Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Getting up to Date on Stacy Kranitz and CNN and the Portrayal of Appalachia

The question of CNN's edit of Stacy Kranitz's images of Appalachia continues to engage lots of us.

Here's a trail of some of the discussion.

Colin Pantall discusses the controversy under the heading Pain, Dentistry, and Appalachia on his blog, here.  

Joerg Colberg has responded on his blog Conscientious in his usual thoughtful way, here,  under the general heading Photography and Place.

Roger May places this conversation into the context of the history of representation of Appalachia on his blog Walk Your Camera, under the heading Perpetuating the Visual Myth of Appalachia, Part Three.    

We have discussed some of these issues before on this blog, in conversation about the work of Shelby Lee Adams, under the heading Is Shelby Lee Adams a Realist or a Pornographer?

I personally think photography's power comes often in its capacity to challenge the viewer to examine the perspective on an image that the viewer brings to the image when the viewer looks at it.

Myra Greene's work -- which I offered for consideration earlier today -- is, to her, at least in part about asking people who look like the people in her Best Friends portfolio to consider themselves as part of a group.

Shawn Michelle Smith's comments on Greene's work may also apply to our images of other categories of people or places, like Appalachia: 

Smith says, in Myra Greene's work, "Images initially read as benign portraits of a cross section of white American life, yet the impetus for their creation lies in an undercurrent of racial description.   

"By photographing friends, peers, and mentors, Greene visually ponders if photography can capture and describe the nuances of whiteness.  

"Do gesture and environment allude to a lived truth, a performance by the sitter, or stereotype implored by the photographer herself? 

"These photographs offer descriptions instead of resolutions.  Readers charged with dissecting coded information, are confronted with their own notions of race."

In the meantime, in the context of this discussion, Florida-based photographer Christian Harkness has brought to my attention a story in a recent T/Style supplement to the New York Times about the cultural context and the audience for the performance of African American music in the Mississippi Delta. 

You can find it here.

The photographs for this story (see example, above) are by Mark Borthwick, a New York-based photographer whose work here is another case study in seeing ourselves as others see us.  

Maybe the blown-out compositions he uses here capture some of the experience of the Southern sun?

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