Saturday, June 16, 2012

Photography Shows Open at the High Museum in Atlanta

The High Museum of Art  in Atlanta has three major photography shows up at the moment.

Two of them, representing the work of four photographers, are from the High's ongoing Picturing the South series of commissioned portfolios.

The third show,  Picturing New York, offers over 150 images from the extensive photography collection of  the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, and is the latest in a series of shows up in Atlanta as part of the High's partnership with MoMA.

This show should be an important one, since MoMA has been a major and influential collector of photographs for a long time, but since NYC is Not Around Here, we will say it is surely a worthwhile show, and we commend it to you, and leave the matter at that.

Except to say that the High insists on giving Picturing New York top billing over Picturing the South, which shows bodies of work the High has commissioned about our Native Region, and even paid for.

If you don't believe me, go here. And go figure.

One would think that a show of photographs about the South would be a bigger draw in Atlanta than a show about NYC, but not from the High's point of view. They do say, however, that Pictures from New York tells us about a traditional Southern concern, albeit situated several hundred miles northward.

That is, of course, the question of home, and of those "idiosyncratic details that define New Yorkers' sense of home."

This show, like Picturing the South, opened June 9th and is up through September 22, 2012, coming down just in time not to be on the walls for Atlanta Celebrates Photography, another great programming decision from the folks at the high.

The most important show among those that do feature photographs of the South is the Richard Misrach show that opened on June 2nd and is up through October 7th.

Misrach is one of America's most significant photographers right now, and his images of the devastation wreaked on the landscape of Louisiana by the chemical industry are haunting and compelling.

Louisiana, like many Southern states, has been willing to sell its soul to industry for the sake of jobs, regardless of the environmental cost or the cost in human misery. Misrach's images help us keep track of that cost.

Misrach's show, like the work in the Picturing the South show, was funded by the High as part of its ongoing series of commissions to build its collection of work about the South from major photographers.

Misrach has been working on this portfolio for some time, and its good finally to have it on the walls at the High.

The show called Picturing the South features the work of three photographers, England's Martin Parr, New York's Shane Lavalette, and  New York's Kael Alford, who were commissioned this year by the High for work on the South.

You can see a good bit of this work on the CNN blog, with Parr here, Lavalette here, and Alford here.

There is a video about Martin Parr at work on his project, here.

Based on the CNN images, I'd say that Parr flew in, made Martin Parr-like images on a stroll down Peachtree, and flew back to London for his next shoot, and his next pay check.

Which is OK, I guess. After all, a shooter's gotta get paid. 

Lavalette says he was inspired by Southern music to make his work, though he sought "to explore the relationship between traditional music and the contemporary landscape through a more poetic lens" than presumably a more documentary lens. He chose to "let the music itself carry the pictures."

Alford's work represents a homecoming for her, and a respite from the war photography that has engaged her in recent years.

Her ancestors lived on the Louisiana coastline she now photographs (see image above), and her connections to her subjects, and her emotional response to this place, so familiar and yet so strange, in many and often complex and conflicting ways, come through this body of work with rare intensity and depth.

All this work makes Atlanta a great place to get to in the coming months. I hope to make it, myself. 


  1. Thanks for all that info John, might have to try and get up there!

  2. You pretty much hit the nail on the head concerning Parr's contribution to Picturing the South. I attended his lecture at the High, and while the audience generally seemed pleased by his photographs of "Atlanta," they add very little to any conversation about regionalism or about the city's rich history of photography. His work was lazy and rushed... A photographer's stature shouldn't blind us to that.

  3. Hear, hear . . . You captured my feelings exactly.