Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Announcements of Upcoming Events -- SlowExposures, Look3, Extended Southern Views Show

SlowExposures, the wonderful photography festival of the rural South, has issued its call for entries for 2011.

Deadline for entries for this year's show is June 15, 2011.

Also, Look3 Festival of the Photograph is about to resume its run in downtown Charlottesville, VA, this June 9-11, 2011. The Festival includes photographs all over downtown Charlottesville, featured speakers, workshops with distinguished photographers like Mary Ellen Mark, and a host of other activities.

The leadership of Look3 took a break last summer for much needed rest, but they are back this year and promise three days packed with photography.

More good news -- Bill Wylie has emailed that the run of the really grand show at the Art Museum at the University of Virginia called Southern Views/Southern Photographers has been extended through June 12th, so that it will be up for those attending Look3.

This is grand news indeed, and my thanks to Bill and the other folks at UVa for making this possible.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Debbie Fleming Caffery Wins Documentary Photography Award

SlowExposures's blog brings news that Debbie Fleming Caffery, of Breaux Bridge, LA, will receive the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities “Michael P. Smith Documentary Photography Award” on April 2. This award is made each year to honor Louisianians who have made outstanding contributions to the study and understanding of the humanities.

This award is in special recognition of Caffrey's work documenting of rural communities with strong agriculture and religious ties. This work  brought her to the sugarcane fields of Louisiana where she has photographed and documented the last generation of workers to harvest sugarcane by hand. She has also made work documenting Louisiana's distinctive Cajun culture centered in Lafayette, LA and the small towns around it like Breau Bridge, New Iberia, and St Maryville.  She has also been involved in making work documenting the distinctive culture of New Orleans and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Oil Spill of last year. 
This award also recognizes Caffrey's long and distinguished career as a photographer. Over the course of 30 years, Caffery has had more than 20 one-woman exhibitions at museums and galleries, including the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian, Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, and Galerie Camera Obscura in Paris.

Caffery received a Katrina Media Fellowship from the Open Society in 2006 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005. She was the first recipient of the Lou Stomen prize for documentary photography given by the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, California. Caffery's work is in numerous museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institute, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.
Caffrey also knows that one of the great places to be on a Saturday morning is the Cafe des Amis in Breau Bridge, for the Zydeco Breakfast. Congratulations to Caffrey for this well-deserved honor! 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

James R. Holland Documents a Bit of Southern Culture

The excellent blog of the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University brings us a reminder of a book that came out in 2008 to great, and well-earned, acclaim, James R. Holland's Klan Rally: A Photographic Essay. 

Klan Rally won five awards in national book competitions during 2008 and 2009, including recognition as the best book on the history of the United States and best photography book in a competition sponsored by BOOK NEWS/USA.  In 2009 it was a finalist in the Eric Hoffer Book Competition in the Art Category.

Holland is a Boston-based photographer who took the images in this book when he was a photojournalism student at Ohio University fifty years ago. He never published the images, but went on to a long career as a photographer for National Geographic and as a photojournalist in the Boston area.

Holland ran across the images when working on a memoir of his career and recognized their abiding power to show us ourselves at our worst moments.

The images in this book were made at a Klan rally in southwestern Ohio but they document one aspect of the tangled and complex legacy of Southern history. The fact that they were not made in the South is also a reminder that Southern history is also American history, that the burden of our legacy of slavery and racial oppression is a national as well as regional burden.

UPDATE: This story about recent ceusus data represents some of the best news this Southerner has heard in some time.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jonathan Traviesa Featured on One One Thousand

New Orleans-based photographer Jonathan Traviesa is the latest photographer to be featured in One One Thousand, the on-line magazine of Southern Fine Art Photography.

Traviesa was born in San Francisco but soon moved to the New Orleans area. He studied at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Art (NOAFA) and earned a degree from the University of New Orleans in 2001. Since then he has had numerous solo and group exhibitions in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York.  He's now on the faculty at NOAFA

Traviesa has been working for years on an ongoing series of  environmental portraits of citizens of New Orleans. His show of work on One One Thousand is drawn from this series, as was his first book, Portraits, with a concurrent exhibition at The Front Gallery during October and November of 2009. 

