Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Carrie Mae Weems at the Nasher Museum in Durham


Honorary Southern Photographer Carrie Mae Weems (see image above) is having a major show of her work in Durham, NC, made possible by Duke University's Nasher Museum. Weems' work is visible all over Durham, on billboards in a lot of locations. 

Marshall Price, the Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Curator of modern and contemporary art at the Nasher explains:

 “It kind of fell in our laps,” he says. Artist and MacArthur grant-winner Carrie Mae Weems, a Black woman whose art is in the Nasher’s collection and who has collaborated before with the museum, had created an outdoor public art installation during a Syracuse residency, and she was spreading it out to museums in places like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Nashville, Tennessee. Did the Nasher want to participate?

“We felt like it was a really great opportunity,” Price says. “We kind of rolled up our sleeves and got to work.”

"Weems’ work, called Resist Covid/Take 6!, exists completely outdoors, largely as public-service announcements and statements of encouragement about surviving COVID. “Don’t worry, we’ll hold hands again,” reads the caption of an enormous banner hanging on the outside of the Nasher, showing a row of people holding hands. Says one of a series of banners on Campus Drive lampposts: “Because of inequity, Black, Brown & Native people have been the most impacted by COVID-19. This must be changed!” Other banners and window clings thank frontline workers and remind people to practice social distancing. They show up on building sides and in windows all over Duke—on the Rubenstein Arts Center, on the gates to the (currently closed) Duke Gardens.

"The signs show up all over Durham, too, from billboards to the windows of community partners like the American Dance Festival headquarters. Part of Weems’ design of the installation was that community collaboration. “It functions in that context just as much as a public-service announcement as art,” Price says. None of the posters have Duke or Nasher branding. The point is to get people talking about how to respond to COVID; how it’s affecting them and their community; how Black, brown, and native populations are being especially hard hit."

The above quotes are from a story in the Duke Alumni Magazine; read more if you go here:


Monday, April 12, 2021

Southern Photographers Sweep Top Awards in LensCulture's Annual Competiton


LensCulture has released the results of its annual art photography competition.  

In first place in the Series Competition is a set of images (see image above) by Richmond, VA-based photographer Susan Worsham, from her Bittersweet on Bostwick Lane portfolio.


In first place in the Individual Image competition is "The Clouds Whispered Your Name" (see image above) by Washington DC-based photographer Tavon Taylor.

There was clearly something about subjects shirtless and lying down that appealed to this year's jurors. Fine work, though! 

Among photographs singled out for special recognition by the competition's jurors is the image above by Houston-based photographer Karen Navarro

The Importance of Photography for the American South


Grace Elizabeth Hale, who is the Commonwealth Professor of American Studies and History at the University of Virginia, has written a first-class article entitled "Photograph as History in the US South," in Southern Cultures, the quarterly publication of the Center for the Study of the American South, at UNC-Chapel Hill.  

Hale points out that while "We understand the South as a major site of U.S. history, a landscape littered with evidence of the past, from plantation slavery and the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. What fewer people know is that the region is also an essential location in the history of photography. 

She goes on:

For photographers making work in the world rather than the studio, the South has been a rich place to make images. At odds with the grand story of America as expanding freedoms, the region has been understood as both the national reservoir of cultural authenticity and the national cesspool of white supremacy. The contradictions give artists a lot to look at. 

An admittedly partial list of photographers who have done important work in and about the U.S. South might start with Doris Ulmann and Walker Evans, Marion Post Wolcott and Arthur Rothstein, Clarence John Laughlin and Ralph Meatyard, Eudora Welty and Gordon Parks, Emmet Gowin and William Christenberry, William Eggleston and Dawoud Bey, Sally Mann and Carrie Mae Weems, Deborah Luster and Susan Lipper.

In much of this work, artists render the forms of history visible by returning to photograph the same place, people, or subjects at different times. They restage old images or revisit places photographed by others. They employ old photographic processes, formats, and materials. And they consciously go back to former histories, to older Souths and to the relationships people have constructed with these pasts. 

In their work, return as a practice, a process, a subject, and an aesthetic structures time and, in this way, marks and makes history. How we understand and give form and meaning to change over time becomes as much the subject of this work as what exists on the other side of the lens.

There is much more to learn from Hale's essay, and you can read it here: 



Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Dawoud Bey Named "One of the Greats"

Honorary Southern Photographer Dawoud Bey has been named "One of the Greats" by the New York Times, go here

The Times celebrates Bey and four other contemporary artists as "talents who, in mastering their crafts, have changed their fields — and the culture at large."

Bey is celebrated in the essay as an artist who "In the seemingly simple gesture of photographing Black subjects in everyday life, . . .  helped to introduce Blackness in the context of fine art long before it was trendy, or even accepted." 

This celebration of Bey's singular achievement in his career so far follows up on an earlier Times essay on Bey from 2018, go here

Bey was awarded a McArthur Fellowship in 2017, which led to this essay in the Washington Post, worth reading for an overview of Bey's illustrious career.

Bey has photographed in the American South as well as in Harlem and other locations. We featured him and his work in 2011 when he had a major show of work up at Emory University in Atlanta, go here.

Here is an image from that show, also featured in the 2018 Times essay.

Incidentally, the photographs of Bey in the NY Times article were made by another Honorary Southern Photographer, Latoya Ruby Frazier. 

Congratulations to Bey for this exceptionally well-deserved recognition!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Robert Frank dead at 94

The distinguished photographer Robert Frank has died at the age of 94. 

For the New York Times obituary, go here. For the Washington Post, go here. For the Guardian, go here.

Frank's early images, published in his landmark book The Americans, helped shape generations of photographic work in the American South, both in terms of technique, style, and subject matter. 

Only the work of Depression-era photographers like Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Marion Post Wolcott rivals Frank's in this regard.

The International Center of Photography's website has a helpful overview of Frank's career, go here.

Lens Culture weighs in here.