Monday, February 24, 2014

Southern Photographers in London

The photography scene in London is far too rich for anyone to get one's head around, even in a lifetime, but here are some items I noticed on a recent visit.

Harry Callahan at the Tate Modern

Harry Callahan spent most of his distinguished career outside the South, but toward the end of it he moved to Atlanta and made some fine work, including the image Georgia Mountains, above.

I saw an impressive show of this work in Atlanta several years ago, and regard Callahan as an Honorary Southern Photographer on the strength of it.

There is a fine retrospective exhibition of Callahan's work up now at the Tate Modern, through May 31st, 2014.

William Eggleston at the Tate Modern

The William Eggleston exhibition we mentioned last fall, also at the Tate Modern is still up, through May 11th, 2014.

The Photographers' Gallery

The Photographers' Gallery is a major center for photographers, combining exhibition space with a great book store and other facilities. It is well worth a visit anytime one is in London.

One annual activity of the Photographers' Gallery is to host the exhibition that concludes the international Deutsche Börse Photography Prize competition.

This year one of the four finalists for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize is Lorna Simpson, a NYC-based photographer.

Although Not From Around Here, Simpson is worth attending to because her work consistently addresses concerns central to our experience in the American South.

This aspect of her work has been recognized on this side of the Mason-Dixon line by her being given an Award in the Arts in 1989 by the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, and a solo show at the Gibbes Museum in Charleston, SC, in 2006-2007.

Simpson defines her work as seeking to "confront and challenge narrow, conventional views of gender, identity, culture, history and memory."

"With the African-American woman as a visual point of departure, Simpson uses the figure to examine the ways in which gender and culture shape the interactions, relationships and experiences of our lives in contemporary multi-racial America."

We wish Simpson well in this competition and will attend to the results later this year.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

More on the Auction to Benefit Photography Instruction at Penland

This just in from the folks at Penland, with more details about the auction to benefit the photography program at the Penland School of Crafts. The auction is March 2nd, with absentee bidding availalbe on 35 photographs by distinguished Southern photographers.

The folks at Penland say all this better than I could, so I'll paste in the message they sent me.

An Expansive Vision: Photographers Working for Penland's Future

A special exhibition and auction in support of the new photography studio at Penland School of Crafts  

Alida Fish
Nautilus with Bug, gelatin silver print with hand painting, 16 x 20 inches
The live auction at Cassilhaus Gallery on March 2 is almost full, but there is space for an unlimited number of absentee bidders. You can give us your maximum bid for any of the 35 photographs you are interested in. Our staff will place bids for you (up to your maximum) during the live auction.  

Complete online catalog here.

Read more about the Penland photo studio, Cassilhaus, and this auction here.

Absentee Bidding

Place absentee bids with Nancy Kerr:
Dan Estabrook
Bleed, salt print with watercolor, 11 x 14 inches

Open by appointment only, through March 1, 2014  
call Frank Konhaus at 919.403.6301 (home) or 919.616.0555 (cell)

Sponsored by Ellen Cassilly and Frank Konhaus, Jefferson Holt, Light Art+Design, Barbara McFadyen and Douglass Phillips, Kaola and Frank Phoenix, and Allen Thomas

Contributing Artists

Kyle Bajakian  
Courtney Dodd
Chris PeregoyDavid Spear
Ralph Burns 
James Henkel 
Benjamin PorterJim Stone 
Shane Darwent 
Russell Jeffcoat 
John PfahlEvon Streetman 
Robin Dreyer
Keith Johnson
Brook Reynolds Harry Taylor
Dan Estabrook 
Naima Merella 
Holly Roberts Sarah Van Keuren
Alida Fish
E. Vincent Martinez 
Linda Foard Roberts Caroline Hickman Vaughan
Lisa A. Frank
Elizabeth Matheson 
Alyssa C. Salomon David H. Wells
Dan Gottlieb
John Menapace*
MJ Sharp John Woodin
David Graham
Jeannie Pearce 
Jerry Spagnoli 

*The work by John Menapace was donated by Ellen Cassilly and Frank Konhaus; all other works donated by the artists.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Donna Rosser is having a great 2014 -- and its only February

Atlanta-based photographer Donna Rosser had a great 2013 (go here) and is already having a great 2014.