One One Thousand continues to do an outstanding job of bringing us strong photographs by folks like Jonathan Traviesa. Keep up the good work, folks! 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Herman Mhire at the Martine Chaisson Gallery in New Orleans

There is an intriguing show of work by Lafayette, LA-based photographer Herman Mhire called Altered States up at the Martine Chaisson Gallery at 727 Camp Street in New Orleans, through April 23rd, 2011.

This show presents an extended series of surreal large format portraits of Louisiana artists in which Mhire carries out extensive manipulations of the images to explore ideas of portraiture, the photographic medium, and psychology.  Images from this show can be found here.

Mnire says he sets out in this work to "transform photographic portraits into provocative and often disturbing hyperfaces that invite the viewer to search for clues about the altered states of my fictional characters.”

Mhire got to know the artists whose images for the basis of these manipulated portraits through his work as the Distinguished Professor of Visual Arts in the College of the Arts and Director/Chief Curator of the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum at the University of Louisiana, in Lafayette.

There is a review of this show here.  Mhire has shown this work earlier at the Acadiana Center for the Arts and Galerie Eclaireuse in Lafayette, LA.

Although I tend not to be a big fan of obvious digital manipulation, these images are so outrageously manipulated that they are visually compelling and well worth thoughtful attention.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Jack Spencer at Rebekah Jacob Gallery

Nashville-based photographer Jack Spencer has a show of large color prints up at the Rebekah Jacob Gallery in Charleston, SC, up through March of 2011, in a show of work from Jack's portfolio This Land.

I had the privilege of seeing this work earlier this week. Jack's mastery of light and color in these images makes for haunting, powerful landscapes that draw the viewer in, deeper and deeper, into Southern landscapes of field and forest, of dirt roads that lead the eye back into the woods where sunlight plays across clearings, of marshlands and seascapes and rolling hills.
What Jack really nails in these images is the play of light across the Southern landscape. He's definitely a Southern Photographer We Watch Out For, and we were delighted to see his work in person.

The Internet is great for photography, folks, but there is no substitute for seeing the real image, printed out, on the wall, and in person.

By all means, check out this show if you are in Charleston. While you are at it, get to know the Rebekah Jacob Gallery, a gem among the crowded gallery scene in Charleston.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lisette deBoisblanc in SHOTS 111

New Orleans-based photographer Lisette deBoisblanc has work in the new issue of SHOTS magazine, No. 111, including the image above, Interview with the Ward, Part 1.

This is so new that SHOTS (as of March 7th, 2011) still does not have images online from issue No. 111.  For once snail mail triumphs the internet.

Congratulations to Lisette, who is having a 2011 to remember.

Christenberry, Gowin, Mann, Adams, Whetstone, and Pecchio at UVa

The Art Museum at the University of Virginia now has up a show of 35  photographs called Southern Views/Southern Photographers, intended to bring together some of the Museum's recent acquisitions of photographs by Southern artists and thus, as they say in Charlottesville, to "showcase the diversity of talent in contemporary Southern photography."  The show is up through June 5th, 2011.

Included in the show is Emmet Gowin's Family, Danville, Virginia (1971), above.

The show puts together work by Old Master Photographers William Christenberry and Emmet Gowin with mid-career photographers Shelby Lee Adams and Sally Mann and emerging photographers Jeff Whetstone and Pamela Pecchio. One way to put the vision of the show might be to say its an effort by its curator, William Wylie, of UVa's Studio Art Department, to come to terms with what he's gotten himself into by moving to the South.

The show's all-too-brief and sadly image-free online catalogue says of the show that while the "South evokes different images for different people," "The New South is a complicated, culturally varied, and determined place" that "yields images in which the reality lies painfully close to the surface," and that the work in the show demonstrates that "each artist has filtered his or her responses to the region through highly individual sensibilities."

Lest we despair over the show based on that remarkable collection of cliches, we know the work of these folks and have been following their careers for some time. We know that this show is definitely worth a visit, if for no other reason than to see more of these folks' work, and to see it together, three generations of Southern photographers' efforts to make sense of their places of origin, their regional and personal histories, their practices and identities as artists.

The photographer least known to me is for that reason perhaps the most interesting on this occasion.  Shelby Lee Adams, one learns from looking at his images and from reading his biographical sketch, has a complex and tangled history with this land and its people. Born in rural Kentucky, he went to the Cleveland Institute of Art and tried to do the American thing of reinventing himself, of claiming to be not from Kentucky but from Ohio.  Yet Adams was drawn home to look and look again at his land and his people, the hardscrabble South, the land we lowlanders who now live on the Interstates know most from the work of Walker Evans and Marion Post Walcott who found it next door to us, or just down the road from where we live now,  but 75 years ago. 

