Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas at Graceland -- December 2016

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

Best wishes for a joyous 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 interest in The Southern Photographer, and especially for your kind words of support for this blog during the past year. 

We look forward to resuming our chronicle after the 1st of January 2017

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 of 2016 all the way through until Twelfth Night, January 5th, 2017

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


Catrching Up with Eyes on the South -- Late Fall 2016

Photographers featured since mid-October in Jeff Rich's ongoing feature Eyes on the South, for the Oxford American, include the following:

Savannah-based photographer Carson Sanders (see image above), with work from his Ghost Coast portfolio. 

South Florida-based photographer Melanie Metz (see image above), with work from her Rodeo portfolio.

New York-based photographer Shane Lavalette, with work from his One Sun, One Shadow portfolio.

Savannah-based photographer Parker Stewart (see image above), with work from his Slowly, Over Time portfolio. 

Atlanta-based photographer John Prince (see image above), with work from his Near and Elsewhere portfolio.  

Savannah-based photographer Justin Ward (see image above), with work from his Unmanned Landscapes portfolio. 

Columbus, GA-based photographer Rylan Steele (see image above),  with images from his Ave Maria portfolio. 

More to come from Eyes on the South, from The Southern Photographer!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Southern Photographers in the Nasher's Southern Accent Show

I have finally gotten to the Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art show at Duke University's Nasher Museum, up now through January 8th, 2017. 

Yes, it has been just that kind of fall, so far, for me. But this show is definitely worth visiting if you are in Durham over the holidays.

The show is an effort through art to "question and explore the complex and contested space of the American South," according to the folks at the Nasher.

In the process, they want to document "the South’s profound influence on American culture, and consequently much of the world." And also to "address and complicate the many realities, fantasies and myths that have long captured the public’s imagination about the American South." And also to create "a composite portrait of southern identity through the work of 60 artists." And also to "reflect upon and pull apart the dynamic nature of the South’s social, political and cultural landscape."

Well, that's a lot, and all of it is important, even some of those goals sound contradictory to me.   

But the art is strong, including the photographs, and there is much here to contemplate.

The show includes a large and very diverse sampling of art in a number of media, including a strong gathering of photography, made chiefly since World War II. 

The photographers on offer include, of course, Eggleston, Christenberry, and Mann, as well as Jeff Whetstone, Mark Steinmetz, Tom Rankin, Burk Uzzle, and some other folks familiar to readers of the The Southern Photographer.

Here are some folks in the show we weren't so familiar with whose work is compelling. 

Cumberland Gap, Tennessee-based photographer Rachel Boillot (see image above) is included, with work from her Post Script portfolio. 

New York-based photographer Xaveria Simmons (see image above) is also in the show, with images that constitute self-portraits, with the photographer posed against iconic Southern landscapes. 

Tennessee-born photographer Jessica Ingram (see image above) has work in the show from her Road Through Midnight portfolio of images made at sites in the South important for the Civil Rights Movement. 

Diego Camposeco is in the show with work that helps us include the experience of the growing Hispanic community in the American South, from his Diego Saves the World portfolio.

Richard Misrach is also in this show, with images he made in New Orleans after Katrina, from his Destroy this Memory portfolio. 

Destroy this Memory has also been published in book form, go here.

Misrach has now done enough work in the South to be considered an Honorary Southern Photographer. 

So, strong photography forming an essential component of a major show documenting how the American South is currently being explored, and made meaning of, in the work of contemporary artists. 

Definitely worth your time and consideration if you are in Durham before the show closes on January 8th, 2017. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Southern Photographers in the News -- Late Fall 2016

Some notes on Southern photographers who have published work recently -- 

Honorary Southern Photographer Carrie Mae Weems' book Kitchen Table Series (see image above), published in 2016 by Damiani/Matsumoto Editions, is beginning to show up in lists of the best photography books of 2016.

 Savannah, GA-based photographer Anna Brody (see image above) has had work from her Short Brown Grass portfolio featured in Issue 92 (November 2016) of Fraction magazine, go here.

Photographs made in Waynesboro, GA by San Diego-based photographer Abbey Hepner (see image above) of the construction of a nuclear power plant have been featured in Issue 93 (December 2016) of Fraction magazine, go here. 

New York-based photographer (but occasional photographer in the South) Shane Lavalette (see image above) has now self-published his portfolio of work done on commission from the High Museum in Atlanta with the title One Sun, One Shadow. 

