Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Berenice Abbott, and many more."

There are some of these big names' greatest hit images in the show, but what is even more engaging are the number of images in the show made by major photographers who did work in Charleston and the surrounding area. Works on exhibition include an image by Robert Rauschenberg (who knew he was a photographer as well as painter?) as well as images by Walker Evans and other WPA photographers who worked in the Charleston area as well as lsewhere in the South.

Also, there is a show up at the Gibbes called Breaking Down Barriers: 300 Years of Women in Art, which includes work by a number of women photographers like Margaret Bourke-White, and color photographs by Sally Mann (again, who knew?). 

We were also able to stop into the wonderful gallery run by Rebekah Jacob, at 169-B King Street, in downtown Charleston. Rebekah often (usually) has the work of Southern photographers on display, but right now she has up an elegant show of meditative landscapes by Seattle-based photographer Michael Kenna (see example above).

Rebekkah's gallery is an oasis of calm amid the hustle of busy downtown Charleston. It is one of the key places for getting to know the current renaissance of photography in the American South.

When you are in Charleston, a visit to the Rebekah Jacob Gallery is definitely in order.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December Issue of SXSE -- on the Mississippi Delta -- is Now Available

The December 2011 issue of South x Southeast (or SXSE, as their friends call 'em) is now out, and it's an issue featuring, but not exclusively devoted to, the Mississippi Delta. There's a lot of New Orleans here, too, as well as Mr. Bennette's choice of Southern snowfall photographs.

This issue includes work by photographers familiar to readers of this blog, including Nell Dickerson, Debbie Fleming Caffery, and Magdalena Sole plus some new folks well worthy of our attention, like Will Steacy, Terri Garland, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, and Dave Anderson.

Especially affecting are the portraits of Bibles rescued from flooded churches in the Central City and Lower Ninth Ward areas of New Orleans (see above).

In short, just what one would want from an e-zine of Southeastern photography in December.

You've got to subscribe to experience it all, but its a thriving operation and one truly worthy of your support.

Interesting NY Times Piece on Institutional Depictions of the Civil War

There is a really interesting essay in today's NY Times about how museums in the South display artifacts and tell the story of the Civil War. Go HERE.

Edward Rothstein, the author, visited two museums in Richmond -- the Museum of the Confederacy and the Museum of the Virginia Historical Society -- and concludes that while in the North, memories of the Civil War are at heart institutional, in the South the War is remembered in personal terms. 

Rothstein also concludes that there remains a conflict in Southern institutional memory between lingering white Southern grief, anger, and loss on the one hand and modern ethical judgments about the "Lost Cause" for which so many Southerners died.

He poses a final question, "How are loyalties to Southern culture to be reconciled with the evils of one of its fundamental institutions?"

The points he makes are deeply relevant to anyone who seeks to imagine the South, or to make sense of our history and culture through images. (Like Kathleen Robbins, see image above)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Openings and Events for December -- Vrba, SCOPE, Art Basil Miami, PhotoNOLA, me

December 2011 is already shaping up to be a banner month for photographers in the South.

Chapel Hill-based photographer Lori Vrba, who has already been having a splendid year in her photography career, is now opening a major show at the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery, at 1000 Marietta Street, in Atlanta, this Friday, December 3rd, with a reception from 6-9 pm.

The show is called Southern Comfort, and includes images (such as the one above) and an installation, and Jennifer Schwartz promises it will be "like nothing you've ever seen before." She promises to have a video of the event to share later on this season.

That's before she and Vrba hit the road in their newly-funded bus.

Also opening or about to open across the South are a number of fairs, festivals, and the like, including SCOPE, through December 4th, in Miami, an umbrella event with lots of photography galleries involved, including the Aperture Foundation, Light Work, and others (full list here).

Also in Miami is Art Basil Miami Beach, through this weekend, with the work of over 600 artists on exhibition (go here for a full list), including Sally Mann and a slew of other major photographers.

PhotoNOLA is about to crank up in New Orleans, starting on December 8th and running through the 11th.

More on that later. But, finally, for right now, I will have a small number of pieces in a group show this month at the Exchange Gallery at Raleigh's Visual Art Exchange, opening Friday, December 3rd, Raleigh's First Friday, with a reception from 6-9 at the Visual Art Exchange in its new location at 309 West Martin Street in downtown Raleigh, near our new Contemporary Art Museum (CAM).