We last checked in with Rosser early in the fall of 2013. Later last year, she received a Merit of Excellence award from the Black and White Spider Awards, as well as two honorable mentions at the IPA (International Photography Association) Awards.

Earlier this year Rosser exhibited work in Holland as a result of her success having three images accepted through the Holland International ImageCircuit competition.

Even more recently, Rosser was awarded first place in the Places category for her image East Beach (see image above) in the One Shot Competition in this year's International Photography Awards, as well as two more honorable mention awards.

 To top things off, Rosser's image Stars over Low Tide (see image above) was the Director's Choice award winner for a recent show at the Kiernan Gallery in Lynchburg, VA.

And, she has work on view at the moment or forthcoming in galleries and exhibitions across the South, and especially in Lake City, SC, LaGrange, GA, and Johnson City, TX.  

And, its only February. Who knows what the future will bring for the Barefoot Photographer?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Auction to support Photography at Penland

I've just learned that Ellen Cassilly and Frank Konhaus are hosting a photography auction at Cassilhaus in Chapel Hill on March 2nd to benefit the new photography studio being planned by Penland School of Crafts.

The auction includes 35 framed prints covering a range of styles and photographic processes. The works have been donated by the artists.

The list includes quite a few Southern photographers including Evon Streetman, Elizabeth Matheson (see image below), John Menapace (see image above), Ralph Burns, Dan Gottlieb, MJ Sharp, Carolyn Vaughan, Linda Foard Roberts, David Spear, and Harry Taylor.

The show is up at Cassilhaus now and can be seen by appointment.

The auction will take place on Sunday, March 2. The event is open to anyone and it's not full yet, but seating is limited.

Absentee bidding is available. Details on attending the auction or on bidding in absentia and a full catalog are on the Penland website here:

Sale of this work will support fund-raising efforts to build a new photography studio that will allow Penland to teach more-or-less every kind of photography that's ever existed.

This is a great way to acquire some fine examples of Southern photography and to support one of the great centers for arts education.

Check it out!.

Thibodeaux and McCord on One One Thousand

One One Thousand, the online magazine of Southern photography, brings us for February two photographers who work in black and white, and who also work along the Mississippi river, in the Delta region.

Dallas-based photographer Brandon Thibodeaux (see image above) offers us his When Morning Comes portfolio, work made in the Mississippi Delta, in Thibodeaux's words, in "five communities that span roughly 15 square miles of the northern Mississippi Delta. 

"Villages with names like Alligator, and Bo Bo, as well as the country's oldest completely African American city, Mound Bayou, where in 1910, a New York Times headline once declared, 'no white man can own a square foot of land.'"

For Thibodeaux,  this is intensely personal work, work made "after troubled times," when he traveled to the Mississippi Delta "in search of something stronger than myself and attended its churches not to photograph but to cry and be redeemed and to just be a part of the place. I was there to listen as I prayed for a revelation."

Thibodeaux found in the Delta "signs of strength against struggle, humility amidst pride, and a promise for deliverance in . . . a land stigmatized by poverty beneath a long shadow of racism" where he found "evidence of the tender and yet unwavering human spirit that resides within its fabric."

For Thibodeaux, "what began as a journey for personal exploration is found a narrative of another man's faith, identity, and perseverance."

"I see the strength of a single man while acknowledging the machine that replaced thousands, the flight of childhood innocence grounded by the scar of life hard lived, a living room altar to a symbolic president and a toppled white king in a conquered game of chess."

Thibodeaux acknowledges that "this work makes specific reference to the rural black experience," in which he is "reminded with every visit that these themes of faith, identity, and perseverance are common to us all. These are the traits of strong men."

Los Angeles-based photographer Lisa McCord (see image above) also works in the Delta, in her case on the western side of the Mississippi, in the Arkansas Delta.

