Friday, April 22, 2016

News of Southern Photographers -- Early Spring 2016

Several items of interest, here in the early days of spring in 2016.

1. Sumner, MS-based photographer Maude Schuyler Clay (see image above) has been celebrated by Photo District News (PDN) in its Photo Of The Day feature, go here, with images from her new book Mississippi History

Clay had to put up with the heading "Southern Charm" for her feature, and to be told by PDN editor Holly Stuart Hughes that her work, "shot "in a warm, glowing light," consists of "images that are quiet and contemplative," evoking "nostalga."
in a warm, glowing light, making images that are quiet and contemplative - See more at:
Holly Stuart Hughes
Holly Stuart Hughes
Holly Stuart Hughes

I'm not sure how many more cliches of the South Hughes could have packed into her very brief statement, but I trust the check cleared, and that, as they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity. 

2. Durham-based photographer Justin Cook (see image above) has also been featured in PDN's Photo Of The Day blog feature, here, with images from his long-term project Made in Durham.

In Made in Durham, Cook documents the complexities of urban renewal in this growing North Carolina city, especially the deep-seated pain caused by the uneven economic impact of downtown revitalization, gentrification, and longstanding racial and economic inequality.

Cook's work is also the subject of a story in PDN’s March 2016 issue

In this piece, Cook describes the beginning of this project in his obsession with "recognizing the quiet violence in where we choose to live, and how we spend our money, and what we do with our politics, and how that affects other people.”  

Yessir, Mr Cook, you got that right. 

3. Ivette Spradlin (see image above), who grew up in Miami and holds a BFA from the University of Georgia, now lives in Pittsburgh, but may see da Nawth with the eyes of a Southerner. 

You can think about that when you check out Spradlin's work from her Everything Changed, Then Changed Again portfolio, featured in Fraction Magazine, here. 

4. Photographers featured on Jeff Rich's Eyes on the South Project for the Oxford American -- since we last checked -- include the following:

Florida-based photographer Bill Yates (see image above), with images from his Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink portfolio.

Farmville, VA-based photographer Michael Mergen (see image above), with images from his Confederate Heroes, Confederate Dead portfolio.

Nashville-based photographer Rebecca Drolen (see image above) with images from her Transplants portfolio, which explores how the regional culture of Nashville has been changed by the influence of people who have moved to Nashville from elsewhere.

New Orleans-based photographer Jamie Erin Johnson (see image above), with images from her Untamed portfolio, made in the swamps and woods of Mississippi and Louisiana. 

Lexington, KY-based photographer Sarah Hoskins (see image above), with images from her portfolio Bourbon as it Used to be, Now Castle and Key, about the ruin and rehabilitation of the Old Taylor distillery.

Atlanta-based photographer Stephanie Dowda (see image above), with images from her portfolio 33 Marks, which uses folds in large format film to suggest the costs of illness and loss in the passage of time.  

And that's all for now. But there is always more to come, with the Southern Photographer.  

Back soon!
“It’s recognizing the quiet violence in where we choose to live, and how we spend our money, and what we do with our politics, and how that affects other people.” - See more at:

But in that time, photojournalist Justin Cook has recorded a counter-narrative to that story about the city—his long-term project “Made in Durham” examines the deep-seated pain in the city, the result of longstanding racial and economic inequality. (Cook is also the subject of a story in PDN’s March 2016 issue, where he discusses how the project began.) - See more at:
But in that time, photojournalist Justin Cook has recorded a counter-narrative to that story about the city—his long-term project “Made in Durham” examines the deep-seated pain in the city, the result of longstanding racial and economic inequality. - See more at:
But in that time, photojournalist Justin Cook has recorded a counter-narrative to that story about the city—his long-term project “Made in Durham” examines the deep-seated pain in the city, the result of longstanding racial and economic inequality. (Cook is also the subject of a story in PDN’s March 2016 issue, where he discusses how the project began.) - See more at: long-term project “Made in Durham” examines the deep-seated pain in the city, the result of longstanding racial and economic inequality. (Cook is also the subject of a story in PDN’s March 2016 issue, where he discusses how the project began.)

Tommy Kha is Having a Great 2016, and Its Only April

Memphis-based photographer Tommy Kha likes to say that his work "operates in the conventions of the Self-Portrait, exploring the divide between self, depiction, image, and representation, and the relationship between performance and the camera."

Or, as he also says, "My work is about the self in "self-portrait," the portrait in "self-portrait," and the hyphen in "self-portrait." 

