Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Charlottesville -- August 2017




The Bitter Southerner has published a portfolio of photographs made by Virginia-based photographer Pat Jarrett (see all images in this blog entry) in Charlottesville over the weekend. 

Jarrett also describes his experience covering this event in The Bitter Southerner, go here, in an article called As Loud as a Bomb. 
 

Chuck Reese, an editor of The Bitter Southerner, says of Jarrett:

"To show us the South at its worst, Jarrett will take his camera and, quite literally, look hate straight in the eye. 

"He has made it his business to understand the individual idiosyncrasies of dozens of hate groups. 
 

"But on Saturday in Charlottesville, he saw them act in a way he’d never witnessed before: He saw them attack a group of protesters, killing a young paralegal, Heather Heyer, and injuring many others."


Reese gets things about right when he writes, "We cannot ignore the fact that these people — wherever they are from — chose our region, and its symbols of the Confederacy, as the place to take their stand. 

"Therefore, it’s up to us to root them out. As for me, I find myself inextricably drawn to a simple idea: that the time for the benevolent but silent white Southerner is over."
 

Reese quotes John Pavlovitz, a minister at the North Raleigh Community Church, writing after the events in Charlottesville. 

Pavlovitz says, "White people especially need to name racism in this hour, because somewhere in that crowd of sweaty, dead-eyed, raw throated white men are our brothers and cousins and husbands and fathers and children — those we go to church with and see at Little League and in our neighborhoods. 

"They need to be made accountable by those they deem their “own kind.” They need to know that this is not who we are, that we don’t bless or support or respect this. They need white faces speaking directly into their white faces, loudly on behalf of love."



I'm with Pavlovitz, and with Reese, when he writes, "We know these people. We see them. They are in our communities. 

"For far too long, we have shrugged and tried to ignore words from acquaintances that might suggest sympathy for the neo-Nazis, the Lost Cause apologists, the alt-right, or the so-called “American nationalists.”

"Our silence is no longer acceptable. 

"White people in the South who know better must call out our neighbors and family members who apologize for or justify the actions of murderers, the actions of the deluded, the actions of the cowards, the actions of the dangerous.
 

"When we hear the code words, the dog whistles, or even completely overt expressions of racism, people like us no longer have a choice.
"We must respond. White faces have to look straight into the eyes of other white faces and say: I will not abide your hatred." 

Reese says that the folks at The Bitter Southerner will be following the aftershocks of the events in Charlottesville, so its well worth our time to keep checking back to their website. 

They say that they "can’t make up [their] minds whether . . . to talk about the cowardice of the racists who brought their hate to Charlottesville or the danger they pose to the future of our region and nation. 

"They are cowards, but they are dangerous, and both facts are worthy of discussion."

And I certainly agree with the "entire BS crew" that "the job of standing up for what’s good about the American South just got harder."

Amen to that.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Lori Vrba on the FENCE




Chapel Hill-based photographer Lori Vrba (see image above) has successfully negotiated the submission process for the recent nationwide FENCE 2017 competition.

As a result, she has a portfolio of work from her Drunken Poets Dream portfolio on display (see below) on, of course, a fence, and in Brooklyn, in New York City, up now through September 10th, 2017.


Congratulations to Vrba! 

Shows of FENCE images will also take place in Atlanta and Durham, with an additional special show of images up in connection with the CLICK! Triangle Photography Festival in October.

Other Southern photographers got chosen to be on the FENCE, for whom notice will follow.

As the people on the FENCE say, 

"The FENCE is a large-scale traveling photography exhibition reaching over 4 million visitors annually through open-air exhibitions in 7 cities across the United States: Brooklyn (NY), Boston (MA), Atlanta (GA), Houston (TX), Santa Fe (NM), Durham (NC), and Denver (CO)."

Monday, July 24, 2017

Frank Simmons and John Stewart -- Honorary Southern Photographers



The New York Times LENS Blog has recently brought us work by Frank Stewart (see image above, made in Memphis) and John Simmons (see image below, made in Nashville), two major African-American photographers from Chicago who, beginning in the 1960's, made important work all over the world, and in the American South as well.


The NY Times profile gives us the background of these photographers' early beginnings in Chicago, their development as photographers, and their current joint show of work at the Wilmer Jennings Gallery and the Kenkeleba Gallery, both on New York’s Lower East Side. 

Really interesting to see these folks' work, especially to see together their work made in the American South alongside their work made in Chicago, in Los Angeles, in NYC, and across Africa.

This show opened on June 4th (sorry for being slow to get it on the blog!) but you can still see it if you are in NYC, because it's up through July 29th, 2017.  

To make up for my tardiness in bringing attention to this important show, I'll give you a bit more of the NY Times' profile:

“You didn’t get a whole lot of history lessons about African-American culture in school,” Mr. Stewart said. “My work is culturally motivated. I wanted to know where these polyrhythms, the roots of the foods and this rich cultural history came from.” 

"Over the last five decades, Mr. Stewart’s photographs — whether made in New Orleans, New York or the Ivory Coast — have explored the culture and traditions that were “carried by the slaves, and kept intact in some places and morphed into something else, like jazz, in others,” he explained.

"Many of the images in the show were taken in the late 1960s and early ’70s, a time, Mr. Simmons said, of “hippies, artists, poets and antiwar protests.” He remembers “wearing a beret, listening to jazz” and wanting to be “a creative spirit” and express himself through photography. 

