Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lewis Hine and Henri Cartier-Bresson Photograph in the South

While we are in a historic photography moment, perhaps its good to note that two photography exhibits in the South present work by major figures in the history of photography who spent at least part of their careers photographing in the American South.

The NC Museum of History in Raleigh opens this week a major exhibit of the photographs of Lewis Hine documenting child labor in North Carolina. The show opens March 4th, 2011, and is called  The Photography of Lewis Hine: Exposing Child Labor in North Carolina, 1908–1918. 

More on the show here.

There will be a formal opening reception for this show on Friday, March 11th, from 6-9 pm in the Museum, which is located at 5 East Edenton Street, in downtown Raleigh.

The photographs in this exhibit were made while Hine was working as a staff photographer for the National Child Labor Committee. The photographs document the plight of child workers in the state’s textile mills a century ago.

Also, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta is hosting a major exhibit of photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson, up now through May 29th, 2011. This show is being billed as "the first comprehensive retrospective of the French photographer's work since his death in 2004." It was up first at MoMA in NYC, and you can see many of the images in the show, including work made by Cartier-Bresson on his journeys through the American South by going to their website here.

Especially go here, where we can see images Cartier-Bresson made in the American South. The photograph of members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (better known as the UDC when I was growing up) is priceless, while the photograph of folks living in a tent city is heartbreaking.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

George S. Cook Photographs the Civil War

Intesting story in today's online edition of the NY Times, here, on George S. Cook, who photographed widely in the South around the time of the Civil War. The NY Times bills him as the Southern Mathew Brady.

Among his work is a portrait (see above) of Maj. Robert Anderson, the commander of Fort Sumter when it was bombarded in Charleston harbor at the beginning of the Civil War.  There is a slide show of more of Cook's work here, including what is billed as the first photograph of naval combat in process, showing Union ironclads firing on Confederate positions. 

The story also brings to my attention the Center for Civil War Photography, here.  Well worth a look.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Updates -- and the Challenges of Doing this Blog

Mississippi-based photographer Don Norris is the Texas Photographic Society's Emerging Photographer of the Month for February.

Don's portfolio on the TPS' website consists of 10 images of antebellum Protestant meeting houses Don has found in Alabama and Mississippi. Don has a fine eye for elegance, simplicity, light, and composition, and for the givenness of things as they are. This work invites meditation, contemplation, repose for the eye.

Also, the Ogden Museum of Southern Arts in New Orleans (925 Camp Street) has a couple of shows up now that will be of interest to readers of this blog. One is called On Location: Southern Portraits, described as "an exhibition of photographic portraits set in public spaces, or in the private spaces of the subject."

 The other show at the Ogden is Birney Imes: Selections from Partial to Home - Photographs of Mississippi, which is described as "a candid exploration of African-American culture over a ten-year period in a region of Mississippi that fiercely resists change." Birney Imes is described as a resident of "Columbus, Mississippi, where he is still Editor and Publisher of The Dispatch, the daily newspaper.

I'm using passive constructions here because for this entry I'm stuck with what the TPS website and the Ogden Museum tell me. I can't find a website for either of these photographers, so I can't get much of a feel for their work.

Birney Imes once had a show at the Jackson Fine Art Gallery in Atlanta, so there is this information about him. He also had a show at the Rose Gallery in Santa Monica, California, so there is this portfolio, but all the images are in flash so I can't show you any.

UPDATE on Birney Imes, with thanks to Daniel -- Birney was more active as a photographer in the 1990's than recently. lists three books of his work here, including Partial to Home, from which the work at the Ogden seems to be taken, but also Juke Joint (the portfolio he showed at Jackson Fine Art) and another one, Whispering Pines.  So its good to know that Birney is still getting recognition for his work from back then.

If anyone else knows of a website for either Don Norris or Birney Imes, please let me know.

The biggest challenges of doing this blog, I find, are photographers who do not have their own websites, museums and galleries that have uninformative websites, and websites that use flash so I can't download the images.

Folks, I'm trying to be helpful here. Please do your part! JNW

UPDATED Women Who Shoot at the Hagedorn Gallery in Atlanta

Atlanta's Hagedorn Foundation Gallery is opening a group show of work by photographers who are women and who are all based in the South, and they are calling it Women's Work. Or so says the ACP blog. This show opens on March 2nd, 2011, with a reception from 6-9 pm, and will be up through April 18th, 2011.

