Thursday, September 14, 2017

UPDATED -- William Eggleston at the Piano

Honored Southern Photographer William Eggleston (see image above by NY Times photographer Peter Townsend) has, according to the NY Times, taken up the piano and has released an album of standards and original compositions.

Eggleston's album, entitled Musik, will be on the Secretly Canadian label, to be officially released October 20th, 2017.

According to the folks at Secretly Canadian, Eggleston recorded improvisations onto floppy disks and used a four-track sequencer to overlay parts and create fuller symphonic compositions. 

In addition to Eggleston's own music, the album includes standards by Gilbert and Sullivan and Lerner and Loewe. 

Again, according to the folks at Secretly Canadian, Eggleston "often says that he feels that music is his first calling, as much a part of him, at least, as his photography."

Good to know that Eggleston continues to explore his creative spirit. 

You can learn more about the album here. You can preorder the album here. 

The New Yorker has a feature story, here

This album is sure to wind up on many Southern photographers' holiday gift lists.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New Books by Southern Photographers -- Early Fall 2017

A couple of new books of photographs out now from Southern photographers --

Atlanta-based photographer Jerry Siegel (see image above) has published Black Belt Color, from the Georgia Museum of Art, available here, from the usual source.

This book contains photographs from Siegel's 20 years of photographing in and around Selma, Alabama, his home town. 

The Spaulding Nix Gallery in Atlanta has a show of Siegel's work from this portfolio up now through November 4th, 2017.

You can learn more about Siegel's book here, from The Bitter Southerner.

Dallas-based photographer Brandon Thibodeaux (see image above) has published his first monograph, In That Land of Perfect Day, from Red Hook Editions

Thibodeaux' publisher describes the work as presenting "tales of strength against struggle, humility amidst pride, and promise for deliverance in the lives he has come to know" in eight years of roaming "through a forty-square mile area in the Mississippi Delta, learning about the region’s history and the contemporary experience of its residents."

They go on: "His photographs depict the rural African American experience in a universal quest for faith, perseverance, and solace through community."

Congratulations to Siegel and to Thibodeaux for their success with this fine work from deep in the South.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Southern Journals in the NY Times

The New York Times is featuring today a story about Southern publications that, each in its own way, seek to engage the issues presented by Southern culture, especially at the present time. 

The story is entitled In Southern Magazines, Easy Pleasures and Hard Questions, go here.

The piece is by Richard Fausset, who is the Times' corespondent in Atlanta. 

He focuses on this question: "How much to sing the song of the South, especially amid genuine evidence of racial progress, and how much to be a skeptical voice in a place where issues of race and class often shadow conversations about even the most innocent pleasures?"
These issues are -- or certainly ought to be -- of concern to Southern photographers, especially now, in this season of Trump and Charlottesville, as we try to make sense or at least meaning out of the unfolding events of our time. 

And also because the publications that Fausset cites use a whole lot of photographs.

Fausset focuses primarily on 3 publications -- Atlanta's The Bitter Southerner, Durham's Scalawag, and Charleston's Garden and Gun

Southern Living does get a mention. Other regional and often university-based publications like UNC-Chapel Hill's Southern Cultures and the University of Mississippi's (though now the University of Central Arkansas's) Oxford American rate only the briefest of mentions.  

The good news is that the editors of these publications -- the ones whom Fausset quotes -- are, on the whole, optimistic.

Fausset quotes Alysia Nicole Harris, 29, an African-American who grew up in Virginia and is an editor in chief of Scalawag to the effect that “The South is not this homogeneous place — it has a deep history, a really full history, and one that’s not just for the upper class. 

"The demographics are changing," Harris says. "And ultimately, we believe that the South is going to be the voice that emerges to lead this conversation about trauma and healing, because here is where the trauma was the thickest.”

But The Bitter Southerner, and its editor Chuck Reece, receive the lion's share of Fausset's attention. And richly deserved attention it is, as I suspect anyone who spends time on The Bitter Southerner's website will agree. 

Fausset tells the story of The Bitter Southerner, describing Reece as "a white voice, simultaneously proud and conscience-stricken, screaming to be heard over the stock-car roar but always cognizant that there are other voices, in other flavors, that may deserve a hearing even more."

