Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Shannon Johnstone is Having a Year to Remember

Raleigh, NC based photographer Shannon Johnstone is having a year to remember. Her work has just been accepted into the ONWARD show early in 2010 at Project Basho in Philadelphia.

Earlier this year, her work was accepted for the International Photography Awards Competition, chosen by Henry Horrenstein for the Camera Club of NY National Juried Exhibition, and chosen by Deborah Willis for the NC Photographers Biennial Exhibition. She received Honorable Mention for her work in all these shows.

Johnstone was also named among the top 50 photographers in this year's Critical Mass selection process  run by Photo Lucida. In addition, her work was featured in Visual Overture magazine, including the cover shot in the Winter 2009 issue. She also had work on the cover of the North Carolina Literary Review and in the Slow Exposures show in Pike County, GA, a part of this year's Atlanta Celebrates Photography.

Johnstone teaches photography at Meredith College in Raleigh. She is definitely a Southern Photographer To Watch Out For.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dan Plunkett Photographs the South

Artists in the South are often working out their relationship to issues that are part of the region's culture and history.  Race is usually a concern, as are women and class and one's parents and the relationship between education and parochialism and four centuries of agony, rage, and oppression. Faulkner said that in the South the past isn't dead; it isn't even past. Being southern can seem a burden, even a curse. I don't know many southerners who really appreciate our history who can live comfortably with it.

This book of  photographs by Dan Plunkett contains work that is in the center of all these issues. Dan has been photographing in the South for a long time; he grew up in Louisiana and has worked as a laborer and has climbed the educational ladder from BA to MA to PhD and the economic ladder to professional success.

Yet Ryan Plunkett, his son, says the work in this book started with photographs of an abandoned sharecropper's shack but really got going when Plunkett photographed his father who had just thrown away a good job and ten years of sobriety for a new Oldsmobile and a week-long drunk.

Ryan says HIS daddy captures an "unquantifiable southern grace" in his photographs, documenting a "delicate mixture of sense and senselessness" that characterizes the South. Dan's father did, too, in his own way, especially the senseless part. Go here to check out Dan's efforts to come to terms with this legacy through his photography.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Art Basel Miami + Art Miami -- Is Miami in the South?

The Art World has come to Miami and Miami Beach for the annual Art Miami and Art Basel Miami Beach shows. And I do mean the Art World. Here is a list of galleries showing work at Art Basel Miami, a list that includes galleries from locales far distant from Miami, ranging from Paris, Munich, and London to NYC, Chicago, and San Francisco.

There is a lot of photography on offer here, much of it inspired, as so much of the fine art photography world seems to be right now, by the German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher and their students and fans, practitioners of typological photography, documentarians of all the ways the same thing can look.

One example of this concern for sameness is the image above, by Robert Volt, shown at Art Miami by the Amador Gallery of NYC. It is one of a series of his images all showing a cell phone tower made to look, sort of, like a tree. Go HERE for nine of his images, all of the same thing, shot under the same light, and composed in exactly the same way. 

Could there be a way of doing typological photography in the South? Given what some have called our interest in human beings and their differences, even the nuances of difference, even eccentricity, as a defining condition of life, is it possible that we are at a defining moment in the concept of southernness in fine art photography?

Has anyone photographed a series of images of all the ways kudzu can take over a landscape? Is it time?

Not too late for PhotoNOLA

Not too late to head for PhotoNOLA, the Big Easy's annual photography festival, now on through December 13th, 2009. PhotoNOLA is the third of the three major photography festivals held each fall in the southeast, beginning with ACP in October, Foto Week DC in November, and PhotoNOLA in December.

Events always include portfolio reviews, special exhibitions, lectures, and, often, an appearance by Mary Virginia Swanson (who always seems to be on the road -- does she live out of her portfolio?), as well as lots of opportunities to see new work and talk photography.