Lavalette's work is organized around the idea of the music of the South, and is a meditation on the South by someone who did not grow up here. 

Lavalette's work has recently been featured by PDN in its online Photo of the Day feature, go here.

Chapel Hill-based photographer Bill Ferris (see image above) has recently published a book of his photographs with the UNC Press  under the title The South in Color.

For more about the book, go here and here.

Asheville-based photographer Tim Barnwell (see image above) has published in LensWork magazine a portfolio of gorgeous photographs of historically significant buildings and outdoor sites mainly in the cities of Charleston and Savannah. 

Barnwell's portfolio, titled Jewels of the Southern Coast, includes images of courthouses, churches, historic homes, commercial business, cemeteries, and other sites. 

You can see more of this portfolio of you go to Barnwell's website here. 

A portion of the work in this portfolio is in a group show called Southern Heritage – 500 Years In The Making at Atlanta's Lumiere Gallery, now through December 17th, 2016. 

Photographers in addition to Barnwell with work i this show include Thomas Neff, Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Peter Sekaer, Berenice Abbott and Arnold Newman.

Charlottesville, VA-based photographer Matt Eich (see image above) recently self-published a book of work from his Carry Me Ohio portfolio, which has been featured in a story in the New Yorker, go here

Mississippi-based photographer Maude Schuyler Clay's book Mississippi History (see image above)  has been the subject of an extended feature book review by Leo Hsu, in Fraction magazine, Issue 88, go here. 

Clay's work has also been featured in Garden and Gun magazine, go here. 

Congratulations to all these shooters for reaching these milestones of achievements and recognition in their careers. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ruddy Roye is Time Magazine's Instagram Photographer of the Year for 2016

For the second year in a row, Time Magazine's Instagram Photographer of the Year is a photographer who works in the American South. 

In 2015, the honoree was Stacy Kranitz; this year, its Brooklyn-based (but now Honorary Southern Photographer) Randolph (Ruddy) Roye.

 Roye's Instagram Feed is here

Time notes that "For the past four years, Roye has continuously photographed black people in and around his neighborhood and across America, each time with the stated goal of making people rethink their views and society-wide prejudices. 

“Before anything, before language, we see,” he says. “And if I can make you think about a particular subject matter before you even start to talk about it, then that’s my aim. My aim is to change your thought process.”

Recently Roye has been exploring the American South, making work in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Virginia. 

In the citation for Roye, the editors of Time note that Roye, "As a black photographer who has spent the last few years shining a light on the difficulties of other black men, women and children across America, he brings to his work an unwavering determination that can border on activism. 

"In fact, his Instagram profile is clear about his aim: he’s a humanist; an activist. A photographer with a conscience."

Roye's work gets to the heart of the tragic dilemmas of Southern history, documenting the long shadows they cast across contemporary America. 

Roye has certainly earned the right to be regarded as an Honorary Southern Photographer. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

UPDATED William Christenberry, 1936 - 2016

William Christenberry, distinguished Southern photographer and one of the nation's pioneer artists and fine art photographers, has died at the age of 80.  

Go here for his obituary from the New York Times.

Go here for the Washington Post's account. 

Go here for the report on NPR.

The Paris Review has published this memoir of Christenberry by Drew Bratcher.

Go here for a tribute by Richard King.

Go here for a tribute from the New Yorker. 

London's Guardian newspaper has published this tribute

ArtForum has posted this tribute. 

The American Scholar has published this essay by Andy Grundberg

Other notices and tributes here, from Front Page, and here, from PDNOnline, and also here, also from PDNOnline.   

Some time back, LensCulture posted an interview with Christenberry, here  

Work by Christenberry is currently on display at the Pace/MacGill Gallery in NYC, through January 21st, 2017, go here. 

There will be a major retrospective show of Christenberry's work at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD, opening on December 9th, 2016, and up through March 12th, 2017.

If you can get to Baltimore, this show is a not-to-be-missed event, since it includes a wide range of Christenberry's work both in photography and in other media as well.

The folks at the MCIA describe Christenberry's work as "Drawing on his explorations, recollections and interpretations of Hale County, Alabama, [and balancing]  the beauty, hopefulness and resilience of the deep south against its tensions, pathos and flaws.

"Moving fluidly between painting, photography, sculpture and drawing, the artist weaves a story that is simultaneously celebratory and melancholy, inviting and inhospitable."

