Thursday, May 30, 2013

News from the Galleries -- Charlotte and Charleston, Spring 2013

The galleries are busy this spring, and the gallery owners, too. Here's a sampling.

In Charlotte, the Knight Gallery at the Light Factory is opening the 6th Annuale juried show with a reception this Saturday night, June 1st, from 6 until 8 pm. The show itself is up through September 15th, 2013. 

The Annuale at the Light Factory each year features a small group of photographers' work in depth, instead of the usual juried show with one or two images from a whole slew of people.

This year's winners, winnowed down to six from over a hundred submissions by Kathleen V. Jameson, President of Charlotte’s Mint Museum of Art.

All of the six photographers whose work is on offer at the Light Factory for this year's Annuale are either from the South or have Southern roots.

They include Rachel E. Andrews (Denver, NC; see image above), Mitchell Kearney (Charlotte, NC), Susan Alta Martin (Cullowhee, NC), Timothy McCoy (Cumming, GA), and Laura Williams (Chapel Hill, NC)

Also on display is work by Jessica Naples, who now is from Ohio, but before she went off to Ohio and the MFA program at Ohio State University, she lived and worked in Charlotte.

In Charleston, also opening on June 1st at the Rebekah Jacob Gallery is a major show of Southern photographers past and present, with the title  Somewhere in the South: A Celebration of Southern Photographers. This show is up through July 31, 2013.

This show features work by distinguished Southern photographers William Eggleston, William Christenberry, Jerry Siegel, Eliot Dudik (see image above), Kathleen Robbins, Richard Sexton, Anne Rowland, and Keliy Anderson-Staley.

Highlights of the show include a rare print of William Eggleston's Red Ceilingand fifteen rare photos produced by William Christenberry in the 1960s with a Kodak Brownie Holiday camera.

There is more about this show on Jacobs' blog, here

Rebekah Jacob is also about the publish her first book, Controversy and Hope: The Civil Rights Photographs of James Karales co-authored with Julian Cox and Monica Karales.

Controversy and Hope brings us the photography of James Karales (1930-2002), a professional photojournalist who documented the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March for Voting Rights with special access to all the participants.

The New York Times called his work "a pictorial anthem of the civil rights movement."

We are deeply in Jacobs' debt for reminding us through this work of the importance of photography in documenting for all time the crises that define Southern history and culture.

I suspect there will b e more to say about this work in more detail when this new book is more generally available.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Andrew Hefter and Katie Maish -- One: One Thousand for May

The work on view for May at One: One Thousand, the online magazine of Southern photography, is evidence that Southern fine art photography is not just about moonlight and magnolias, or personal wrestling with history and family, but can be conceptual, like so much of the work being done these days in photography MFA programs around the country.

Conceptual photography is photography that is informed by an idea or a question or a conundrum; a body of work may be very disparate in subject matter, but finds cohesiveness or unity, or displays relationships among its visual elements when the viewer is aware of the concept proposed for the work by the photographer.

In my view, the challenge for conceptual photography projects is whether the images that result are engaging and arresting on their own, or whether they are interesting only in relationship to the concept, or idea, that informs their significance.

The question is, does the strength of the image depend on the concept that informs it, or does the concept deepen the impact of an already-strong visual experience?

Andrew Hefter's portfolio In Search of Life consists of 14 images, eleven of which are landscapes like the one above, and the rest are enigmatic close-ups like the one below, of Savannah night life.

According to Hefter, the origin of this body of work was his discovery that at the Savannah River nuclear research facility near Augusta, Georgia a "white, string or cobweb-like material" had been found in spent nuclear fuel tanks, raising the possibility that "the substance was biological in nature—a previously unknown life form created through nuclear abiogenesis."

He goes on: "I set out in search of this life and the place it came from, traversing the southern landscape and observing how it has transformed in the presence of nuclear energy and research facilities. Through my own scientific experiments, I attempted to mimic a comparative substance, seeking to understand the nuclear equivalent. The new life remained secret and elusive, with answers to questions kept hidden inside a laboratory shrouded by forest.

"With the continued trepidations about nuclear energy in world affairs, uncertainties about the science only grow. While science is openly traded and spoken with perceived transparency, the places where it occurs remain closed off, and only serve to foster distrust among the public.