Works on exhibit this year include a showcase of work by eight members of the New Orleans Photo Alliance up at the Crescent City Brewhouse, 527 Decatur Street, in New Orleans. Exhibitors include Michelle Icahn, David Rae Morris, Owen Murphy, Jennifer Shaw, Jenn Ocken, Antonio Henriquez, Jennifer Zdon, and Renee Aille, whose image (above) looks like Christmas in New Orleans to me. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Susan Raab in Mississippi

Washington, DC based photographer Susan Raab has some strong work on her website made in Mississippi, including a portfolio about William Faulkner's house Roan Oak and another one documenting life at the Oxford, MS Sonic Drive-in.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mark Steinmetz Photographs the South

Athens, Georgia-based photographer Mark Steinmetz has just published Greater Atlanta (2009), a companion volume to two other books of photographs of the South, South East (2008) and South Central (2007) by Steinmetz.

In this work, Steinmetz continues in the grand tradition of B+W fine art photography, emphasizing street photography and natural-light portraits. The images in South Central were chiefly made in and around Knoxville, Tennessee; those in South East were made in Athens and the Atlanta area. The work in Greater Atlanta was made in, well, of course, greater Atlanta.

The images in these books involve the South in transition from rural to urban and from old to new, exploring the tensions, distractions, and dislocations that are part of that experience. For comments by Mark on this body of work, see the interview he did with Joerg Colberg of the Conscientious blog, HERE. My thanks, as always, to Joerg for his fine work.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sarah Wilson at PhotoNOLA 2009

Sarah Wilson,  a Louisiana photographer now based in Austin, Texas, was the winner of the 2008 PhotoNOLA Review Prize for her portfolio, “Blind Prom,” images of the prom at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Her work is featured at this year's PhotoNOLA, on display at the New Orleans Photo Alliance, 1111 St. Mary Street, in New Orleans, from Nov 27th, 2009 – January 20th, 2010.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Luceo Images

Luceo Images is a collective of 6 photographers, all but two of whom are based in the South. They include David Banks and Kendrick Brinson, based in Atlanta; Matt Eich, based in Norfolk; and Tim Lytvinenko, based in Raleigh. Strong work here -- well worth checking out.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Resources Update

Arts Critic Atlanta is a very useful blog, focusing on the arts scene in Atlanta, with a special Visual Arts section that -- being in Atlanta -- has a lot of information about photography. There are, for example, a number of stories and reviews here about events that were part of 2009's Atlanta Celebrates Photography.They include the above image by Jeff Rich up at Agnes Scott College.

I found this blog through the Arts Journal blog, which has a list of regional and big-city arts blogs, much worth exploring. One of the things worth noting, however, is that there are only three blogs listed for the entire southeastern USA, one the above blog from Atlanta, one for the Nasher Museum at Duke, and one based in Miami.

These are all fine, but what's missing is a fine resource for the arts in the southeast. There are more blogs for the arts scene in the city of Denver than for the whole region from Maryland to the Mississippi.

Someone needs to take up this project.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hollis Bennett -- a Southern Photographer to Watch Out For

Hollis Bennett, a photographer from Tennessee, has just been featured on the Fraction Magazine blog. His work will soon appear in Burn Magazine and Daylight Magazine. As he says in his blog, 2009 is being good for him. He's definitely a Southern photographer to watch out for.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Joerg Colberg reviews Sally Mann's Proud Flesh

Joerg Colberg's Conscientious blog is one of the most interesting of the (by now) millions of photography blogs. Joerg roams widely around the world of internet photogrpahy resources and always comes back with fascinating photographers and their sites. A good number of the more interesting Southern photography items I've used on this blog had their start with a reference on Joerg's site.

Now, he's done a thoughtful and challenging review of a book of Sally Mann's Proud Flesh, new images of her husband, recently noted here during their exhibition in NYC at the Gagosian Gallery. The review is definitely worth reading in its own right, but what interests me is his reaction to Mann's earlier work. He celebrates the achievement of her Immediate Family but finds her later work, especially Deep South and What Remains, to be "weak," in effect communicating an idea but not any feeling.