McCord offers us images from her Rotan Switch portfolio, inages made to "document life on a cotton farm, specifically Rotan, also known as Ohlendorf Farms at Rotan Switch. This is my grandparents' farm on the Mississippi River in Northeastern Arkansas near Osceola."

McCord says that her family traveled so much when she was a child that this place, her grandparents' farm, constitutes for her a "sense of place," which turns out to be "a cotton farm in Arkansas on the Mississippi Delta, where they lived for most of their lives."

"My grandparents and their home," says McCord, "was the only permanent thing in my life. Much of my work draws from my relationship with permanence and transience."

For her, the images in this portfolio represent -- as they will for many Southern white folks, "not only  . . . reflect my family's heritage, but also the agricultural life of many African-Americans in the rural South."

McCord discusses that world, the world of people of color, with a deep sense of being a privileged visitor.

"I was allowed into the local homes, cafes and churches to capture images similar to those of my childhood. I remember drinking water from gourds dipped into metal buckets."

"Twenty years later, James used the same metal buckets to wash the family cars and for other household tasks. I learned to ride my small, navy-blue bike with the help of Penson's children. When I photographed their family I saw the neighborhood children playing much the same way as we did.

"As a young adult, I "snuck" into the cafes, to join the people who met to relax after a hard week of work. Although I was always the only Caucasian in the café, I was received warmly.

"It was natural to photograph these endeared friends. We shared friend chicken and black-eyed peas, cooked by Cully, my grandparents' cook and our beloved nanny. We sang "Sweet Jesus Take Me Home" at Cully's church so many times.

"These memories are printed on my heart as clearly as these images are printed on paper."

Thibodeaux and McCord are making strong work here, powerfully seen and deeply felt work, work about personal discovery and the making of complex meaning in their lives. Indeed, their work in my view gets to the heart of the Southern dilemma, especially for the Southern photographer who happens, as they do, and as I do, to be white.

Both Thibodeaux and McCord, in making these images, are working in a long-standing tradition of Southern artistic practice, a tradition in which white artists depict people of color in their work and for whom people of color represent continuity, "stability," "home,"  "strength," "humility," "promise," "warmth," "friendship," and in both the case of Thibodeaux and McCord, religious faith and practice that has integrity.

One thinks of William Faulkner, who says of his most significant African-American characters that "they endured." One thinks of the countless numbers of Southern white folks who grew up in homes where most of the child care, including most of the nurturing and support and love they received,  came to them not from their white parents, but from the "Help," from their (usually not very well-paid) African-American caregivers.

One does not doubt the sincerity and heart-felt thankfulness of artists in this tradition for the roles of people of color in their lives and in their work.  One does not doubt the power of the work that emerges from their work in this tradition.

This practice -- complex and multifaceted -- is at the heart of so much creative work from artists working from the white side of the Southern racial conundrum.

But one cannot also help but wonder what people of color make of all us white folks who show up from our positions of privilege to take an interest in them, with our cameras or our tape recorders or our typewriters, when it suits us to notice.

Philip Weinstein of Swarthmore College (who is white) has written of Toni Morrison and Faulkner, that Morrison "joins Faulkner in registering the often unwanted and always unavoidable reciprocity of the two races in American history—their strange intertwining."

"Yet she registers as well," Weinstein writes, "as Faulkner cannot, the ways in which American blacks have absorbed the worst that a white world could do to them, and—thanks to their own cultural ingenuity—made of it a living repository of wary wit and hard-earned wisdom."

It seems to be the fate of some African-Americans to be just the people some white folk needed to meet, when there was a need to fill, a life to orient, some story to be told, or a photograph to make. We've made a lot of art out of these encounters. There are a lot of folks whom we have made into our "Other," to help us figure out who we are.

I hope its a reciprocal relationship. I hope there are African-American artists who have been enabled in their creative work by knowing some of us. I hope its not just a one-way street. But I don't know. I suspect I can't know, not even in this 21st century world, a full century and a half since the end of slavery.