"These pursuits are presented as noble and honorable, yet are apparently too dangerous for the laymen to bear witness to. We are told nuclear energy is safe, but given both these secretive practices, and events reported in the media, it becomes difficult to decipher this conjecture.

"Should this new life be biological after all, it may still be thought as either science fiction or abomination—because truth so strange is often the most difficult to trust."

So, in a sense, what Hefter offers us in this body of photographic images are landscapes that may or may not show how "the southern landscape . . . has transformed in the presence of nuclear energy," and perhaps also show us how traces of strange new materials may be seen in flashes of light or the most ordinary of flying bugs.

In other words, Hefter is playing with our minds, making images of the ordinary into something creepy or sinister through their association with nuclear research, creating in images of bones by a riverbank or overexposed images of trailer parks or images of buzzards having lunch on a feast of carrion a mimicry of the way the secrecy of discussion about nuclear power fosters "distrust among the public." 

Katie Maish's portfolio Curio, like Hefter's work, is as much about the act of seeing as it is about showing us something.

Rather than use the concept to change our perception of the images, as Hefter does, however, Maish asks us to consider the consequences of how things are depicted in her photographs for our understanding of the things on display.

Maish shows -- on 1:1000 -- 14 images of hard things (see image above) and squishy things (see image below) and fluffy things and dead pieces of formerly living things (see image even further below). There is a fuller display of this body of work on her website, here.

What's important here, beyond the careful composition of these images, is that they are all images of objects that have been taken out of any context and displayed on their black backgrounds as things-in-themselves, as objects to be contemplated for themselves in all their strikingness or ickiness or however one might wish to describe one's response to them.

Maish makes clear in her statement is that the point here is in the display, that her depiction of these objects echoes ways in which eighteenth century treasure hunters "ripped priceless objects" from the ruins of Pompeii, organized them into curio cabinets, displaying the fragments against a black background and "selling them for a tidy profit to wealthy collectors."

These cabinets of "precious and exotic objects" these "little museums" of  fragments from the past apparently made their owners feel cultivated and powerful, for they provided "an illusory sense of control and containment of the world.

"Categories were social constructions but viewed as naturally determined and intrinsic to the physical world. These collections established a canon, a standard by which all was evaluated, offering a single, authoritative interpretation of the world and all things in it."

Maish then wonders, "since we are constantly inundated with images of the other via the television and the Internet, does that encourage us to connect and relate? Or is my computer just a digital curio cabinet, a vehicle through which I categorize the world that repeats the act of the 18th century collector?"

Thus, the "digital destructuring and intentional immersion of scanned organic forms in this work visually provokes this question and subverts the practice. By using the "spare aesthetic" of eighteenth-century curio collections to display fragments of our word," Maish poses "questions about the importance of context."

But she ends with questions, not with answers: "By washing it away and universalizing these digital objects, does it make the appropriation of culture more comfortable?"

Thus Maish ends her Artist's Statement, not with answers to the meaning of her stylized display of enigmatic  objects, but with questions about the act of display, the meaning of styles of display, the consequences for us of our ways of viewing the world around us as well as the world we see when we look at photographic images.

Maish's work thus sets up at least two phases of viewing, the time of viewing before one reads her Artist's Statement, and the time afterwards. If news or documentary photography is primarily about showing us what happened or what was there, in front of the camera when the photographer pushed the button. this kind of photography is about raising questions about the act of making images, the act of display, the act of framing.  

There's certainly a lot to consider about how the South is photographed, about the consequences for how we see it of how it is framed, displayed, presented to us. That conversation is certainly encouraged by the work on offer this month on One:One Thousand.

Emmet Gowin at Jackson Fine Art

The distinguished Southern photographer Emmet Gowin is having a retrospective show of his work at Jackson Fine Art Gallery in Atlanta, up now through July 27th, 2013.

This show reminds us that Gowin's photography is grounded in the practice of black and white fine art photography of the mid-twentieth century.

Gowin's early work (see image above) was mostly made in Virginia and honors the documentary photography of the Depression era and the casual, street-photography influenced work of Robert Frank and others at work in the 1950's.

Gowin's work has grown, however, anticipating and participating in a number of developments that are still very current.

One is the trend in landscape photography to turn from Ansel Adams' celebration of form and light without regard for the "hand of man" to a concern for documenting the presence of the human in the landscape, and especially the cost of industrial and economic development for the landscape (see image below).