I've had the good fortune to see Deep South at Jackson Fine Art in Atlanta and What Remains at the Corcoran in Washington, DC and my reaction in both cases was profoundly different. Perhaps these images have to do with a southern sensibility; perhaps they point to something distinctive about a southern photographic aesthetic.

The images in Deep South are enormous images of southern landscapes; to me they are powerful evocations of both a deep connectedness to the land, to this southern land, and a profound ambivalence about the legacy of that connectedness. This paradoxical set of feelings gets picked up again in the What Remains series, with the images of Civil War battlefields that stand alongside images of haunting faces and rotting corpses and animal skins.

Sally Mann has the power in this work to look, and to invite us to look, at places and histories and their painful, haunting legacies, and our involvement in those legacies. She's the closest person I know to a Faulkner of American photography. I have not seen the What Remains images, but it sounds like she continues to build on her past work in what is apparently a series of loving meditations on her husband's body.

Maybe in these elements of her work there are clues to what makes a southern photographic practice really southern. More later.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NC Photographer Chris Hondros to Show Work at FOTOWeek DC, Speak at the Corcoran Gallery

NC photojournalist (and alumnus of NC State -- go Pack!) Chris Hondros will show and discuss his work at the Corcoran Gallery at 500 Seventeenth Street NW in Washington, DC on Saturday, November 14th from 4-5 pm, as part of FOTOWeek DC.

Chris also has work in an exhibition in Washington entitled "Iraqi Voices," on the wall at Fotoweek Central 3, 3307-D M Street NW, in Washington, through November 14th, 2009. This show also has work by other photojournalists, including Andrea Bruce, Mimi Chakarova, Lori Grinker, Amro Hamzawi, Chris Hondros, Farah Nosh, Robert Nickelsberg, Moises Saman, and Peter Van Agtmael.

Chris is an exceptionally fine photojournalist who has been in dangerous places since the late 1990s, including wars in Kosovo, Angola, Sierra Leone, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Kashmir, the West Bank, Iraq, and Liberia.

His work has earned him numerous awards, including multiple honors from World Press Photo in Amsterdam, the International Pictures of the Year Competition, the Visa Pour L'Image in France, and the John Faber award from the Overseas Press Club. In 2006 Hondros won the Robert Capa Gold Medal, war photography's highest honor, for his work in Iraq.

In spite of all this, when he spoke in Raleigh recently, he was in good spirits and could talk about making photographs in dangerous situations with candor, wit, and good humor.

FOTOWeek DC seems to be more about photojournalism and the international photography scene than other photography festivals held in the South. This seems appropriate for a city that is a world capital where history is being made all the time. The proximity of the National Geographic Society also means FOTOWeek DC shows lots of travel and nature photography. So its good to have someone as part of the program who brings a southern perspective to the world.

And if you don't think Washington, DC is in the South, you obviously haven't been there in the summertime.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Liza Faktor Photographs the South, Speaks at FOTOWeek DC

The highly-regarded Russian photographer Liza Faktor will show some of the latest photography emerging from Russia in her talk in the Abramson Family Recital Hall, Katzen Arts Center, American University, at 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, in Washington.

Her talk will be at 2:00 pm on November 7, 2009. Also on the panel will be Lincoln Schatz and Tim Hetherington.

Liza also has work in the show, InsideOutside: New Images from Russis, curated by Lucian Perkins, on display from November 7th, 2009 through November 11th, 2009, at Fotoweek Central 2, 3306 M Street, NW, in Washington, DC. This show of environmental portraits of Russians also includes work by Alexander Gronsky, Olya Ivanova, and Rafal Milach.

Both these events are part of this year's FOTOweek DC, Washington's annual celebration of photography.

So why is Liza showing up in a blog devoted to Southern photography? Because her latest project, Private/Public, includes a large number of images made in Cameron and other places in North Carolina, including Ocracoke,  like the image, above, "Ivan, Ocracoke, NC, 2008."