A man of Chinese background, Kha is from Memphis, which gives him lots of material to work with in exploration of images of self, performance, and representation. 

After all, in Memphis, by being interested in the performance of one's identity, Kha is right at home in the world of Elvis and Otis Redding.

So, right now Kha has work in a group show called Meld with Something at the Ryerson Arts Space in Toronto, up through May 1st, 2016.

His first book, Tommy Kha : A Real Imitation is just out from Ain't-Bad Editions.

Kha will have a solo show of his work opening in Memphis in August.

No surprize, then that his work is getting lots of notice.Here, for example, from BLOUINArtInfo, "A Real Imitation."

And here, from Fraction Magazine, "Return to Sender."

And here, from the Humble Arts Foundation, "Justine Kirkland in Conversation with Tommy Kha."

Kirkland says of Kha, that "obsessed with photography's tendency to reveal and conceal, and [with] a nod to Diane Arbus' description of photography as a "purveyor of secrets," Kha pushes its function with quiet and sometimes humorous images that depict and exaggerate his alienation."

Exceptionally interesting story, Seeing what the Eye Cannot,  by Kha, here, from Lost Weekend, about his meeting with a Chinese photographer Ren Hang.

To me, Kha's photographs bring to the world of Southern fine art photography a conceptual sensibility (Kha has an MFA from Yale) that transcends the often seemingly random and superficial character of much conceptual photography. 

Kha is dealing with issues of multiple identities, of "insider" and "outsider" roles, of who is "at home" and who is the "stranger" in a Southern context. 

These are important issues for us, to which Kha brings a practice and a perspective that is already yielding significant work, and significant recognition. 

And its only April of 2016.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Southern Cultures and the Documentary Arts

The Spring 2016 issue of Southern Cultures, the documentary arts quarterly from the Center for the Study of the American South at UNC-Chapel Hill, is devoted to documentary arts and contains several items of interest to Southern photographers. 

Edited by Tom Rankin, of Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies, this issue contains several photography essays, including Durham-based photographer Aaron Canipe's photographs of the Christmas season in Cat Square, near Vale, NC (see image above).  

Also, Shreveport, LA-based photographer Marcus Journey's work with young Mormon missionaries (see image above) and Durham-based photographer Katy Clune's work with the growing Lao community in Morganton, NC (see image below).

This issue also contains photographs from collective, multi-participant documentary projects in Tutwiler, MS and migrant farmworkers in eastern North Carolina. 

One of the most important features of this issue is the essay "Protesting the Privilege of Perception: Resistance to Documentary Work In Hale County, Alabama, 1900 - 2010," by Scott Matthews. 

The subject of Matthews' essay is the response of residents of Hale County, AL to their home's role over the last hundred years of being the go-to locale for photographers seeking a certain kind of authenticity in Southern rural life. 

Matthews notes that Hale County has been the site of photography by James Agee, Walker Evans, William Christenberry, and a whole slew of other photographers over the past hundred years.

Iconic images have been made here; Matthews is interested in the responses of those being photographed. 

He finds a narrative of resistance, resentment, embarrassment, and bitterness, all reminders of the fact that documentary photography is always complicated by the differences between the world of the photographer and the world the photographer documents.

Matthews quotes Nicholas Mirzowoeff to the effect that "Any engagement with visuality in the present or past requires establishing its counterhistory"; Matthews' essay contributes to that counterhistory, a perspective important for those of us who live in relative prosperity and who are comfortable in museums and galleries.

Fine work here -- on both sides of visuality. Well worth checking out.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Traditional Processes -- Group Shows in Charleston and at Penland

Among the good things happening in photography right now is a renewed effort to demonstrate the continuing value of traditional methods and practices in photography. 

Two major group shows now up on North and South Carolina demonstrate how  historical photographic methods are being used today by contemporary photographers in the practice of fine art photography. 

Charleston's City Gallery at Waterfront Park now has up, through May 1st, 2016, a show called Altered Narratives: 19th Century Techniques Merge with 21st Century Visions.

The current show at the Penland School of Crafts is This Is A Photograph: Exploring Contemporary Applications of Photographic Chemistry, up now through May 1st, 2016.

All the work in the City Gallery in Charleston has been created through what are sometimes called "alternative processes,” techniques which demonstrate the satisfaction and aesthetic power to be derived from a hands-on approach to crafting a photograph from start to finish. 