Especially important for us today is the inclusion in this show of what the Maryland Institute calls "the charged and rarely exhibited Klan Room Tableau, a dense multimedia installation that is [Christenberry's] response to the Ku Klux Klan and human capacity for hatred and violence." 

The world of fine art photography in the American South feels deeply this grievous loss. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Thomas Sayre at CAM Raleigh

This blog entry is not about Southern photography, specifically (although, unless otherwise specified, the photographs shown here are by Raleigh-based photographer Art Howard) but the subject is so deeply embedded in the history and culture of the American South that I am taking the liberty to include it anyway.

Raleigh has a new Contemporary Art Museum (CAM Raleigh) that is now featuring a major installation of work by Raleigh-based sculptor Thomas Sayre.  

Sayre's work is often religious, in the best sense. 

That is, he has the uncanny ability to identify forms that evoke memory and promise, and to recreate them and then display them in ways that link the two.

Sayre's work thus holds out the possibility that our engagement with the work might hold redemptive promise in the present.

Sayre usually does monumental sculptures either of shining metal or of concrete formed in the earth (see the PBS documentary on him and his work called Earthcaster).

Sometimes, these sculptures are of elemental forms like spheres or cones or hives or gyres (see the image above, by Raleigh's Jimmy Williams, of Sayre's piece installed at the NC Museum of Art). 

Lately, Sayre's work often involves the elemental forms of familiar and utilitarian structures like the piece shown above, drawn from the iconic profile of the Southern tobacco barn (photo above by Raleigh's Bill Russ).  

But once in a while he does pieces for walls. This work is usually about history, and about finding redemption in pain and suffering and the sweat of labor. 

This is the case for White Gold, the installation at CAM Raleigh, up now through January 22nd, 2017. 

White Gold is about cotton, and takes over the large central gallery at CAM, with two enormous murals of cotton fields, three smaller pieces that evoke the patterns of light shining through the cracks in barns, and eighteen earth castings of tire treads, footprints, and other impressions in the earth of cotton fields. 

Sayre's pieces contrast the basic forms and colors of the cotton field at harvest time. 

One wall's mural gives us the long view -- the rows and rows of white balls arrayed symmetrically when the field is seen from afar -- while the other mural immerses us in the tangle of branches that those picking the cotton must move through to reach the white gold so central to the culture and history of the South.

The colors of this work are at the heart of its power -- the white of the cotton,  the black of the shadows thrown by bright sunlight, and the deep red of the muddy earth. 

I'm reminded, as I look at all this red, and its evocation of the blood and sweat and labor that cotton demands, of Joan Didion's claim that "In the South they are convinced that they are capable of having bloodied their land with history."

And so we believe, and so we have.

White Gold has already had broader impact.

It has inspired the contemporary composer D. J. Sparr (see image above) to create …to me from the earth… a new musical composition for soprano, strings, and percussion. 

…to me from the earth… sets to music the poem Mi Historia, by David Dominguez.

Sparr's piece was performed several times this past weekend at CAM Raleigh, featuring featuring vocalist Aundi Marie Moore in collaboration with the North Carolina Symphony and New Music Raleigh.

The musicians started out surrounding the audience, then slowly moved through the crowd, immersing us in sound and the personal narrative of family and labor chronicled in Dominguez' poem, even as Sayre's installation surrounded and immersed us in the images of

Here are some of the words of Dominguez' poem:

My mother crawled through the furrows
and plucked cotton balls that filled
the burlap sack she dragged,
shoulder-slung, through dried-up bolls,
husks, weevils, dirt clods,
and dust that filled the air with thirst.
But when she grew tired,
she slept on her mother’s burlap,
stuffed thick as a mattress,
and Grandma dragged her over the land
where time was told by the setting sun. . . .

History cried out to me from the earth,
in the scream of starling flight,
and pounded at the hulls of seeds to be set free.


At CAM Raleigh, Sayre's installation is paired with another show, this one employing photography, German photographer Gesche Würfel's Oppressive Architecture: Photography and Memories of Nazism in Germany and Slavery in the American South (see image above).

Würfel also attends to the basic forms of structures with, as they say, a history, using photographs to compare and contrast the forms and images of slave quarters in the American South with the buildings that housed prisoners in Nazi Germany's death camps.

All in all, truly powerful work now up at CAM Raleigh, well worth your visit. Also well worth seeking out if it travels to a museum or exhibition space near you.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Year of William Eggleston


This is definitely the Year of William Eggleston. 