Liza tells me she visits North Carolina now about two times a year to catch up with friends and to extend this body of work. So, welcome to the South. They say its warmer here than in Russia. Even though Ivan looks a bit chilly in Liza's image.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Southern Photographers at APG Gallery

Atlanta Photography Group is hosting one of the final events in this year's Atlanta Celebrates Photography,with a show featuring Southern Photographers at the APG Gallery, in the Tula Art Center, 75 Bennett Street NW, Space B-1, in Atlanta.

This show was juried by Lisa Hostetler, curator of photographs at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Artists featured include Jeremiah Ariaz, Martin Battilana, Vicki Hunt, Willard Pate, Teresa Sims, and Lee Whittle.

This show opens Friday, November 13, 2009, at 7:30 p.m. Works will be on exhibit through January 15th of 2010.  Lisa Hostetler will talk about the work she chose for this show on Saturday,  November 14, 2009, 11:00 a.m. at the APG Gallery.

I'd love to ask Lisa what she sees as "southern" about the work of these photographers. I will try to engage her via email and will report back if she responds.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tierney Gearon at Jackson Fine Art


Atlanta-born photographer Tierney Gearon will open a show of new work entitled Explosure at Jackson Fine Art Gallery in Atlanta on October 30, 2009, running through January 16, 2010. Gearon, whose past work draws on the approaches and subject matter familiar to us from southern photographers Sally Mann and Ralph Eugene Meatyard, often asks her viewers to contemplate difficult, highly personal subject matter.

The images in Explosure involve multiple exposures to create imaginary worlds characterized by ironic, awkward, and challenging juxtapositions. I saw this work in Los Angeles earlier this year. It is stunningly complex visually. Elements familiar from Gearon's earlier work are also present here, but are treated with new subtlety through Gearon's employment of overlapping images. In light of this work, much of what passes for fine art photography  in the current scene appears dull and banal. I strongly recommend this show.

Gearon will give a talk about her work at the High Museum of Art on Thursday, Oct 29th, at 7pm. 

Burk Uzzle at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts

Distinguished North Carolina photographer Burk Uzzle is having a show of his work at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, running from September 17 through Saturday, November 7th, 2009. This show, entitled "Burk Uzzle's Woodstock and other Americana," features Uzzle's iconic images of he Woodstock Festival as well as other images documenting life in rural and small-town America. He recently has had a show of this body of work at the Lawrence Miller Gallery in NYC.

A native of Raleigh, Uzzle has had a distinguished career as a photographer, working for Life and serving as a member (and president) of Magnum. He locates himself in the grand tradition of American (and Southern) documentary photography running from the FSA days of Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, with its regard for honesty and engagement with the subject of rural and small-town America.

Uzzel says in a recent interview that "Art photography . . . means fine work representing the same values of devotion to quality of feeling, seeing, craft, and artistic presentation as documentary work." He advises, "Be honest to yourself and to your subject, respect your subject matter, and pay as little attention as possible to what other people think, or how they want to apply definitions and categories to what they perceive is important in your work."

Sounds wise to me.

He currently is engaged in a long-term project photographing rural Applachia with an 8x10 view camera. Since 2006, he has had a studio in Wilson, NC.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Southern Spaces: An Interdisciplinary E-Journal about the South

Just discovered Southern Spaces, a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary electronic journal and forum (published since 2004) which has set out to be "about exploring the real and imagined places of the American South and their connections with the wider world."

Photography is a major part of Southern Spaces. The most recent issue, for example, includes an extensive account of the recent Prop Master exhibit by Susan Harbage Page and Juan Logan at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC.

Other examples of photography in Southern Spaces include Tom Zarilla's essay about the phenomenon of roadside memorials to persons who died in automobile accidents and an essay by Paul Johnson and Robin Conner entitled "Starlit Screens: Preserving Place and Public at Drive-In Theaters."

