Thursday, December 31, 2015

News of Southern Photographers -- Early Winter 2015 Edition


Several items of interest here in the waning hours of 2015 --

1. Nashville-based photographer Jerry Park has announced the publication of his first book, Slow Roads Tennessee, available here.

Park's book is drawn from work he made over a 2-year period while roaming the backroads of Tennessee with a Holga camera.  
Publication of Slow Roads Tennessee was celebrated by a show of this work this month at Nashville's Arts Company, go here. 

Park is a member of SouthLight Salon, a group of 7 photographers in Nashville, including Jerry Atnip, who concentrate on Southern photography and are deeply committed to enhancing the quality of art in our region. 

2.  Atlanta-based photographer Forest McMullin has recently been getting lots of recognition for work from his Black Cowboys (and Girls) portfolio, documenting the world of African-American rodeos.

See coverage here, in LensCulture, also here, in feature shoot, also here, from Manfrotto.

McMullin reminds us that African-Americans constituted a significant proportion of the folks who settled the American West, although their role has been largely ignored by historians and the media.

 This tradition is kept alive today by a network of rodeos -- notably the Bill Pickett Rodeos -- who feature especially participants who are black.  

3. Dallas-based photographer Rachael Banks (see image above) was interviewed about her work recently by the Strange Fire Collective, go here.

4. Southern photographers Deborah Luster (see image above) and Sally Mann (see image below) have work in a show that opened in October 2015 at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, TN.  

This show is entitled Phantom Bodies: The Human Aura in Art, and includes, along with Luster and Mann, a bunch of heavy hitters in the current art world like Damien Hirst, Gerhard Richter, and Magdalena Abakanowicz.

There is still time to see this show, since it is up at the Frist Center until mid-February 2016.  

5. Among the books chosen by Elizabeth Avedon as the best photography books of 2015 are GORDON PARKS: BACK TO FORT SCOTT, edited by Karen Hass (see image above) and ALPHABET, by Debbie Fleming Caffery (see image below)

 6. Lenscratch, on its list of the best of 2015, included photographs by Alabama-based photographer Jared Ragland (see image below), from their State of Alabama project. 

 8. Lenscratch also liked Winston-Salem-based photographer Heather Evans Smith's Seen but not Heard portfolio as a favorite (see image below).

7. Aline Smthson, editor of Lenscratch, listed Lori Vrba's The Moth Wing Diaries and McNair Evans' Confession for a Son, as among her favorite photography books of 2015. 

8. And finally, for now, and for 2015, Jeff Rich in December 2015 featured Atlanta-based photographer Blake Burton's portfolio Ponce City Market (see image above) and East Tennessee-based photographer Matthew Jessie's portfolio
Its Hills and Valleys (see image below) in his Eyes on the South series, for the Oxford American.

And that's my take on fine art photography in the American South for 2015. 

We'll be back next year, folks.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Eliot Dudik has had a Wonderful 2015, says Aline Smithson

Aline Smithson, the Founder and Editor-in Chief of Lenscratch, has declared that Williamsburg-based photographer Eliot Dudik (see portrait above, by Penn Chan) is "the Grand Master of All Things Photographic" for 2015.

Smithson says,  "I stand in amazement at what Eliot has and can achieve. He is a talented and dedicated large format photographer (we are talking an 8 x 10 camera with double backs–meaning an 8 x 20 camera–see below)."

Smithson then recites Dudik's achievements from 2015, noting that Dudik "recently started the new William and Mary photo department from scratch, celebrating its establishment with an exhibition of over 100 photographs garnered from various contemporary photographers, which Eliot single-handedly printed, mounted, and then burned."

She goes on, "Eliot had nine exhibitions in 2015, 4 of them solo shows, with many more lined up for 2016. 

"He made all the frames for the exhibitions, he created the most talked about leave-behind at last year’s PhotoNOLA and also won the 2014 PhotoNOLA Review Prize for which he produced a monograph with custom made linen and foiled covers. 

"He won the 2015 Archive of Documentary Arts Collection Award from Duke University and the 2015 Flash Forward Award–and has just been nominated for the 2016 Baum Award for Emerging American Photographers. 