In their interview, Reece remembers his founding vision for the publication:

"If you are a person who buys the states’ rights argument … or you fly the rebel flag in your front yard … or you still think women look really nice in hoop skirts, we politely suggest you find other amusements on the web. The Bitter Southerner is not for you.

The Bitter Southerner is for the rest of us. It is about the South that the rest of us know: the one we live in today and the one we hope to create in the future.”

Fair enough -- although as I read these remarks, I am reminded of bygone days, and bygone hopes that have not panned out as we expected. 

I am a child of the Jim Crow South, the South of the 1950's and '60's, the segregated South, when young Southerners lived in two different worlds. 

Whatever we shared, we shared it across the barriers that divided our worlds. 

One vehicle for sharing was WLAC, the radio station out of Nashville that, at night, you could hear across the South, even in my room in North Carolina, bringing us the music of Big Mama Thornton, Hank Ballard, Ruth Brown, and Billy Ward and the Dominos, so that for me and my friends rhythm and blues became the music of our youth.

So we were ready for Motown, and the music out of Muscle Shoals, and out of Memphis (and by Memphis, I don't mean Elvis, that Mississippi cracker who got rich making crossover recordings of music by black artists like Big Mama Thornton). 

Writing today, I am aware that, as Reece says of okra and gumbo, and by extension so much of Southern culture, "you can't [as a white person] write a story about how wonderful a thing [these gifts are] without acknowledging that [they are] undeserved gifts." 

This was a gift some of us tried to pay back by supporting, as best we could, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's. 

And, if you had told me in 1966, as my fraternity at UNC welcomed people of color into our merry band, or if you had told me, in 1972, when the public schools in my home county dismantled the segregated school system that I attended -- and did it peacefully, when the city of Boston was tearing itself apart trying to do the same thing -- that in 2017 we would have white supremacists helping to elect the president of the United States, and have a mob of Confederate flag-waving demonstrators desecrating the grounds of the University of Virginia, I would have told you that you were crazy, that a new day was dawning, that black folks and white folks were standing up together to redeem Southern history and make a new day.

In some ways, that happened. But in other ways, it didn't. In painful ways, it didn't. As the events in Charlottesville demonstrate so clearly. 

But heartbreak and disappointment are as much a part of the Southern experience as anything else. And so we persevere, even though Southern fear, and suspicion, and bigotry also persist. 

And we keep hoping tor a better day, although far too many of our white relatives persist in following the darkest impulses of our racist past.

Friday, September 1, 2017

More News of Southern Photographers -- Late Summer 2017

Kat Kiernan, formerly owner of a photography gallery in Lexington, VA, and still editor of the magazine Don’t Take Pictures, has now become Director of Panopticon Gallery, on Commonwealth Avenue, in Boston, MA.

Her first show as Director of the Gallery is a group show entitled At Sea, go here.

Among the work included in this show is a set of tricolor gum prints by Raleigh-based photographer Diana Bloomfield (see image above). 

Chapel Hill-based photographer Susan Harbage Page (see image above) is opening a show of her photographs taken in the Italian town of Spello, go here. 

The show is part of Spello FotoFest 2017.  

It occurs to me that Page and Betty Press, who also summers in Italy, should get together. Seems to me, they have a lot to talk about, as Southern photographers as well as photographers of Italy.  

Earlier this year, TIME magazine assembled a distinguished panel of folks who then chose 12 African American Photographers You Should Follow Right Now, go here.

Among the 12 are the following Southern photographers:
Winston-Salem-based photographer Endia Beal (see image above).

Also Atlanta-based photographer Joshua Rashaad McFadden (see image above).

Also, Atlanta-born but NYC-based photographer Shamayim (see image above).

Also, Baltimore-based photographer Michael McCoy (see image above). 

Also, New Orleans-based photographer Chandra McCormick (see image above). 

McCormick works in New Orleans with her husband Keith Calhoun (see image above), another fine Southern photographer. 

Congratulations to all these fine photographers! 

More later, from the Southern Photographer.