UPDATED: Turns out the name of the show is HOME: Spring Group Show according to the Hagehorn Gallery website. Is that helpful? Is photography Women's Work at Home? Is women's place at home doing photography? 

If I were a woman, I'm not sure I'd want to be in a show with either of these titles. Maybe the shooters in this show who work in Atlanta ought to check with the Gallery and the ACP folks about these titles.  In any case, the title of the show has nothing to do with the work or with the photographers, who are first-class shooters and who would be, under any circumstances, at home or away.

This show includes work by photographers with whom I am familiar -- Susan Harbage Page, Laura Noel, and Stephanie Dowda -- and some new folks, at least to me, including Beth Lilly, Tobia Makover, and Meryl Truett. The work chosen -- most of which is available on the Hagedorn Foundation's website for our contemplation -- looks exceptionally strong, providing a survey of what a number of Southern photographers who are women are up to these days.

Susan Harbage Page is based in Chapel Hill, where she is a member of the studio art faculty at the University of North Carolina. We have seen her work lately engaging in deep social issues like race and immigration. Good to see in the work she has on offer here that she has found time to contemplate some quieter, gentler subject matter.

Laura Noel, who lives and shoots in Atlanta, has work here from her ongoing project with diptychs, with bringing together two images that establish intriguing conversations with each other. Some of these images are familiar to followers of Laura's blog Alls Fair, but not in the combinations she has made here.

Stephanie Dowda is also based in Atlanta, and has been making work in what looks like an older neighborhood of that city, but the enigmatic figures she has found in this neighborhood suggest I'm about to follow them into a Flannery O'Conner short story, with unpredictable outcomes.

Beth Lilly is also based in Atlanta: she is engaged in a long-term project with cell phones and triptychs, but her work in this show is about dreams of a red elephant.
Meryl Truett lives and works in Savannah, GA, and has lots of good work on her website about Southern phenomena like highways and railroad tracks, but lately she's been transferring images to tin ceiling tiles.

Tobia Makover is also based in Savannah, and works extensively in alternative processes, including the encaustic work shown here and at the top of this blog entry.

The Hagedorn Foundation Gallery is at 425 Peachtree Hills Avenue, in Atlanta, and is open from 10-5 Monday-Friday and from 11-4 on Saturday. you can reach them by phone at 404.492.771.

This looks like a fascinating show, well worth the trip to Atlanta in March to see it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sally Mann is Going to Harvard

Distinguished Southern photographer Sally Mann will deliver the 2011 William E. Massey, Sr., Lectures in the History of American Civilization this May 2nd, 3rd, and 4th at Harvard University, in the late afternoon, place still to be announced.

The Harvard website has a nice profile of Mann, here:   Sally Mann, Photographer.
We ordinary folks can hope that Mann's Lectures will be published. More later as details unfold.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sally Mann on NPR

There is a fascinating interview with Sally Mann on NPR, from a broadcast of All Things Considered with Melissa Block.  Also see a video that NPR did with Sally Mann, about her Proud Flesh portfolio. Wonderful to hear Mann's voice, with that marvelous Virginia accent, as well as hear her thoughts on her work and on her career.

Johnathan Kelso on Miss Moss

The endlessly fascinating  Miss Moss today brings us to Atlanta-based photographer Johnathan Kelso who is doing some nice work photographing the heart of the New South. Very much worth checking out.

Miss Moss is taken by the fact that on his website John says, "i like to take pictures and play with my dog (copernicus)." I'm intrigued by the images of shape note singers and people hanging out in Southern bars or Dairy Queens. Your mileage may vary.

John is a member of a really interesting-sounding group called Dashboard Co-Op, and they sponsored a show lately that included his work. This show is at 999 Brady Avenue in Atlanta. It may be still up, but you need to contact them to find out where it is and how to see the work. There is a review here.

We look forward to seeing more of Johnathan's work. He's the first member of a new category we are calling Southern Photographers We've Just Noticed. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Updates -- Jeff Rich, Susan Harbage Page, David Walter Banks and Kendrick Brinson

News, some just breaking, some timely because things are happening right now, or shows are closing soon --

Jeff Rich has just been been named winner of the Critical Mass Book Publication Prize by PhotoLucida for this year. As a result, Jeff will be able to produce a hardbound monograph of his portfolio of images, entitled Watershed - A Survey of the French Broad River Basin. Congratulations to Jeff on this honor, and on this opportunity.