"And if that isn’t enough, he and Jared Ragland photographed, produced, and printed a spectacular book in ONE DAY during PhotoNOLA.

Smithson concludes, "It doesn’t hurt that he’s a wonderful friend and supporter of all who he encounters. Needless to say, he’s a constant inspiration."

That's high praise from Aline Smithson, and its well-deserved praise, too.

I had the good fortune to meet Dudik during CLICK! The Triangle Photography Festival in Durham, earlier this year.

Glad to know Dudik, glad to see he is getting the recognition he deserves.

Southern Photographers in Vogue

Southern photography seems to be having a moment in the sun. 

Or at least, a moment in vogue, or more specifically, a moment in Vogue, where Contributing Editor Rebecca Bengal offers us a list of books that, at least in her view, are "the Best Photography Books about the American South" for 2015.

Bengal notes that the American South has a "sort of peculiarly twisted past-is-never-past relationship to place," and that "photography has its own inherently, peculiarly twisted relationship to history, anxiously aware of the possibility of loss and the fleeting nature of every moment, the fact that as soon as a picture is made it moves into another tense."

Hence, for Bengal, "To look at any photograph is to reckon with the past and trigger a dialogue with the present. 

"This year some of the most compelling photo books were those that delved seemingly further backward, as well as some that seemed to, yielding a portrait that is varied, anachronistic, and speaks very much to the world of now."

Bengal's list of the Best Photography Books of 2015 that attend to the American Sough include, of course, Sally Mann's Hold Still (see image above), in which "Sally Mann writes as vividly of the South as she has photographed it, of a life spent in the thrall of its beautiful wilderness but forever haunted by its history."

Also on her list is William Eggleston's The Democratic Forest (see image above), his multi-volume compilation of hundreds of images in which, according to Bengal, "in a dynamically highly arranged narrative, the ordinary explodes with implication; by bringing the minor details of the world to our attention, Eggleston brings everything to our attention.

For Bengal, "the whole thing swerves, with dizzying power, heading back home South, along dirt roads, flashbacking past its town squares and porch columns and tables set for dinner, eerily past tobacco barns and farms, to battlefields and graveyards and shooting upward to its cottony clouds and startlingly blue, blue skies." 

Also on Bengal's list is Gordon Parks' Segregation Story (see image above), a compilation of Parks' work from 1956 in which he set out "to discover whether the Brown v. Board of Education ruling had done much to change daily life" in the South, and found "a Deep South still vastly divided among racial lines. 

Bengal is attracted to the power of Parks' images to document how "At the water fountains and along school fences, he captured the contrast in full color photographs, images that, 60 years after the fact, retain a powerful immediacy."

Following up on Parks' explorations of race in the American South, Bengal singles out Honorary Southern Photographer Gillian Laub, who in her Southern Rites (see image above), offers us "an original and provocative twelve-year visual study of one community’s struggle to confront longstanding issues of race and equality," especially as it seeks to hold its first integrated Senior Prom.

Laub's work has been the subject of an HBO documentary as well. You can read more about Laub's work, here. 

Bengal's list also includes Maude Schuyler Clay's Mississippi History (see image above), of which Bengal says that Clay's portraits of friends and family "are radiant, and they astonish with their subtle intimacy, as if Clay spent the past three decades lurking around backyards and porches in Delta magic hours."

Bengal has also selected An Iconography of Chance: 99 Photographs of the Evanescent South (see image above), made by Memphis- based photographer and rock ’n’ roll musician Tav Falco.

According to the publisher, in this book "Falco guides us through the home towns, gravel roads, and the backwoods spiritual sanctuary that he knows so well.

"This is a psycho-iconography of the gothic South in pictures with captioned intertext of the urban spectors, rural fables and visual clichés that have made the American South a netherworld of dreams and a necropolis of terrors.  

"In his hands the camera excavates the Orphic vision of the American South. Falco succeeds like no other in his stated mission to stir up the dark waters of the unconscious."

Well, OK, maybe -- but just because this description sounds like rock and roll hype doesn't mean that the work is not worth our attention. 

In another of Bengal's selections, authors Sarah Bryan and Peter Honig have brought together in LEAD KINDLY LIGHT (see image above) a compilation of recordings and found images from the rural American South in the period between the dawn of the 20th century and the Second World War. 