There is also an extensive archive of images of Southern places.

Tom Rankin, Director of Duke's Center for Documentary Studies, is a member of the editorial board. 

The editors welcome "submissions from scholars, photographers, and visual artists in such areas as geography, southern studies, regional studies, African American, Native, and American Studies, women's studies, LGBTQ studies, and public health."

For submission guidelines, go here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Stephanie Dowda at Kibbee Gallery

Atlanta photographer Stephanie Dowda opens a photography installation entitled This Time, exploring the chances contained in the moments of our lives. These moments are real and fictitious and This Time explores those relationships through mixed media and photography.

Opening at Kibbee Gallery, 688 Linwood Avenue in Atlanta, with a reception from 6 pm - 9 am on Saturday, October 10th, and closing with a reception and artist's talk on Saturday, October 31st, from 12:30 pm - 3:30 pm.

This show is part of Atlanta Celebrates Photography 2009.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Le Flash Kicks Off Atlanta Celebrates Photography

Atlanta Celebrates Photography opens officially on Friday, October 2nd, with Le Flash, a celebration of light that will feature over 40 projects in Castleberry Hill’s streets and galleries, vacant lots and windows, warehouses and rooftops. Events will include sound and light installations, performance art, poetry readings, music, video projections ands other lens-based projects, an iron pour and art happenings of all sorts.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Beyond Beauty: Conversations at the Nasher

The Nasher Museum at Duke University is hosting a half-day conference on the role of photography in modern society, scrutinizing traditional ideas that photography can function as an agent of social change, a record of historical events, or a source of aesthetic pleasure.

The conference, to consist of a series of conversations among professionals in the field, will run from 1-6 pm on Friday, October 2nd, 2009, in the Nasher Museum.

Participating in the conversations will be photographers Dawoud Bey, Bill Burke, Eric Gottesman, Laurel Nakadate, Susan Meiselas, Tom Rankin, and Deborah Willis. They will be joined by Philip Brookman of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Alison Nordström of the George Eastman House.

Paul Hendrickson, Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will conclude the conference with a talk about the archive's role in preserving and providing access to a society's photographic heritage.

This event is co-sponsored by the Archive of Documentary Arts at the Special Collections Library, the Center for Documentary Studies, and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. It is free and open to the public.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Roman Alokhin at Slow Exposures

Roman Alokhim, a New Orleans-based photographer, has exceptionally strong work in Slow Exposures 2009, now open in the Candler Field Museum at 349 Jonathan's Roost Road, Williamson, GA.

Roman's work in this show is drawn from ongoing projects documenting social and cultural change in Selma, Alabama, a city well-known for its pivotal role in the Civil Rights revolution of the 1960's.

His work in Slow Exposures also includes a piece from his body of work made in Gee's Bend, Alabama, among the quilters whose lives have been transformed by national recognition of the aesthetic strength of their art.

Susan Harbage Page at Hagedorn Gallery

North Carolina photographer Susan Harbage Page will open a show of her work entitled Postcards from Home in Atlanta on October 1st, 2009. The show will be at the Hagedorn Foundation Gallery, in Suite 25 at 425 Peachtree Hills Avenue, and will run through October 29th.

Susan's work often deals with identity, race, and gender, and often in almost painfully personal terms. The body of work in this show -- images of figures dressed in KKK robes sewn from contemporary fabrics -- explores, we are told, "how shared traumatic histories shape present-day social relations."

Susan will talk about her work in the Gallery at 7:00 pm on Friday, October 16th.

This show is part of Atlanta Celebrates Photography 2009.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Susan Worsham is Having a Year to Remember


Susan Worsham is a photographer from Richmond, Va, who -- after some time out west -- has recently begun photographing again in her home town. At the moment, she is finding recognition both regionally and nationally. In addition to winning awards and being juried into major photography shows, she has just published a large portfolio of her work in Ahorn Magazine, an online fine art photography magazine.