Also, Susan Harbage Page will give a talk at the FedEx Global Center at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Wednesday, February 24th, 2011, at 7:00 pm about her work Walking the Border,with a reception to follow. This is amazing work, well worth a visit.

Michelle May has made a video about Page's work, available on YouTube, here. Shameless Self-Promotion Department -- Michelle interviewed me for this documentary, and I made it off the cutting room floor and into the film, though not enough to mess up Michelle's fine work too much. Check it out!

Also, David Walter Banks and Kendrick Brinson have a duo show called Escape now up at the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery in Atlanta. Banks and Brinson are Atlanta-based photographers. In this show, Banks documents the oddities of theme parks and roadside attractions, while Brinson photographs the retirement community of Sun City, Arizona during the celebration of its 50th anniversary. Review from the Atlanta Press here; Interview here.

This show closes at the end of this month, but I'm sure we we will be hearing more from Banks and Brinson.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Kathleen Robbins in One One Thousand

Columbia, SC based photographer Kathleen Robbins is the new featured photographer for One One Thousand, the increasingly intriguing Southern photography webzine from New Orleans.  The work she is showing here is from her Into the Flat Land portfolio, documenting the landscape and the people of the Delta region of northern Mississippi.

Robbins, in my view, is doing a superb job in her work of documenting the character and experience of the Southern rural landscape. Her uncanny sense of composition, her thoughtful location of people in their context, and her attention to detail coalesce in these images to evoke the character of this place which someone once called the South of the South.

This is the land that white settlers tore from the wilderness and bought the slaves to grow the cotton on. It is blood-soaked and pain-riven land; it is the land whose past Faulkner said lives on into the present. And so it does. The Confederate battle flag still waves in the state flag of Mississippi and on the grounds of the state capitol of South Carolina.

And yet in Robbin's images the Southern rural landscape is largely empty. Southern history has moved on, to Memphis, and to Atlanta, and to Columbia, and to Charlotte. And so we live, in one or the other, or, better, in both, all at once.

Congratulations to Robbins for this recognition of her work. She is definitely a Southern Photographer We Watch Out For.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Leah Sobsey in Local Histories: The Ground We Walk On in Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill-based photographer Leah Sobsey, together with her collaborator Lynn Bregman Blass, has work from their Visual History Project in a group multimedia show opening this weekend in Chapel Hill's new community gallery space. The show is entitled Local Histories: The Ground We Walk On, and it's up through April 29th, 2011 at 523 East Franklin Street, in Chapel Hill.  The show opens with a reception this Friday, February 11th, from 5-9 pm.

The show involves the work of over 50 artists employing a wide range of media including performance, videos,  installations, and multi-media pieces, as well as the more traditional forms in art is expressed, that is, drawings, sculptures, paintings, and photographs. All these folks and all these methods of making art are in the service of an idea about process, the process of "exploring Alfredo Jaar’s idea that 'place cannot be global,'” so the work in this show "addresses issues of histories and institutions of communities, family, place; commemorative responses; heroes; folklore and buried truths; traditions; memory/nostalgia; longing/loss; progress/development; the intersection of the local and global, and social, legal, political events as they pertain to, influence and construct local histories."

I'm featuring this show for a couple of reasons. One is that Sobsey is a first-class photographer, one of the Southern Photographers We Watch Out For, who makes hauntingly beautiful images while she is engaging in thoughtful and complex projects that never fail to enhance our perception of the world around us. She shows exceptional range in her work, from documentary work that involves its subjects in the production of their own images to straightforward images characterized by wit and ingenuity to alternative process work that reminds us of the ways the act of photography transforms our perception of the world. 

The second reason is that Sobsey's work in this show uses photography as a means to larger goals, rather than making the act of photography an end in itself. She says that the piece she and Blass collaborated on for this show is the result of a process that includes community engagement as well as aesthetic exploration. According to Sobsey, she and Blass started this project with conversations about technique, about the relationship between qualities of photography and the qualities of encaustic, an ancient artistic medium involving beeswax & damar resin, first used in Fayum mummy portraits in Egypt in 100-300 AD. 