North Carolina collectors Honig and Bryan, a husband-and-wife team, have spent years combing the backroads, from deep in the Appalachian Mountains to the cotton and tobacco lowlands, in search of the evocative music and images of the pre-War South. 

The music here includes 46 recordings of lesser-known country, blues and gospel artists made between 1924 and 1939.

The photographs, from Bryan's collection of vernacular photography found in the Carolinas, Virginia and Tennessee, are "richly textured depictions of family life, work and leisure, fine exemplars of the often accidental beauty of the vernacular snapshot."

Finally on Bengal's list is Parchman Farm: Photographs and Field Recordings: 1947-1959, a compliation of recordings and photographs made by the great American folklorist Alan Lomax at Parchman Prison Farm in Mississippi in the late 1940's and 1950's.

Brought together by Bruce Jackson, this collection of 44 songs and 77 archival photographs "documented as best an outsider could the stark and savage conditions of the prison farm, where the black inmates labored "from can't to can't," chopping timber, clearing ground and picking cotton for the state."

The publisher tells us that the people Lomax recorded "sang as they worked, keeping time with axes or hoes, adapting to their condition the slavery-time hollers that sustained their forebears and creating a new body of American song. 

"Theirs was music, as Lomax wrote, that "testified to the love of truth and beauty which is a universal human trait." 

All fine work, all worthy of representing the work of Southern photographers in 2015. 

Our thanks go to Bengal, another Southerner, for bringing this work to our attention, and to the attention of Vogue readers everywhere.

You can see a slide show of images from all these books here

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas at Graceland -- December 2015

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

Best wishes for a joyous Christmas, or for your own version of the holiday season,  to Southern photographers and Southern photography fans everywhere. 

The Southern Photographer will now take a short break from chronicling Fine Art Photography in the American South while your humble blogger attends to other professional and personal responsibilities.

Thank you for your attention, and especially your kind words of support for this blog during the past year. 

We look forward to resuming our chronicle after the 25th of December. 

In the meanwhile, remember that Christmas is a season, not just a day, and the season of Christmas is 12 days long. 

So its Christmas from December 25th all the way through until Twelfth Night, January 5th, 2015. 

In the meantime, we wish you all the joy that the holiday season can bring, and a Happy New Year, too. 


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Susan Harbage Page Crosses the Border

Chapel Hill-based photographer Susan Harbage Page has worked tirelessly to humanize the border that distinguishes the USA from Mexico. 

Harbage Page, in her latest effort, plans “Cross the Border: An Art Action,” a day of crossing and recrossing that border.

Her Art Action is scheduled for
Saturday, December 19 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m at the Gateway International Bridge between Brownsville, TX and Matamoros, Mexico. 

In this Art Action, Harbage Page intends to see how many times she --and others who wish to join her -- can cross the border in an eight-hour period.

Harbage Page says she wants to know “why information, technology, goods, and culture can pass freely over international borders, but bodies can’t. 

"Why my privileged white body has permission to cross this border while other bodies don’t.

“Why must thousands of people annually put their bodies at great risk to walk the same path I walk easily, in an attempt to be safe, provide for their families, and simply belong?”

Since 2007, Harbage Page has made annual pilgrimages to the Rio Grande Valley and Brownsville, TX to work on her U.S.–Mexico Border Project

Over the years of her work on the USA-Mexican border, Harbage Page has walked, biked, and canoed along the border.

Harbage Page's project has developed in three movements: 1. photographs of the changing landscape, 2. an archive containing over 1,000 objects left behind on the border by people migrating north, and 3. a series of yearly site-specific performances.

These actions have ranged from a temporary floating bridge made from children’s inner tubes (2009) between Brownsville and Matamoros, to a protest—laying down in the middle of the bridge between Nuevo Progresso and Progresso (2012) in an attempt to humanize the border, a line most U.S. citizens think of as a straight black line on a map.

Harbage Page hopes that through this action she and those who join her in a day of border crossings can help make the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo a place where cultures can meet in personal exchange, rather than exist in separation.

This project is sponsored by Galeria 409 of Brownsville, TX.