And that's a conundrum at the heart of Southern history, and culture, and identity, part of Weinstein's "strange intertwining." At least for white folks like me.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

News From Early February 2014


Several items of Interest:

1. The folks at PhotoNOLA have named the winners of their annual Portfolio Review prizes.

These awards go to the outstanding portfolios presented for review during the annual PhotoNOLA photography festival, held annually in New Orleans in December.

 This year, second prize went to Austin, Texas based photographer Walter Pickering for his portfolio Esprit de Corps (See image above).

Third prize went to New Orleans-based photographer Lee Deigaard (see image above) for work from his portfolio Nocturnal Portraits.

First Prize went to Elizabeth Stone for her portfolio Skins, Shells, and Meats, and she is a fine shooter too, but she is, as we say, Not From Around Here.

2. Honorary Southern Photographer Carrie Mae Weems will deliver this year's Rothschild Lecture at Duke University's Nasher Museum of Art on Thursday, March 6th, 2014, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. For more information, go here:

Thanks to David Simonton for passing this information along to me.

3. The Duke University Press has published New York-based photographer Gerard H. Gaskin's Legendary: The House Ballroom Scene, winner of the Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography for 2012 (see image above).

Gaskins' work takes us inside the world of "house balls, underground events where gay and transgender men and women, mostly African American and Latino, come together to see and be seen."

Many of the photographs in Legendary were made in Richmond, VA and Washington, DC, in addition to New York and Philadelphia. 

4. Jennifer Schwartz' Crusade for Art has posted an invitation for applications by a photographer or group of photographers who have "creative and original ideas" for developing "demand for fine art photography." The grant is significant -- $10, 000 -- and the guidelines for applying are here:

5. And, finally, the photographers featured on Jeff Rich's Eyes on the South blog for the Oxford American magazine, since we last checked are:

Justin Kaneps (see image above)
Shawne Brown
Stacy Kranitz
Whitten Sabbatini (see image below)

The locales for work by Kaneps, Brown, and Krantz point to questions of regional definition -- ie, are West Virginia and Ohio Southern states? -- which are worthy of extended discussion.

But may Jeff's good work, and the fine photography of all these folks, continue.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The South in Black and White at Rebekah Jacob Gallery

The Rebekah Jacob Gallery in Charleston has up, through February 28th, 2014, a show featuring classic documentary photography in the American South.

The show is called Masters in the South: Black & White Documentary Photography from 1930-Present.

Work on view includes depression-era photographs from WPA photographers, including Peter Sekaer, Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Arthur Rothstein.  

The show also includes post-World War work by Robert Frank, and Jack Leigh, as well as work from the civil rights era by Ernest Withers and Bob Adelman.

This show is exceptionally important because the work on display forms a major thread in American, as well as Southern, photography. The look of black and white imagery used in this work helped develop the concept of photography as an art form.

This work also helped define the kinds of subject matter appropriate or desirable in the practice of photography.The Despression-era work especially reminds us of the appeal to many photographers of signs of time's passing, the fragility of human endeavor, and the feelings associated with suffering and loss.

The powerfully elegiac character of much black and white photography is very much on offer in the work of distinguished Charleston photographer Julia Cart (see image above), also now on display at the Rebekah Jacob Gallery.

Cart specializes in documenting the vanishing Low Country of South Carolina in black and white, especially offering us strongly seen images of grand spaces now abandoned to peeling paint and other signs of the ravages of time.

I first saw Cart's work on display in a tour of expensive new houses on Daniel Island, a former hunting preserve of the Guggenheim family now turned into a planned community where the grass is manicured and the mosquitoes are taught to fly in formation, and only after everyone has gone to bed.

The houses being used for Cart's show were multimillion-dollar houses, with built-in swimming pools and indoor theaters complete with theater seating and popcorn machines.

I couldn't decide whether the message was to celebrate today's success in the face of the past's failures, or to remind us that we, like those who have gone before us, are dust, and to dust we shall return.

