Friday, July 21, 2017

SlowExposures -- September 2017

Given today's hot weather -- a predicted high of 97 degrees here in Raleigh -- it's hard to believe that cooler nights and the splendor of autumn color are all just around the corner.

But so it is, and thoughts of autumn remind us that the fall photography festival season is also about to begin.

Leading off, of course, will be the most Southern of festivals, SlowExposures, this year open from September the 14th through the 17th in Pike County, Georgia.

I had the good fortune to have work in SlowExposures a few years ago, and went to Pike County for the opening. 

There was a great party, I met lots of folks, and the show itself was so strong that I felt truly honored to have work there.

That experience helped me realize that there was a renaissance of photography going on in the South, and that realization had a lot to do with the creation of this blog.

SlowExposures continues to grow and mature, having expanded beyond its original format to include pop-up shows, shows by participants in the SlowAIR program, and by young photographers, and much, much more. 

This year's schedule includes the following:

♦  The Main Exhibition, at Stricklands in Concord

And the following Satellite Shows:

♦  2016 Paul Conlan Prize winner:  d. b. Waltrip, with her show Of Mud and Men, at Stricklands in Concord

♦  “Inspired Georgia” at the Whiskey Bonding Barn in Molena

♦  Photography by Ryan Steed at A Novel Experience in Zebulon

♦  Photography by Doug Eng at the beautiful barn at Split Oak Farm in Zebulon

♦  PopUp Show by our SlowAIR photographers, David McCarty and Claudia Smigrod, at the Eliot Helms’ Tenant House

♦  Tour of other Popup Shows in various locations around Pike County

Arnika Dawkins and I had the challenge -- and the pleasure -- of jurying this year's SlowExposures Unplugged show. 

We had over 800 photographs to review, and could have chosen far more than our allotted 75 images without any diminution in the quality of the images. Making our final choices was really tough!

The practice of Southern photography always risks producing work that we've seen before, or that privileges one facet of Southern culture over another, or that accepts unquestioningly the pastoral surface rather than evoke the tangled web of history that lies beneath.

Nancy McCrary, the editor of SxSE Photomagazineonce wrote that she had "seen more photos of kudzu and magnolias, angry dogs on chains, plantation homes, rusted-out trucks, cotton still in fields, broken-down houses, poor white trash, and elderly black people on rickety front porches than one person should have to view in a lifetime." 
I'm sure she's right, and I hate to tell her, but we chose some of those for this show. 

But, as she also admits, "the American South is reflected in all of these."  

While freshness and originality in choice of subject matter are important, the issue is, with those "moonlight and magnolias" subjects, how the photographer shows the familiar, and what kind of conversations the image provokes, and what position the image puts us in as its viewers.

We did try to avoid the two big bugaboos of Southern photography -- clichéd subject matter and sentimental treatment.

And, I sincerely believe, the work we have chosen, even when the subject is among the ones on Nancy's list, engages, and helps us make meaning of, the paradoxes of  history and the complex culture and the physical conditions of living in the American South, in our day. 

But Arnika and I will be in Pike County this September, and you can tell us then what you make of the choices we made. 

The full schedule of events for ths year's SlowEX is here. The list of exhibitors in the juried show is here

So much to look forward to in Pike County, Georgia, in mid-September!

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