Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Roger May and Gene Ellenberg on One: One Thousand

The online photo magazine One: One Thousand (1:1000) offers us for April work by Cary, NC-based photographer Roger May and Clemson, SC-based photographer Gene Ellenberg. 

Both of these bodies of work -- May's Testify (see image above) and Ellenberg's In My Father's House (see image below) -- address important issues in Southern culture, specifically making meaning of and coming to terms with history, both regional and personal.

Roger May's work is, he says "a visual love letter to Appalachia, the land of my blood," a record of how he "came to see the importance of home and my connection to place."

He goes on: "After moving away as a teenager, I've struggled to return, to latch on to something from my memory. These images are a vignette into my working through the problem of the construction of memory versus reality. My work embraces the raw beauty of the mountains while keeping at arms length the stereotypical images that have tried to define Appalachia for decades"

In relationship to this place, May finds himself, like most Southerners,  feeling like "both an insider and an outsider."

This body of work represents his "bearing witness of a personal journey, of never truly being able to go home again, to seek answers from my ancestral home."

"Appalachia testifies of timelessness and natural beauty. The mountains testify of protection and sanctuary and at the same time the horrible destruction of mountaintop removal mining. The people of Appalachia testify of their pride and resilience. Old time religion testifies of the power in the blood and a heavenly home just across the shore"

May's work in both B and W and color is powerfully seen and beautifully realized.

And, he is having a great year, right now, as a photographer. In addition to having work on One: One Thousand, he has a Kickstarter campaign going in support of a book project based on this body of work.

This campaign has been declared a Kickstarter Staff Favorite and has been featured on FlakPhoto Digest, here.  I'm signed up as a supporter, and commend it to you.  

Gene Ellenberg's portfolio In My Father's House is a powerfully seen and powerfully realized set of very personal images.

These images speak of both intimacy and estrangement, of closeness and distance. There is courage here, in the honesty and openness in which his subjects agree to be seen, by him and by us.

Many Southerners will recognize familiar settings and situations here, in this record of the dance of family life. My father had a favorite chair, like the one depicted above. And a pistol in an underwear drawer, as well.

Ellenberg in his Artist's Statement speaks of all these dimensions of family, and of the process of photographing his family, as both "quiet and unnerving." 

He speaks of "brief notes scribbled on napkins" that reveal "the private introspections of my father," of personal distances that develop "over the course of this project . . . into an exchange." 

"Looking at the work now," he writes, "I see a mutual understanding, a trust. Through straight documentation as well as the constructed image, I am attempting to blur the lines of what I recall, what I want to admit, and perhaps what I want to see." 

I'm grateful to Ellenberg and his family for making this work, and making it available to us. His work, and May's represent some of the strongest work that the folks at One: One Thousand have brought us.

Congratulations, all around!

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