While digital technology has come to dominate the world of photography, these artists – Raleigh's Diana Bloomfield (see image at top above) and David N. Hyman; Charleston's Christine Eadie and Karen A. Vournakis (see image directly above); Tampa's Matt Larson and Rebecca Sexton Larson; Easly, SC's Sandy King; and Chatham County, NC's Kenneth Jackson, as well as some other fine photographers Who Are Not From Around Here – choose to create their vision using antiquated time-consuming, very hands-on techniques.

Techniques on display in this show include tintype, palladium, gum bichromate, and ziatypes.

According to the organizers, all this traditional work demonstrates these photographers' skill and expertise as well as their ability to combine old techniques with new agendas and visions in photography. 

The second of these shows is up at the Penland School of Crafts, itself a statement of the importance of traditional photographic processes in the digital age. 

Anything that happens at the Penland School of Crafts, in Spruce Pine, NC, is important because Penland is one of the South's -- and the nation's -- centers for support of "individual and artistic growth through craft"

As the folks at Penland like to say, they "engage the human spirit . . . expressed throughout the world in craft . . . teaching skills, ideas, and the value of the handmade." 

The show now up at Penland, This Is A Photograph: Exploring Contemporary Applications of Photographic Chemistry,  was curated by Penland instructor Dan Estabrook.

Estabrook says his goal with this show was to consider "the fascinating subject of chemical and physical photography in the digital age and how we might now define a photograph."

Work in this show, from such folks as Distinguished Southern photographer Sally Mann (see image three images up) and 22 other photographers, explore "the complex alchemy of light and chemistry" to "reach forward with their ideas and imagination and back in time to retain their connection to historical processes."

In the words of the folks at Penland, the works on show here "speak volumes about creative minds that disregard boundaries or definitions and seek only to realize their visions."

Photographers with work in this important show include, in addition to Mann,
the following:

David Emitt Adams, Christina Z. Anderson, John Brill, Christopher Colville, Asheville-based photographer Bridget Conn (see image two images above), Danielle Ezzo, Jesseca Ferguson, Alida Fish, Adam Fuss, Spruce Pine-based photographer Mercedes Jelinek (see image directly above), Richard Learoyd, Vera Lutter, Chris McCaw, Sibylle Peretti, Andreas Rentsch, Holly Roberts, Mariah Robertson, Alison Rossiter, Brea Souders, Jerry Spagnoli, Bettina Speckner, and Brian Taylor. 

If you go here, and click on each photographer's name, you can read artists' statements and see the images each photographer has in the show -- in digital form, of course, all lacking the physical and tactile qualities that "real" photographs embody.

I commend both these shows to you, if you are in Charleston or Spruce Pine. 

Both have a lot to say about what is important in fine art photography today, including Southern fine art photography.

 Estabrook, in his Juror's Statement for the Penland show, has some important things to say about the use of traditional processes in the digital age, so I'm going to end this blog entry by quoting extensively from that statement. 

Estabrook points out that "although photography is becoming purely digital, like much else in our life today, we still live in a physical world, and there are artists who will always want to make physical things.

He notes that specific expressions of digital technology age quickly, so that he has "to scramble to find the right cords and batteries and software to use some early digital cameras from 2001, and it became evident how much harder it was to work with the obsolete technology of five or fifteen years ago than with the processes of 150 years ago. 

"Most of our computers now can't run the first version of Photoshop (ca. 1990) or read early Photo CDs or Zip drives. Even the standard color snapshot is being discontinued, since the machines reguired to make and develop color films are disappearing for good. 

"The history of photography, like the history of technology in general, seems to suggest that every new system or process is an advancement on the last, making all older forms obsolete. 

"And yet for every technigue that has been pronounced dead, there seems to be an artist ready to explore its particular expressive qualities

"The artists in this exhibition are each exploring the possibilities of physical and chemical photography to pursue their own contemporary aims, very much in the here and now.

"Some are finding a wealth of new beauty in the simplicity of the photographic act --a permanent  mark made by the meeting of light and chemistry. 

"Others are deeply engaged with history, in how we look backward from the present or forward to the years ahead. 

"Still others have realized how much can be revealed in the life of a physical photographic object. 

"Any technology that can still be used by artists, whether it's something that can be handmade or something produced from saved and scavenged machines, is going to have an ongoing parallel history through the work of these artists, not just as a period relic but as a technology carried along into the present with new developments and new meaning for the future."

Well said, and well represented in both these shows, worth our reflection in the spring of 2016.