His more recent work shows the pervasive influence of the Bechers, especially in their concern to document the range of variation within types or categories of similar objects (see image below), but with the addition of color as a category for noticing repetition and variation.

Born in 1941 in Danville, VA, Gowin earned his BFA in Graphic Design from the Richmond Professional Institute and his MFA in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design. 

He studied at RISD with legendary photographer Harry Callahan, who would become one of his mentors. He later studied with Aaron Siskind and Frederick Sommer, and went on to have a 25-year career as a teacher of photograph at Princeton University.

Gowin has received many distinguished awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts.

There is an extended interview with Gowin, from the late 1990's, here

Gowin's work is included in many museum collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Maison Européene de la Photographie, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Tokyo Museum of Art.

Gowin's work is a reminder that a Southern photographer can be regional at heart, but also incorporate national and even international influences into the practice of his art.

Thanks to Jackson Fine Art for mounting this show, and reminding us of the range and quality of his work.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Summer is a'Coming in the South -- Vrba, Schwartz, Thrasher, Summer Festivals

As the South warms up for summer 2013, there are lots of signs of new life in the world of Southern fine art photography. Here are a few.

Chapel Hill, NC-based photographer Lori Vrba (see image above) is interviewed on the current issue of RFOTOFOLIO - A curated online gallery space for fine art photography, here.

Atlanta-based gallery owner Jennifer Schwartz is out and about the country in her blue-and-white VW bus on her Crusade for Collecting Art bus tour. She has already been to the West Coast, and is headed for Chicago, Cleveland, NYC, Washington, DC, and Richmond, VA.

You can learn more about  this innovative approach to developing the market for fine art photography on her website, here, and the Crusade blog, here.

Ever since I heard about Jennifer's Crusade, I've been holding my breath. I'm old enough to remember when VW buses were new, and even then, the word was that when you bought one, you needed to hire a mechanic to ride around with you in the back seat.

Jennifer's vision is innovative, her plans are ambitious, and, for her, getting there is truly going to be a major part of the fun challenge.

Apparently while driving the bus with her left hand, Jennifer curated a show at the Kiernan Gallery in Lexington, VA, called Open Water, and this show is up now through June 1, 2013.

Also, the latest Southern photographer to be featured on Jeff Rich's Eyes on the South blog from the Oxford American is Kevin Thrasher (see image above).

And if that's not enough, Look3 Festival of the Photograph is almost upon us, featuring Gregory Crewdson, Josef Koudelk, Tim Lama, Susan Meisela, Richard Misrac, Michael Nichol, Martha Rosle, and Honorary Southern Photographer Carrie Mae Weems.

SxSE for May/June 2013

The latest issue (Volume VIII, Issue 3) of South by South East (SxSE) Photography Magazine is now out for the late spring of 2013, and it has all the fine photography and engaging features we have come to expect from SxSE.

Editor Nancy McCrary continues a recent practice with this issue of concentrating on  two different modes of photography in this case, the Still Life and Street Photography.

Photographers offering Still Life images include Kim Lane, Camille Wright Felton, Warren Thompson, Robert Burkhardt, Rebecca Sexton Larson, Diane Kirkland, and Maude Schuyler Clay (see image above).

Photographers offering work made in the street include Builder Levy, Walter Beckham, Vicki Hunt (see image below), Raymond Adams, Rick Smith, Bryce Lankard, Beate Sass, Raymond Grubb, Lorrie Dallek, Jimmy Williams, Jim Haberman, and  John Sumner.

In addition to all this fine photography there are all the interviews, reviews, discussions, and conversations we have come to expect, and value, from SxSE.

And you can have access to all this fine -- and award-winning -- work for a very reasonable fee.

You can subscribe to the online version here.

Don't put it off any longer.

You know you should subscribe.

You know it, you really do.

Anthony S. Karen on the Rough South

New York-based photographer Anthony Karen has made a career documenting people who are, or who understand themselves to be, living in extremely difficult and challenging circumstances.

This work has taken him to places like Haiti and to Somalia, but it has also taken him inside the worlds of white supremacists and their more colorfully costumed colleagues, the infamous Ku Klux Klan.

The fear that white people do not, or might not, at some future date, run the world is not an exclusively Southern concern.

