Friday, October 21, 2016

Eyes on the South -- Catching Up

Photographers featured since mid-August in Jeff Rich's ongoing feature Eyes on the South, for the Oxford American, include the following: 

Mississippi-based photographer Ashley Coleman (see image above), with images from her Cloud of Witnesses portfolio.  

Durham, NC-based photographer Kurney Ramsey (see image above), with images from his Returning portfolio.

Florida-based photographer Benjamin Dimmitt (see image above), with images from his Chassahowitzka Saltwater Intrusion portfolio. 

Alabama-based photographer Jack Deese (see image above), with images from his How to Orient Yourself in the Wilderness portfolio.

Louisville, KY-based photographer Michael Morris (see image above), with images from his portfolio What Survives. 

Charleston-born but New York-based photographer J Henry Fair (see image above), with images from his portfolio Before The Storm: A Photographic Study of America’s Coastline.

Cleveland, MS-based photographer Kim Rushing (see image above), with images from his Parchman portfolio.

More to come, from The Southern Photographer! 

Memory and (Southern) Photography

Since memory is an important part of Southern culture and cultural identity, the recent essay by Teju Cole in the New York Times, entitled "Memories of Things Unseen," might be of interest to some of us. 

Cole makes the argument that "Photography is inescapably a memorial art. It selects, out of the flow of time, a moment to be preserved, with the moments before and after falling away like sheer cliffs."

"At a dinner party earlier this year,"Cole goes on, "I was in conversation with someone who asked me to define photography. I suggested that it is about retention: not only the ability to make an image directly out of the interaction between light and the tangible world, but also the possibility of saving that image."

Cole uses examples to argue his case for photography as chiefly about memory that are drawn from the world of painting. 

He offers us photographs of paintings that have since been destroyed, so that, as he puts it, "when the photograph outlives the body — when people die, scenes change, trees grow or are chopped down — it becomes a memorial."

Cole goes on: "[W]hen the thing photographed is a work of art or architecture that has been destroyed, this effect is amplified even further. 

"A painting, sculpture or temple, as a record of both human skill and emotion, is already a site of memory; when its only remaining trace is a photograph, that photograph becomes a memorial to a memory. 

"Such a photograph is shadowed by its vanished ancestor."

The relationship between the photograph and its subject is worth pondering, especially when the subject is no longer available to our sight. 

But the problem with broad generalizations, especially when they are strongly argued, is of course that one wants to think of counter-examples. 

And so I immediately thought of the work of Canadian photographer Jeff Wall (see image above), whose practice is to make photographs that look documentary, but in fact are photographs of staged events.

So if the event never happened that appears to have happened, in the photograph, how can it serve as a memorial of anything? 

Your thoughts?

Nancy McCrary on Jessica Hines, and on Conventions in Southern Photography

Nancy McCrary, the long-time editor of the estimable SxSE Photomagazine, draws on her experience in a recent post to the online version of Don't Take Pictures.  

The subject of this feature is rule-breaking, and in her essay McCrary wants to celebrate photographers who break the rule about clichés in Southern photography.

McCrary says she has "seen more photos of kudzu and magnolias, angry dogs on chains, plantation homes, rusted-out trucks, cotton still in fields, broken-down houses, poor white trash, and elderly black people on rickety front porches than one person should have to view in a lifetime."

McCrary points out how easy it is to "find clichés in the South," but what's not easy is "finding that photograph that is like a blink."

"You know it," McCrary writes. "You’ve driven past it. You saw it and you thought, 'wow, that would make a great photograph.' But, you didn’t make it."

McCrary offers us the work of Statesboro, GA-based photographer Jessica Hines (see all the photographs in this post) as an antidote to the Southern  cliché photograph. 

For McCrary, "Hines' photographs of the South are . . . . those little glimpses, little blinks into the South. The ones you wish you’d made."

"Looking at them," McCrary writes, " I imagine myself riding in a convertible along a two-lane road on a hot summer afternoon clicking off photographs. If I was as good. 