Her website features images made in Virginia. Susan's work invites consideration in terms of a southern perspective. One of her portfolios is entitled "Some Fox Trails in Virginia"; another, "By the Grace of God," drawing on the old self-identifying taunt, "I'm American by birth, but Southern by the grace of God."

Susan also has work in the 18th annual International Photography Competition sponsored by the Texas Photographic Society. This show opened at the Kirchman Gallery, 213 N Nugent Street, Johnson City, Texas, on September 11th and will remain up through October. Her work was awarded First Place in this show, juried by Cig Harvey, Associate Professor of Art at the Art Institute of Boston.

Susan will also have work on exhibit starting October 4th and up through November 8th at the 12 12 Gallery in Richmond, as part of the National Juried Photography Exhibition 2009, in a show juried by Julian Cox, Curator of Photographs at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

you can read an interview with Susan on, here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Slow Exposures in Candler Field Museum


Slow Exposures 2009, a show dedicated to photography of the rural South, opens Friday, September 18th, 2009 in the Candler Field Museum at 349 Jonathan's Roost Road, Williamson, GA.The show includes work from over 40 photographers that explore the South's complexities and contradictions. The show is up through September 27th, 2009. 

Jurors for this show included well-known NC photographer Tim Barnwell of Asheville, and Annette Cone-Skelton of MOCA-GA.Tim Barnwell will deliver the Jurors Talk on Sunday, Sep 20th, at 1 pm.

This show is part of Atlanta Celebrates Photography 2009.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Still Time for William Eggleston

Still time, but not much, to catch Mississippi photographer William Eggleston's major retrospective show at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC, up through September 20th.  Eggleston is credited with winning acceptance for color in fine art photography as well as for producing a body of work that treats southern subjects like Elvis and Graceland, not to mention Faulkner's Mississippi, with wry humor and unflinching grace.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Photography at the Nasher Museum

The Special Collections Library at Duke University has a large and especially strong collection of photographs, especially of photographs in the documentary tradition. A generous sample of work from this collection is now on display at the Nasher Museum of Art in the show Beyond Beauty: Photographs from the Duke University Special Collections Library, on exhibit through October 18th, 2009.

Work in the show covers the history of photography and includes images by Matthew Brady, Timothy O'Sullivan, William Bell, John Hillers and William Henry Jackson, Félix Bonfils, Eugène Atget, Julia Margaret Cameron, Peter Henry Emerson, Alfred Stieglitz, F. Holland Day, Peter Henry Emerson, Edward Steichen, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Lewis Hine, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Doris Ulmann, Aaron Siskind, Gertrude Blom, and Minor White.

The show also features documentary work on the American South, including images of Kentucky by William Gedney, Paul Kwilecki's photographs of Decatur County, Georgia, and Rob Amberg's images of North Carolina.

The show also includes work by southern photographers including Sally Mann and Alex Harris. Definitely worth a trip to Durham!

Jane Kerr at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center

The Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta will open A New Slant on the South, a show of work by Mississippi photographer Jane Robbins Kerr on Friday, September 18th, with a reception from 7pm - 9pm. The show is up through the month of October. This show is part of Atlanta Celebrates Photography 2009.

Jerry Siegel at the Barbara Archer Gallery

 Atlanta photographer Jerry Siegel is opening a show of panoramic images entitled Images from the Black Belt of the American South at the Barbara Archer Gallery on September  11th, 2009, up through December. Opening Reception is Friday, Oct 16th, from 7pm - 10pm. Jerry will discuss his work at the Gallery on October 17th at 11 am. This show is part of Atlanta Celebrates Photography 2009.  Definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Elizabeth Matheson at Green Hill

Elizabeth Matheson will have a solo show of her work, entitled Still Here: Photographs of Old Houses, at the Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art, opening September 18th and up through November 19th, 2009.

