Thursday, February 25, 2016

As Others See Us -- The Guardian's David Levene Photographs in the American South

England's Guardian newspaper has set out recently to become a truly international newspaper, with a much-enhanced web presence and a vastly expanded coverage of what is (from a British perspective) international news.

This means lots more coverage of events in the USA, and, right now, in the week before Super Tuesday, this means the Guardian is taking a close look at American South, because half of the states holding primaries on March 1st will be Southern states.

Two reporters for the Guardian --writer Matthew Teague and photographer David Levene -- have been on a road trip across the South.

They have stopped in Texas (see image directly above), Arkansas (see image directly below), Alabama (see image next below Arkansas), Georgia (see image at the top of this post), Tennessee (see next-to-last image in this post), and Virginia (see last image in this post).

Levene mostly makes images for the Guardian like this one (see below) of London's Oxford Circus.

But his take on Texas is here, Arkansas is here, Alabama is here, Georgia is here, Tennessee is here, and Virginia is here.  

Teague's stories, with additional photos by Levene, are here.

David Levene's work is clustered here, and truly extraordinary work it is.

I think that Levene is doing a remarkable job of doing important work in the American South. 

There is insight in these images, and understanding of what is important to notice when seeking to make meaning of our complex and paradoxical part of the world. 

The challenge of drive-by shooting is that the work one makes can so easily be superficial or cliche-ridden.  

Levene, to my eye, does a remarkable job of capturing the look and feel of both the rural and the urban worlds of today's South. 

Levene relies on familiar trances of Southern culture from time to time -- clever signs outside churches, abandoned places or rusted objects, people in camo hunting clothes -- but also shows remarkable vision, the ability to see and document a world very different from the world with which he is most familiar.

Levene especially excels in finding the Southern in the contemporary urban South, a landscape that always risks making Southern places look like everywhere else.

So, congratulations to Levene on his strong work, and to the Guardian for choosing to send him on this assignment.

I think Levene deserves to be seen as an Honorary Southern Photographer. 

I hope he comes back this way after this assignment is over. 

I think there is still important work for him to do in helping us make meaning of the American South.

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