After his recent show in London at the National Portrait Gallery, and a feature story in the New York Times, now he is featured in a story in W Magazine, with some nice photographs by NYC-based photographer Eric Chakeen (see image above).

Go here for An Afternoon with William Eggleston, Living Icon, by .

Eggleston is also featured in a story -- "William Eggleston's Groundbreaking, Vivid Color Photographs" --on the American Photo website, go here.

The American Photo story celebrates a show that Eggleston is having at his new gallery in NYC -- the David Zwirner Gallery -- up now through December 17th, 2016, go here. 

In addition, Eggleston was the guest of honor at Aperture Foundation's annual benefit gala and photo party, which took place on October 24th at the Edison Ballroom in Manhattan. 

The gala was entitled Dear Bill:An evening of art and entertainment in honor of William Eggleston, go here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Eugene Richards at the Bronx Documentary Center

Honorary Southern Photographer Eugene Richards has a show of work from his Below the Line: Living Poor in America portfolio up now at the new Bronx Documentary Center through November 6th, 2016. 

Images from this body of work were published by Richards in a book of the same name from Consumers Union in 1987, available here.

Richards' work is among the most compelling documentary photography being made these days, and much of his work is made in the American South. 

This includes all the images in this blog post, which are part of the show at the Bronx Documentary Center.

We most recently recently caught up with Richards' work on the occasion of the publication of his most recent book, Red Ball of a Sun Slipping Down, (go to our blog post on this book, here). 

That book shows Richards transitioning to color photography. Good to be reminded with this show of his remarkable vision as a B+W photographer with this work chiefly from the 1980's.

For more on Richards, and on the images in the show now up at the Bronx Documentary Center, check out this interview with Richards in the online e-zine Interview Magazine, here. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Eyes on the South -- Catching Up

Photographers featured since mid-August in Jeff Rich's ongoing feature Eyes on the South, for the Oxford American, include the following: 

Mississippi-based photographer Ashley Coleman (see image above), with images from her Cloud of Witnesses portfolio.  

Durham, NC-based photographer Kurney Ramsey (see image above), with images from his Returning portfolio.

Florida-based photographer Benjamin Dimmitt (see image above), with images from his Chassahowitzka Saltwater Intrusion portfolio. 

Alabama-based photographer Jack Deese (see image above), with images from his How to Orient Yourself in the Wilderness portfolio.

Louisville, KY-based photographer Michael Morris (see image above), with images from his portfolio What Survives. 

Charleston-born but New York-based photographer J Henry Fair (see image above), with images from his portfolio Before The Storm: A Photographic Study of America’s Coastline.

Cleveland, MS-based photographer Kim Rushing (see image above), with images from his Parchman portfolio.

More to come, from The Southern Photographer! 

Memory and (Southern) Photography

Since memory is an important part of Southern culture and cultural identity, the recent essay by Teju Cole in the New York Times, entitled "Memories of Things Unseen," might be of interest to some of us. 

Cole makes the argument that "Photography is inescapably a memorial art. It selects, out of the flow of time, a moment to be preserved, with the moments before and after falling away like sheer cliffs."

"At a dinner party earlier this year,"Cole goes on, "I was in conversation with someone who asked me to define photography. I suggested that it is about retention: not only the ability to make an image directly out of the interaction between light and the tangible world, but also the possibility of saving that image."

Cole uses examples to argue his case for photography as chiefly about memory that are drawn from the world of painting. 

He offers us photographs of paintings that have since been destroyed, so that, as he puts it, "when the photograph outlives the body — when people die, scenes change, trees grow or are chopped down — it becomes a memorial."

Cole goes on: "[W]hen the thing photographed is a work of art or architecture that has been destroyed, this effect is amplified even further. 

"A painting, sculpture or temple, as a record of both human skill and emotion, is already a site of memory; when its only remaining trace is a photograph, that photograph becomes a memorial to a memory. 

"Such a photograph is shadowed by its vanished ancestor."

The relationship between the photograph and its subject is worth pondering, especially when the subject is no longer available to our sight. 

But the problem with broad generalizations, especially when they are strongly argued, is of course that one wants to think of counter-examples. 

And so I immediately thought of the work of Canadian photographer Jeff Wall (see image above), whose practice is to make photographs that look documentary, but in fact are photographs of staged events.

So if the event never happened that appears to have happened, in the photograph, how can it serve as a memorial of anything? 

Your thoughts?