Matheson is one of the North Carolina's, and the South's, most distinguished photographers. She studied with John Menapace at the Penland School over 30 years ago and has had solo shows at the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the North Carolina Museum of Art, and the Gregg Museum of Art and Design.

Matheson has also exhibited her work at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She was presented the North Carolina Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Fine Arts in 2004.

Atlanta Celebrates Photography 2009 -- Guide Now On Line

Atlanta Celebrates Photography has developed into a photography festival of national, not just regional, significance. Coming to life in Atlanta every October, it includes this year over 150 major exhibitions and events at over 120 venues throughout metro Atlanta and central Georgia. Go HERE for the full schedule.
There's lots here of interest to the southern photographer. See especially the lecture by Atlanta photographer Tierney Gearon at the High Museum on October 29th, as well as the exhibition of Ms. Gearon’s work opening at Jackson Fine Art on Friday October 30th. Or Jerry Siegel's show of Images from the Black Belt of the American South up at the Barbara Archer Gallery from September 11 to December 31. Or Slow Exposures 2009, a show featuring images of the rural South (full disclosure: I have work in this show).

To keep up with ACP year-round, check out their blog, here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Is Alec Soth a Southern Photographer?

The High Museum of Art in Atlanta just opened a major exhibition of new work by Alec  Soth that brings up interesting questions about the “southern” in southern photography.  Soth’s work was funded by the High as the latest in a series of commissions under the general rubric “Picturing the South.”   

The show, entitled “Black Line of Woods,” consists of 12 large prints, mostly landscapes of leafless woodlands, often with a solitary figure positioned so as to make the figure seem small, dwarfed by the scale of the barren trees.

Alec Soth is an outstanding photographer, a member of Magnum, a fine person to be selected to do a commissioned body of work for the High Museum.  He is also from Minnesota.
So why bring up the question of Soth’s “southerness”? Because the High makes a point of it, especially by comparing his photographs to the stories of Georgian writer Flannery O’Conner in their common ability to “convey the unique spirit of the region.”  

The link with O'Conner is through subject of the images -- the title of the show is taken from an O'Conner short story -- and especially the people depicted in Soth's images, who, like the odd assortment of people one meets in O'Conner's stories, constitute “an unusual cast of characters living outside mainstream society.”  Soth’s “photographs," we are told, "center on the landscape, flora, and fauna of the Deep South, and the people who choose to live on the margins.”

So whose idea of "the unique spirit" of the South is captured by "an unusual cast of characters living outside mainstream society"? That actually seems far more an outsider's than an insider's view of the South.  But Julian Cox, the Museum’s head curator of photography, goes to great lengths to affirm  Soth’s “southerness”  when he is interviewed by Art Relish for the blog for Atlanta Celebrates Photography. Watch HERE (scroll down the ACP blogsite to the video under the headline “Julian Cox on Alec Soth’s “Black Line of Woods”), then read on. 

Now, of course, one can immediately tell from listening to his accent that Julian Cox, as my grandmother would have put it, “ain’t from around here,” but that’s not important. 

What IS important is the extent to which Cox  is quick to defend Soth's "southernness." 

Cox reminds us that Soth has photographed in the South before, in his Sleeping by the Mississippi project, that he has read and appreciated O'Conner, that his technique of photographing with his camera on a tripod causes him to slow down and that makes him southern, that his work exhibits a lyrical feel for the land, that it depicts loners, people who retreat from the world, that Soth himself is one of those loners on retreat in this work, that the work has an ominous feeling that captures something of the romantic myth of the South. 

One must wonder if this is really part of the unique spirit of the South, or if its just someone's myth about what the myth of the South really is. 

But then -- and here's the real surprise -- having made this case for Soth's "southernness," Cox takes it all back. At the end of the interview, Cox says that when Soth's project is shown in its fullness later this year, these images will become part of a much larger body of work which will demonstrate that the mood of foreboding and the motif of loners who retreat into an insular life is not southern at all, but everywhere.

