Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Beatrice Chauvin Photographs in the Delta, Or, How to Become an Honorary Southern Photographer

Paris-based photographer Beatrice (Bea) Chauvin (see image above) has been photographed extensively in the Mississippi Delta and is now traveling across the South doing installations of her work at a number of places from the Delta and across the South, to Washington, DC. 

Chauvin, like other folks I've designated as Honorary Southern Photographers, is Not From Around Here, but nevertheless photographs in the South in a way that engages effectively with the complex histories of race, gender, or class and economic exploitation that constitute the legacy of the South for Southerners, making meaning our of the experience of those legacies in the present-day South.

Chauvin showed her work recently at an installation at Delta State University's International Conference on the Blues

She is now in Memphis for a couple of shows, then will be back in the Mississippi Delta for shows at the Highway 61 Blues Museum on October 7th, at the BB King Museum on the 9th, the Dockery Farms Blues Foundation on the 10th, the Blue Biscuit Blues Club on the 11th.

She concludes her current tour of America in Washington, DC for a final installation on October 24th, all in 2014. 

Chauvin's portable installation of her work is from her Reflective Shades portfolio, which consists of 42 photographs that, in Chauvin's words "tell the beauties, mysteries, and emotions that we can find in the Land where the Blues began." 

Chauvin has chosen to engage with the legacy of the Delta in the form in which she organizes and displays her work. 

The Delta is at heart about cotton, so Chauvin's images are sewn into "a long piece of Indian hand-spun cotton, (a KHADI, symbol of liberty)," 22 meters long, that "can either unroll on walls and floors, or remain folded to open like a book."

Chauvin says she "chose to sew my images on a KHADI because its texture and beauty reminds me of the old Mississippi cotton bags and -- moreover, because the strong symbol of freedom that the KHADI conveys, has something in common with the Mississippi story."

Delta living is "In Cotton," as Kathleen Robbins terms it, so Chauvin's images, embedded in cotton, embody that life even as they reveal its faces, its places, and its objects of value. So one must engage with the very fabric of the Delta as part of the experience of her work. 

This thoughtful engagement with the terms of life in the Delta, the place some have called the "most Southern place on earth," characterizes Chauvin's work, and makes her worthy to be known as an Honorary Southern Photographer.

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