If you want more information about Harbage Page's plans for the day, or if you happen to be in the Brownsville, TX part of the American South and wish to join her on Saturday, you may contact her at or by phone at 919-260-1602.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Stacy Kranitz Named Time Magazine's Instagram Photogapher of the Year for 2015

Stacy Kranitz, whom we celebrated back in October for having a wonderful 2015, continues to go from glory to glory. 

Just now, Time Magazine has proclaimed her to be their Instagram Photographer of the Year for 2015.

Time celebrates Kranitz for work that "bridges the gap between personal and professional" and is “true, honest, raw, beautiful."

The editorial writers at Time note that "Kranitz embraces the fact that her presence directly impacts her subjects and her photographs." 

This aspect of Kranitz's work makes it especially appropriate for Instagram, which aspires to "witness things as they happen.”

Time's writers say, "That’s why she doesn’t shy away from picturing herself among them, sharing on Instagram selfies she’s taken or portraits her “subjects” have snapped."

Time's award celebrates Kranitz' immersion in personal relationships with her subjects and her skills in bringing her vision of her world to a wide and growing audience. 

Kranitz describes her practice as a photographer as expressing an interest "in blurring the boundaries of my personal life and my professional life, as I find those boundaries problematic and unhealthy.”

At the same time, however, Kranitz is able to make images that are lyrical, even romantic, in their choice of subject, and their treatment of that subject. 

Perhaps the interplay between the lyrical and the confrontational is one dimension of Kranitz's strength as a photographer.

Here at year's end, Kranitz has also been the subject of a feature story in the December 2015 issue of the ezine VICE, go here.

She has also been featured on Colin Pantall's blog, here, and on the Filmmaker blog, here

Kranitz is clearly a photographer of great vision, of deep engagement with her subjects, whom she approaches with a fine eye for composition and major resources of technical skills with the photographic medium. 

She also clearly exemplifies in her work the ways in which digital communication enables an artist to communicate personal experience instantly to large numbers of people. 

All this is earning her wide recognition, a fine thing to have for a photographer. 
You can follow Kranitz on Instagram @stacykranitz here.  

Monday, December 14, 2015

More News of Southern Photographers -- Late Fall 2015

Some news of late:

1. Chapel Hill-based photographer Susan Harbage Page (image above) has had her "seductively disturbing" work on the history of race in America and in the American South featured on the saint lucy  website on contemporary photography, here. 

Page also had an exhibition of her work earlier this year in
in Rome, Italy.

2. Western Carolina University professor of photography Cathryn Griffin (see images directly above and immediately below) is having a show of work from her Somewhere between Here and There portfolio, at the Asheville Art Museum, up now through January 10th, 2016.

The show then moves to the East Tennessee State University Reece Museum, where it will be on display from January – March 2016.

3. The folks who run the Atlanta Celebrates Photography festival are celebrating the awarding of ACP's first grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, more here.

4. New Orleans-based photographer Roman Alokhin (see image above) is having a show of photographs from his Queen Selma portfolio up at the Scott Edwards Photography Gallery in New Orleans, up now through April 10th, 2016.  

5. Shenandoah Valley, VA based photographer Joshua Spees (see image above) has had work from his State of Granite portfolio featured in fraction magazine, go here.

6. Greenville, SC-based photographer Terri Bright (see image above) has had work from her Sonnets portfolio featured in fraction magazine, go here. 

7. The States Project of the blog Lenscratch has stopped in Alabama, where it featured Caitlin Peterson (see image above), as well as the following:

 Zachary McCauley (see image above), also 

 Jared Ragland (see image above), also 

Jerry Siegel (see image above), also

Jenny Fine (see image above), also

 Dakota Sumpter  (see image above), and

Devin Lunsford (see image above).  

8. There is a great interview with Sumner, MS-based photographer Maude Schuyler Clay (see image above) here in the Clarion-Ledger newspaper out of Jackson, Mississippi. 

9 Charlottesville, VA-based photographer Matt Eich has work now up on the National Geographic website PROOF section, under the title The Sellers Way: Lessons on Life, Love, and Connectedness, go here. 

And that's all the news for now, folks. 

But there is always more to come on the Southern Photographer. Stay tuned.