Adams occupies that strange and uncomfortable land of the artist who is successful as an artist who shows work at the Catherine Edelman Gallery and therefore sells to the urban glitterati of Chicago and NYC and who therefore is called upon to reveal and to disclose, and thus stand apart from his subjects, and also has to say this is where I live, so while you look, please honor and respect the dignity of these, my subjects, my people. Being Southern is a lot about being family, and Southerners who look at Adams' images have to say, if they are honest, yes, these are my people, my cousins, my neighbors, my family.

The UVa Art Museum show has provoked a vigorous response from Grace Elizabeth Hale, of UVa's Department of History, who reviews the show in an all-too-brief essay entitled Wounds, Vines, Scratches, and Names: Signs of Return in Southern Photography for Emory's splendid on-line journal of Southern culture Southern Spaces.

Hale suggests that the catalogue's claim that Southerner photographers have a “distinctive sense of place" is a "seemingly dead idea." I'm sure she and Prof Wylie have interesting conversations over coffee after faculty meetings. Nevertheless, she finds the show "magical," a "visually and emotionally rich exhibit," in which these photographers' “southernness” lies . . . in their process and practice of return and the way their works layer space and time to evoke loss."

Hale has some really insightful things to say about these photographers which is all on the Southern Spaces website so I won't repeat it here, except to make a small comment on her views of photography, which is for her primarily about loss. I could not agree with her more that the work of photographers is about "their process and practice of return." These photographers, like Christenberry, make an asethetic practice of return, to the same places, to the same people, to the same questions about time and place and history.
But she goes on to say of these photographers that their works "layer space and time to evoke loss."  "All photographs," she says, "play with time. They highlight its flow, capturing a present that passes even as the shutter closes. They evoke loss."  But what for Hale ameliorates this melancholy work is the capacity of photography also to preserve a "former present . . .  [so it] can return again and again. Because the photograph does not let its piece of the past go, it also soothes and assuages loss." Hence, the "photographers assembled here share a practice of layering, reworking, and revisiting people and places that foregrounds photography’s jumbling of time. In very different ways, they hold the place or person—the subject—steady so time can float free."

Southerners who talk a lot about loss make me want to check the EXIT signs; we're getting awfully close to moonlight and magnolias here. When I see a series of Christenberry's images of the same place, yet different because they were taken at different times, I'm aware of loss but I'm not floating free of time. I'm in my time of looking, in the midst of my awareness of time, and time's changes, and of the one-way direction of time, and of our common journey toward that undiscovered country from which none return to tell the tale. I see change, and some of the change may well be for the bad but some of it is for the good, and its living in the legacy of the past but also with the necessity of time and change that helps make us Southerners.

Photography, surely, is about change and the making of meaning out of past and present and our experience of it, not just about the aestheticizing of the lost, which I take it is what one does when one contemplates images from a freely floating perspective. I don't pretend that a photograph captures the past; a photograph is the result of a process of making that uses objects as the occasion for its performance. It is a record of the interaction between aesthetic vision, technique, materials, and subject, often with a good shot of serendipity thrown in.

Southern artists are about making what they can of what they have; that's why art in the South seems to work best when it is close to craft, why one of the major centers of arts education in the South is the Penland School of Crafts.

More of that anon; my thanks to Wylie for this show, and to Hale for her take on it, and for the folks at Southern Spaces for sending me a notice of it. Its Spring Break and this show may well be worth a road trip to Charlottesville. Bad timing -- it will be down before its time for Look3: Festival of the Photograph (June 9-11, 2011). What were they thinking? 

Either way, being in Charlottesville makes possible a visit to Tavola, which is the best Italian restaurant I've eaten in since last year in Bologna.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Southern Photographers Drobis and Worsham Make PDN's Top 30 List for 2011

DC-based (and Duke educated) photographer Rebecca Drobis and Richmond, VA-based photographer Susan Worsham have been named to PDN's Annual List of 30 New and Emerging Photographers to Watch Out For.
 We've known about Susan's work since the early days of this blog and are glad to see her gaining further renown. Its also good to make Rebecca's acquaintance; though she claims she is a Mid-Atlantic photographer, anyone who does not think Washington is a Southern city hasn't been there in August.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Katrina Aftermath Shows in New Orleans and Atlanta

Coastal Southerners always live with the reality of hurricanes, although they usually hit beach resorts rather than urban areas. That made Katrina's landfall near New Orleans in 2005 somewhat remarkable, though the city was damaged less by the high winds and storm surges of Katrina itself than by the failure of the city's levee system that was overtaxed by the extra water that Katrina brought to bear on it. 