So much for the distinctive "southerness" of ominous landscapes  populated by loners who retreat into insular lives.  But then we southerners knew that already.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Work Boats of Core Sound -- Larry Earley Exhibit at the NC Museum of History

 Larry Earley's latest project documenting traditional hand-built work boats of North Carolina's coastal sounds is on exhibit at the NC Museum of History. Go HERE for more information on the exhibit. Go here for more on Larry's photography.

What's Southern about Southern Photography?

Over 20 years ago, Gene Thornton, writing in the New York Times about an exhibition of work by 11 southern photographers then on view at the International Center of Photography, concluded that “contemporary art photography in the South is virtually indistinguishable from contemporary art photography in New York.”

Thornton goes on:

“To Southern art lovers, the work in this exhibition probably represents a kind of advance over an older type of regional photography of the magnolia-and-moonlight or sharecroppers-and-sheriff variety.

"It shows that a significant number of younger Southern photographers have broken out of the provincialism of regional photography and joined the mainstream of contemporary art photography.

"Like the post-World War II skyscrapers and freeways of Atlanta, or the integration of the public schools, it demonstrates, though in purely artistic terms, the final emergence of a once backward part of the nation into the modern world. No doubt this is deeply satisfying to Southern art lovers.

"But in this kind of modernization something is always lost: a sense of the peculiar characteristics of a region or a people, the thing that gave so much 20th-century Southern fiction its special flavor. “

Twenty years after Thornton's comments, the question is whether a distinctive “southern” identity is so deeply tied up in the culture of poverty and racism characteristic of the post-Civil War South that it cannot survive the South’s transition to modernity and, now, post-modernity, whether thought of in broader cultural or more narrowly aesthetic terms.

Since World War II, the South has gone – and continues to go through – a major cultural and economic transition that in many ways has eroded or ameliorated distinctive aspects of southern culture. For much of this change we must all be deeply grateful.

On the other hand, since it is now possible for someone to grow up in the South without developing even a trace of a southern accent, one must ask whether something essential to a southern identity has been lost.

Proud Flesh -- Sally Mann at Gagosian Gallery

Sally Mann, a Virginia-based fine art photographer whose work often deals with southern families and southern landscapes, will have a show of her recent work at the Gagosian Gallery, 980 Madison Avenue, NYC, opening on September 15 and running through October 31, 2009.

Tim Barnwell at the NC Museum of History

Tim Barnwell's images of people and landscapes from the southern Appalachians will be on display at the NC Museum of History through October 5, 2009. For more on this exhibition go here. For more on Tim's book On Earth's Furrowed Brow: The Appalachian Farm in Photographs go here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Photography in the American South

This blog is about photography of the American South. The subject includes the South as a subject for photographs as well as a place where photographers learn and practice their craft. It will be a resource for links to centers, museums, collections, exhibitions, and individual artists. It will also be a place to reflect on the meaning and practice of a southern photography.

The South has functioned in American culture as a distinct place, an American “other.” Photography has done much to define that “otherness.” Photography developed as a practice early enough to record defining moments of this “otherness,” from late antebellum images of slavery through the iconic Civil War images of Matthew Brady and others to the documentary work of Lewis Hine in southern textile mills.

In the history of photography many of the iconic images are of southern subjects. Traditions of depicting the South in photographs achieved a defining moment in the depression-era images of Walker Evans, Margaret Post Wolcott, and others. Many of the images from Robert Frank’s The Americans depict southern subjects.

Many photographers significant in the history of fine art photography have themselves been southerners, from Eudora Welty to William Eggleston to Sally Mann. In recent years, major American photographers such as Harry Callahan have spent significant portions of their artistic careers photographing in the South.

Photography is now flourishing as a practice in the contemporary South, as events like Atlanta's month-long Celebration of Photography, Washington's FotoWeek DC, and Charlottesville’s Festival of the Photograph clearly demonstrate.

With so much going on, it's time to document at least some of it and to consider what it's about.