Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Shannon Johnstone on Feature Shoot

We had occasion recently to mention Raleigh-based photographer Shannon Johnstone,  my friend and a professor of photography at Meredith College, who had two winning images in the recent Puppy Love show in Pike County, Georgia.

Johnstone's animal photography has a deeper purpose and mission. She is concerned to promote humane regard for animals, especially those who fall outside the happy world of pet ownership into the world of the animal shelter. 

Her work on this subject is now featured on the featureshoot blog.

This is not work for the faint of heart. The cats in the image, above, are not cuddling together for warmth. They are dead. They have just been euthanized and their bodies await disposal.

 This is strong work. It is worthy of your attention.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The World We Photograph

Michael Lind, a writer for the online news blog Salon, has an interesting account up today about how the economy of the South works.

Its called Southern Poverty Pimps: The “original sin” of the Southern political class is cheap, powerless labor, and its definitely worth a thoughtful reading. 

Lind argues, essentially, that "for generations Southern economic policymakers have sought to secure a lucrative second-tier role for the South in the national and world economies, as a supplier of commodities like cotton and oil and gas and a source of cheap labor for footloose corporations.

"This strategy of specializing in commodities and cheap labor is intended to enrich the Southern oligarchy.  It doesn’t enrich the majority of Southerners, white, black or brown, but it is not intended to."

What's happening in North Carolina right now certainly bears out Lind's argument. Recently, we have seen the legislature pass laws depriving a half-million North Carolinians of Medicaid benefits. This follows over a decade of cuts in state funding for higher education, compensated for by rising tuition costs that limit access to higher education by bright, poor young people.

Policies like these, as Lind puts it, are "components of a well-thought-out economic grand strategy to permit the South, as a nation-within-a-nation in the U.S., to pimp its cheap, dependent labor for the benefit of local and foreign (non-Southern) corporations and investors."

That's the world we photograph, or at least I do, because that's the world my family (see Reunion photograph, above) lives in. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Nothing More Southern Than a Dog

There's nothing more Southern than a dog, especially a big, wet, slobbering dog, fresh from a swim in a cool fish pond.

The folks in Pike County, down in Georgia, the ones who bring us SlowExposures every year in the fall, have fun in February by celebrating Southern doggy-dom with a show called Puppy Love, now on exhibit, through the end of February, at A Novel Experience Bookshop in Zebulon, Georgia.

This year's grand prize winner is Jenny Burke's Charlie and the Dogs (see above). First and second prizes go to my friend Mary Shannon Johnstone, for her images Jorges 8th Birthday and Landfill Dogs: Rosebud (see below).

This image is part of a portfolio of heartbreaking work called Breeding Ignorance that Shannon  is doing on the realities and tragedies that result from domestic animal overpopulation.

Third place went to Cindy Hodnette, for her image Mickey and Logan. Honorable Mentions went to P. S. Davis for Summer Morning (see below), to David Foster for On a Mission, and to Cindy Hodnette for Henry in April.

If you can't get to Zebulon before the end of the month, the winning images are here and the whole show is here.

And if you want to hear my favorite Southern story about dogs, Lewis Grizzard's story about Ole Blue, go here

Monday, February 11, 2013

Memphis Photographers Present Self-Portraits on the Web

Two Memphis-based photographers are making strong and challenging art by turning their cameras on themselves.
Memphis-based photographer Frances Berry has a portfolio of really interesting self-studies (see image above) up this month on the on-line Gallery Projekt30. 

She has a BFA from the University of Alabama and is now working on an MFA from the Memphis College of Art, where she probably takes classes from Haley Morris-Cafiero, is the Director of Graduate Studio Art at the Memphis College of Art.

Morris-Cafiero, who holds a BFA from the University of North Florida and an MFA from the University of Arizona,  also has work featured now on the Web, with work from her Wait Watchers portfolio, on the PetaPixel blog, here. 

Morris-Cafiero here takes the concept of street photography one step further; instead of settling for photographing people in the street, she takes photographs of people responding to her in the street.

These images remind me of Jeff Wall's photograph Mimic, but Jeff had to spend a bundle setting his images up, hiring actors, and staging the whole thing.

I'm not quite sure how these photographs were made, frankly, but the idea is compelling and the images are arresting.       

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The White South's Last Defeat

The public affairs blog Salon has an essay up now by Michael Lind called The White South's Last Defeat that is worthy of our pondering.

Lind's major point is that "the long, drawn-out, agonizing identity crisis of white Southerners is having effects that reverberate throughout our federal union."

I think Lind is right about his basic point, although he defines the issue in North/South terms, and its a national, not just a regional issue. After all, in the 2012 election, Romney won the states of the upper midwest by margins almost identical to his victories in the Deep South.

But it does have a distinctive flavor and history here, in the South. 

Salon's webpage also features Charlotte-based photographer Chris Keane's powerful image of the South Carolina state capitol building, with the Stars and Bars still flying.