Sobsey says, "Each medium uses the idea of time in similar yet disparate ways: Photography as a way of bringing the moment to bear – an ephemeral way of remembering; encaustic, through its translucency, allowing the viewer to look back through a painting’s layers and see how each moment, each stroke, informs the present. We became interested in how these two different processes could be joined together to speak to the idea of time."

Considering time and art, they wound up looking backward into their own pasts, at memorabilia once treasured but now forgotten. They also looked outward, as they exhibited work that examined their visual histories they enabled others to tell their own stories. This led to their engagement with the Chapel Hill and Carrboro communities around personal narratives that led to Our Stories in Focus, a touring community art project that tells the collective stories of 500 people. Their piece in the Chapel Hill show is a visual realization of their awareness that art has the power to weave individuals, cultures and communities together. 

So, here's my take on this. Photography as traditionally practiced is often a solitary discipline, leading to an image matted and framed and hanging on the wall. Sobsey's photography, at least in this project, is now an enabler of a communitarian project, a way of evoking responses and engaging large numbers of people in that quintessentially Southern practice of story telling. This activity then then gets organized into a three-dimensional expression hanging in a space in Chapel Hill, 8 feet in diameter and 15 feet high, composed of one hundred strips with over 1000 images hand transferred and dipped through encaustic medium forming an object that occupies lots of space and invites us to engage with it actively, walking around it, working out how it embodies time and story.

So here photography in the South takes a powerful new turn, at the service of both artistic and social goals -- definitely worth a look!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sarah Hobbs at Silver Eye Gallery

Atlanta-based photographer Sarah Hobbs is having a show of her work at the Silver Eye Center for Photography, at 1015 East Carson Street, in Pittsburgh, PA 15203, up now through March 12th, 2011.

This show consists of fifteen large-scale images from Hobbs' Out of Mind portfolio, a body of work in which Hobbs explores the boundary markers, the similarities and differences, between what constitutes the normal and abnormal in human thought and behavior.

These images are all based on carefully constructed sets in which seemingly familiar domestic settings turn out to be odd or askew in ways obvious, subtle, and sometimes disturbing. Each image brings to our attention contradictory aspects of human nature in which phobias, obsessions, or other neurotic states take on visual form. Hobbs' work heightens our sense that photography is a performative as well as a documentary practice, showing us a world that is at once ordinary and theatrical, real and fictional, outside as well as inside of us.

Hobbs was born in Lynchburg, Virginia and studied at the University of Georgia, where she received her MFA in photography in 2000. She has showed her work in New York and Chicago as well as across the South. Her work is in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Sir Elton John Collection; and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas.

Here's more about Sarah Hobbs. She is definitely a Southern Photographer We Watch Out For.

Dawoud Bey at Emory University

Distinguished American photographer Dawoud Bey has a show up now in the Visual Arts Gallery at Emory University entitled the Emory Project, through March 5th, 2011. This show, which consists of some 20 double portraits of members of the Emory community, documents the diversity of people who work or study at Atlanta's most distinguished university.  

Bey's overall project also includes a web presence that includes over twice as many images as the actual on-site show in Atlanta.

The Emory Visual Arts Department commissioned Bey to develop this series of portraits as a way to celebrate the end of a five-year project to explore Emory's historic and current experiences of race, gender, sexuality and other forms of human difference. He made the work while serving as Artist-in-Residence at Emory in the spring of 2010.

Bey was born and grew up in New York City; he is now based in Chicago. So how does he wind up on this blog, devoted as it is to Southern fine art photography? 

Well, the people he photographed live or study in the South, and the show is in the South. And, in the end, given his subject matter and his approach to it, one could make the case that in spite of his places of origin and residence, he's a Southerner, too.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Update: More Good News for Jimmy Williams and David Simonton

Life is good today for photographers in the upper South.

Just learned that Raleigh-based photographer Jimmy Williams is one of 4 featured photographers in LensWork #93 (March/April 2011). We all know LensWork for its exceptionally high quality of printing and reproduction work for traditional B&W photography. Williams' B&W work, with its exceptionally high production values, will fit happily and comfortably into the pages of Brooks Jensen's fine publication. 

Also just learned (thanks One One Thousand on FaceBook) that Raleigh-based photographer David Simonton is featured on the blog LENSCRATCH. 

Congratulations to Jimmy and to David. Good goin', you guys.