Anyone who believes that racism and fear-mongering are Southern preoccupations might well consult the Geography of Hate website and note the remarkably wide distribution of rage-tinged language-use across the United States.

Anyone who wants to know more about today's Klan and other organizations devoted to hate can consult the website and other publications of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

But the complex history of the South means that our own legacy of perverting justice and disregarding human dignity through organized intimidation is, or should be, an important concern for all Southerners.

Karen helps us do this through his unflinching documentation of the faces, lives, and cultic practices of folks who make fear and hatred central to their daily lives and identities as Americans.

Karen's first book on these folks, The Invisible Empire: Ku Klux Klan, was released in 2009 by Powerhouse Books.

His second book, White Pride, is just out from FotoEvidence, and is available through iTunes.

Karen also participated in a documentary about the modern day Ku Klux Klan, KKK: Beneath the Hood, shown this past March on the Discovery Channel.

The truly scary thing about Karen's images, of course, is that they show us that folks who are consumed by fear and rage and who believe that the categories of race explain their fear and rage look like ordinary folks, my folks, members of my family, and yours, too, I suspect.

There is something in our society that supports these kinds of attitudes. Some people feel empowered by membership in an organization that reinforces their specialness, their sense of entitlement, their alienation from mainstream America by reinforcing for them an identity formed around fantasies about race and history and privilege.

This identity is an illusion. The stories that support it are fantasies. Karen's work explodes those fantasies by showing us how banal, how superficial, how depressingly ordinary these folks and their ideas and their rituals really are.

Because of his masterful documentation of this aspect of our culture, so much a part of the history of the South, Karen is an Honorary Southern Photographer.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Rebekah Jacobs: Southern Photography is Hot!

Much to my chagrin, I almost missed this. But Rebekah Jacob, of the splendid Rebekah Jacob Gallery, in Charleston, proclaims, rightly, that "Bottom line:  Southern photography is HOT!"

So she invites us to "Look south of the Mason Dixon and east of the Mississippi to find the photographers celebrated in Rebekah Jacob’s spring show, “Somewhere in the South,” opening June 1, 2013 and up through July 15, 2013, to coincide with Charlestson's annual version of the Spoleto Festival.

Jacob announces, "From tintypes to digital, from suburbia to music halls, these diverse works celebrate the glorious range offered by photographers of the American south–just in time for Spoleto."

The show itself, curated by gallery owner Rebekah Jacob, will feature work from a list of Southern photographers familiar to readers of this blog, a list that includes William Christenberry, Jerry Siegel, Eliot Dudik, Kathleen Robbins, Richard Sexton, Anne Rowland, and Keliy Anderson-Staley.

Jacob has also opened up five spots in the exhibition for competition with an open call for submissions in photography and video.  Guidelines are posted at Submissions will be accepted through the month of May.

Jacob says, “Photography is a particular favorite of mine because it combines key elements—a timely moment, technical skills, the right light—to create an image that is immediate in its impact. I also like to keep an eye out for fresh new perspectives and continue to explore the cutting-edge and collectible medium of video art.

"These photographers deal with the human condition specifically as experienced in the southern region of the country, mining the beauty and tragedy evident in the vivid intersections of past and present, where hardscrabble rural throwbacks are mere hours from glittering urban transformations. 

"The images that capture this dichotomy have become “highly collectible,” explains Jacob, pointing to a variety of trends including a renewed interest in the Civil Rights movement with Obama’s election, the influx of high net worth individuals to the charming southern cities like Charleston, and the affordability of photography in comparison to other mediums."

This is clearly going to be a landmark show, one not to be missed, if your summer travels take you through Charleston.

Southern Photographers on the Blogs -- May 2013

Texas-trained (but Chicago-based) photographer Kelli Connell has work from her Double Life portfolio (see image above) is featured on Alice's Blog, on the My Modern Met site. 
Durham, NC -based photographer MJ Sharp has work from her Exteriors portfolio featured on the blog of the Nasher Museum, where Sharp's work is included in a major show of photographs owned by Southern collectors.

And, to catch up with Jeff Rich, and the Eyes on the South blog from the Oxford American, recent photographers he's featured include

Scott Hubener

Stephen Millner 

Johnathon Kelso

Adam Neese 

Allison Barnes

Walker Pickering

Oh, the joy of Southern photography!