But true devastation it was, and continues to be for many areas of the city and for many of the people who were living there when the disaster struck. No wonder that a large and growing body of art devoted to Katrina and its aftermath is emerging as people get back on their feet and try to make some sense of this truly live-changing event.

The Louisiana State Museum site in New Orleans, known as the Presbytere, has just opened a show of work by twelve  New Orleans photographers documenting the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on their work and in their vision of the city. The show is called Before During After, and includes 38 large format images, including the one above, called "Solomon" by its maker Frank Relle, a New Orleans-based photographer.

The Presbytere is at 751 Chartres Street in New Orleans, and is open daily (except Mondays and major holidays) from 10 AM to 4:30 PM. The show is up through August 31st, 2011, and is intended to complement the the Museum's new $7.5 million permanent exhibition Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond.

Photographers in the show  include Eric Julian, Elizabeth Kleinveld, Rowan Metzner, David Rae Morris, Thomas Neff, Samuel Portera, Frank Relle, Jennifer Shaw, Mark Sindler, Zack Smith, Jonathan Traviesa, and Lori Waselchuk.

The show joins images with personal artists' statements to document how the aftermath of Katrina changed the way these photographers believe they choose subject matter, media, and photographic technique. There is also a book, with the same title, from the University of New Orleans Press, edited by Elizabeth Kleinfeld, that includes images from the show plus essays and commentary.  The show, and the book, have a Facebook page, here.

Also influenced deeply by Katrina was Lisette de Boisblanc, a native of New Orleans who was beginning her freshman year in animal science at the University of Georgia when Katrina came ashore. After Katrina, she began to develop an earlier interest in photography, especially x-ray photography, and wound up receiving a BFA in Photography from Georgia in 2010. She has returned to New Orleans to live and work as an artist in this still-mending city

Her x-ray meditations on Katrina, based on her work with her grandmother's doll collection that was destroyed by Katrina's floods,  are on display at the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery in Atlanta, in a show entitled Taken by the Fog, opening March 3rd, and up through April 2nd, 2011, on Tuesday - Saturday from 11-5 at the Tula Arts Center at 75 Bennett Street in Atlanta. 

You can't get more Southern than working with your grandmother's doll collection, and with x-rays, too. Who said the past is dead? Not here. The past lives and reveals something of its history in these haunting images that reveal the dolls and also stuff hidden inside the dolls, stuff that for de Boisblanc caused the dolls to take on the character of objects with, as the Gallery puts it, "an internal spirit, some of strength and others of broken hearts. . . a story emerging, making some sense out of the loss experienced after the hurricane."

There is a review of this show, here.  Definitely worth a look, if you are in Atlanta.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Updates -- Diana Bloomfield, Leon Alesi, and Donna Pinckley

The daffodils and the snowdrops are out, and the dogwoods look like they will be in bloom before we know it. So even though the winter was long and cold for us, the signs of spring in the South are unmistakable. That also means the spring exhibit schedule is beginning to unfold.

Here in Raleigh, my friend Diana Bloomfield, a long-time photographer working with pinhole cameras and alternative processes, is opening a show this weekend at Adam Cave Gallery in downtown Raleigh. Her recent work with color, including the image above of a tobacco barn in Ruffin, NC, printed with the tri-color gum bichromate process, has an uncanny ability to capture the intensity of color we get in the full light of the summer's sun.

Also, there is fine new work by Austin, Texas-based photographer Leon Alesi  in the latest issue of the on-line photography magazine Fraction. Alesi has found some folks who look like they have become trapped in a run-down suburb of Austin, or for that matter, AnyCity in the South.

Finally, at least for now, Little Rock, AK-based photographer Donna Pinckley is the latest Southern photographer to be featured at One One Thousand, where we see strong evidence of her ability to rejuvenate the oldest compositional technique of all, by putting the subject in the center of the frame. Here, the subjects want to be just where she puts them, deserving of this kind of concentrated attention.