In any case,  Cart's work is very much worthy of our attention, and forms a perfect complement to the rest of the work on offer in this season of black and white at the Rebekah Jacob Gallery.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New York Report # 2 -- Carrie Mae Weems at the Guggenheim

Honorary Southern photographer Carrie Mae Weems is having a long-overdue but richly deserved retrospective show at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.

The show's title is Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video, and it's up now through April 23rd, 2014.

This show was actually put together back in 2012 by the folks at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, which has more material on this show on its website, here.

Weems herself has gathered an extensive collection of press coverage and other accounts of this show, on her website, here.

Weems was born in Portland, Oregon, but her parents were from Tennessee.

Weems has made a central theme of her work the experience of African-American families in what has been called the Great Migration, moving from their homes in the South and making their way to new homes in the North.

She has also attended to questions of race, gender, history, and culture.  Or, as the folks at the Guggenheim put it,

"Carrie Mae Weems is a socially motivated artist whose works invite contemplation of race, gender, and class. Increasingly, she has broadened her view to include global struggles for equality and justice.

"The exhibition traces the evolution of Weems’s career over the last 30 years, from her early documentary and autobiographical photographic series to the more conceptual and philosophically complex works that have placed her at the forefront of contemporary art.

"Although Weems employs a variety of means to address an array of issues, all of her work displays an overarching commitment to better understanding the present by closely examining history and identity.

"It also contains a desire for universality: while African Americans are typically her primary subjects, Weems wants “people of color to stand for the human multitudes” and for her art to resonate with all audiences."

Weems' engagement with race, gender, history, and identity are all deeply Southern concerns.

Her commitment in her work to the belief that the experiences of people of color are distinctive, and yet universal, helps us make sense of who we are and what of value can come from our experience and legacy as Southerners.

These abiding concerns in her work are what make Weems an Honorary Southern Photographer.

Weems has won many awards in a truly distinguished career. She was named a Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation in 2013.

All this, and the show at the Guggenheim, too, represent welcome recognition of her achievement in photography. 

New York Report #1 -- What is Photography?

The International Center of Photography in NYC has a show up now, through May 4th, 2014, entitled What is a Photograph?

The Center says that this show explores "the intense creative experimentation in photography that has occurred since the 1970s."

Photographers in this show "reinvented photography," according to the Center, because they engaged in "rigorous . . . aesthetically adventurous analysis, which probed photography itself—from the role of light, color, composition, to materiality and the subject."

The Center contrasts the work of these photographers to work produced by photographers influenced by "conceptual art."

"Conceptual art," say the folks at the Center, "introduced photography into contemporary art making, using the medium in ways that challenged it artistically, intellectually, and technically and broadened the notion of what a photograph could be in art."

In other words, conceptual photographers were interested in the relationship between photography and the categories of art, as traditionally construed, while the folks in this show are interested in exploring the nature of photography from within.

Ken Johnson, reviewing the show for the NY Times, is skeptical, calling the show "disappointing . . .  a strangely blinkered and backward-looking show," in which almost all the work exhibits a "navel-gazing narrowness" that has "more to do with photography’s past than with its possible future."

Philip Gefter, also writing for the NY Times, is more positive, finding the show a documentation of a moment when "contemporary photographers are doing something that is disorienting yet ultimately transformative."

Southern photographers are usually engaged in using photography to come to terms with the world around us, with all the resources that photography can provide. So subject matter and interpretation tend to be more central to the practice than metaphotographic issues.

But if you are interested in work that foregrounds questions about the nature of the medium, here are the folks in the ICP show:

Matthew Brandt, Marco Breuer, Liz Deschenes, Adam Fuss, Owen Kydd, Floris Neusüss, Marlo Pascual, Sigmar Polke, Eileen Quinlan (see image above), Jon Rafman, Gerhard Richter, Mariah Robertson, Alison Rossiter, Lucas Samaras, Travess Smalley, David Benjamin Sherry, Kate Steciw, Artie Vierkant, James Welling,  Christopher Williams, and Letha Wilson.

You can see some of the images from the show, here.

I do not think there is a Southern photographer in the bunch, but its always good to know what the rest of the world is doing.