Hines' "photographs . . .  invoke spirits and ghosts, and make tangible our childhood run-wild imaginations growing up in this oppressive heat. 

"They catch the irony, the mysticism, and the trade-off of crazy v. gorgeous. 

"I look at her photographs – wild dogs and trailers, early morning sunrises that catches the dew on the the Fall fields, long-cast shadows of mid-summer southern suns, the ridiculous “architecture” of our tourist “attractions”, the way we dovetail guns and religion, and I think, “yeah, this is good.” 

"This is what I wish I were shooting."

What I take away from McCrary's essay, and her choice of images from Hines' large body of work, is that the difference between a cliché and a great image in photographs of the American South is not so much the subject as the perspective on the subject, and the way the subject is seen, in the photographs. 

In other words, McCrary's discussion takes us back to that great bit of wisdom in photography, that its all about choices -- choices about where you stand, what you include in the frame,  the quality and angle of the light, and the moment you choose to push the button. 

Thanks to Hines for what her images teach us to see in the world around us, and for McCrary for recognizing the fine work Hines is doing in her artistic practice. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

William Eggleston in the New York Times

The print edition of the New York Times for Sunday, October 23rd, 2016, includes in T, the NY Times Style Magazine, a feature on Distinguished Southern Photographer William Eggleston.

Eggleston is proclaimed by the Times to be one of seven people who have "redefined our culture" and thus "not only embodies our definition of great, but our understanding of its power."

The feature on Eggleston includes an interview, here, by Augusten Burroughs, and a video and some photos of Eggleston by the German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans (see image above).

Tillmans' video is here. 

The story contains some previously unpublished photographs by Eggleston (see image below), who says in the interview that he still photographs every day. 

Eggleston's companions in this feature include Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga, Junya Watanabe, Kerry James Marshall, Massimo Bottura, and Zadie Smith.

I'd say that's pretty high cotton for a hometown boy from Memphis to be hanging out in.

Congratulations to Eggleston for this distinctive recognition of his many, many contribution to Southern, and American, photography, the arts, and culture.

Monday, October 17, 2016

SxSE Celebrates the First Five Years -- UPDATED

Congratulations to Nancy McCrary and all the fine folks at SxSE Photomagazine for reaching a significant milestone in the history of this outstanding contribution to the world of Southern photography.

This past summer SxSE celebrated its first five years, a remarkable achievement in this age of radical transformations in the world of publishing.

In addition, McCrary and the gang have expanded the scope of their activities to include sponsoring photoworkshops and offering prints, books, and other photo-related goods for sale in the SxSE Shop, here.

The newest venture for this Southern photography conglomerate is South x Southeast PhotoExhibitions, a process intended to bring photography "to the eyes of collectors, gallery directors, editors, and photography enthusiasts through curated exhibitions with established galleries in the American South."

These shows will be juried by photography professionals and exhibited in galleries that are "skilled at achieving the maximum exposure for your images"

Work selected for these shows will be for sale during the bricks-and-mortar show, then in a virtual gallery on on SxSE's special photo exhibition website. This work will also be featured in SxSE magazine and on SxSE's social media pages. 

The first of these exhibitions has recently been announced, to be juried by Elizabeth Avedon and exhibited in March of 2017 in the Brickworks Gallery in Atlanta. 

For full details, go here. 

But the most important thing, of course, is the ongoing range, quality, and variety of photography SxSE brings us every two months.

The riches in the latest issue include features on photographers like Charlottesville, VA-based Stacey Evans (see image above) and Baltimore, Maryland-based photographer Karen Klinendinst (see image below).

They also include reviews of shows like the Thomas Struth show (see image below) now up through January 8th, 2017 at the High Museum in Atlanta.

Also, reviews, interviews, and features about new photography books, including the new one by Ed Croom focused on the landscape around Roan Oak, William Faulkner's home in Oxford, Mississippi.

Everything McCrary brings us is worth our careful attention -- congratulations on the first five years, and definitely keep up the great work!