 (Archie Shepp in Nashville, photo by John Simmons)

"The pair both trace their careers to the influence of Robert Sengstacke, a photographer whose family owned The Chicago Defender, one of the country’s most prominent black weekly newspapers. Mr. Sengstacke taught them how to be photographers and even arranged for Mr. Simmons to work with him at the paper. 

"When Mr. Sengstacke became an artist-in-residence at Fisk University in Nashville, he arranged for Mr. Simmons to get a scholarship and to be his assistant there. Mr. Stewart received a track scholarship to Middle Tennessee State, a few miles down the road from Fisk, and the three Chicago natives spent time together. 

"Mr. Simmons studied painting and filmmaking in school, received an M.F.A. in cinematography at U.S.C. and works on documentary films and television shows. He is based in Los Angeles and is a vice president of the American Society of Cinematographers as well as an adjunct professor at U.C.L.A. 

"Mr. Stewart devoted his life to photography and moved to New York to learn from Roy DeCarava, who arranged for his protégé to study at Cooper Union. Granted, Mr. Stewart said that a life in photography has not always been financially easy. 

“When I first started, all I had in my apartment was a table, a chair, an enlarger, a mattress and a Leica camera with a 50 mm lens,” Mr. Stewart recalled.
"With a shoestring budget, partially provided by two National Endowment for the Arts grants, Mr. Stewart bought monthly bus tickets, which he used to travel throughout the country documenting African-American communities. 

"He also photographed multiple times in Cuba and in Africa. He worked for the Studio Museum of Harlem as well as for the artist Romare Bearden before becoming a photographer for Jazz at Lincoln Center. 

"Mr. Simmons worked steadily as a cinematographer on films and television shows and continued taking still images. But he did not publicly share his photographs much until last year. They did, however, play a very important part of his life, he said. Photographs are “reflective of the culture that we live,” he said.

“Every time the shutter is released I feel like we bring our entire life to that,” he said. 

“The interesting thing is to be able to take the most common seemingly insignificant moment and preserve it. Then it takes on a life of its own.”

"Just as photography changed their lives, both men have been deeply involved in mentoring and paying forward what Mr. Sengstacke and others did for them. 

“The camera gave a direction to our lives,” Mr. Stewart said. “It took us off the streets, took us to college and gave both of us a responsibility to ourselves and our community.”

Much to learn in the work of both Mr. Steward and Mr. Simmons. 

I'm happy to include them both on my list of Honorary Southern Photographers.

Southern Photography Festivals -- October 2017




October, in central North Carolina, brings us CLICK! the Triangle Photography Festival, running from October 1st through 30th in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the surrounding communities.

The folks behind Click! started small, but full of ambition. And they keep growing!

This year, they bring us a new logo (see image above), photo exhibits across the region, a portfolio review, lectures by Anne Wilkes-Tucker, Louie Palu, and Matthew Brandt, and workshops with Louie Palu and Mary Virginia Swanson.

A special feature of this years Click! fest is Click! 120, running from October 4th - 8th, 2017, an intensive 5 day period of activities that focus, as the Click! folks say, "on exceptional photo-based works and artists that celebrate the medium of photography and its cultural influence."

They go on: "These 120 hours will feature Keynote addresses, Portfolio Reviews, Workshops, Art Bus Tours, Panel Discussions, Artist Talks, Gallery and Museum openings and so much more"

Plans for this year's activities are still unfolding, so keep checking back to their website, here, for all the details.


October, in Georgia, of course brings us what my father would call the Daddy Rabbit of Southern Photography festivals -- Atlanta Celebrates Photography --which started out being about the month of October but now starts in September and continues long past the end of the month.

In fact, programming by ACP has really become a year-round activity in Atlanta.

ACP also has a new logo this year (see image above), as well as a blog, here.

The major focus of ACP is still the month of October, clustering in that month all the lectures, workshops, portfolio review,  and gallery and museum shows that anyone could ask for.

So, in October, between the Research Triangle region of North Carolina and the booming city of Atlanta, we have so much good photography to see, so many learned speakers to hear, so many events to take part in! 

But there is of course more to come. Check back for news of more on festivals later in the fall.

The life of the Southern Photographer is full, and good.

Friday, July 21, 2017

SlowExposures -- September 2017




Given today's hot weather -- a predicted high of 97 degrees here in Raleigh -- it's hard to believe that cooler nights and the splendor of autumn color are all just around the corner.

But so it is, and thoughts of autumn remind us that the fall photography festival season is also about to begin.

Leading off, of course, will be the most Southern of festivals, SlowExposures, this year open from September the 14th through the 17th in Pike County, Georgia.

I had the good fortune to have work in SlowExposures a few years ago, and went to Pike County for the opening. 

There was a great party, I met lots of folks, and the show itself was so strong that I felt truly honored to have work there.

That experience helped me realize that there was a renaissance of photography going on in the South, and that realization had a lot to do with the creation of this blog.

SlowExposures continues to grow and mature, having expanded beyond its original format to include pop-up shows, shows by participants in the SlowAIR program, and by young photographers, and much, much more. 

This year's schedule includes the following:

♦  The Main Exhibition, at Stricklands in Concord

And the following Satellite Shows:

♦  2016 Paul Conlan Prize winner:  d. b. Waltrip, with her show Of Mud and Men, at Stricklands in Concord

♦  “Inspired Georgia” at the Whiskey Bonding Barn in Molena

♦  Photography by Ryan Steed at A Novel Experience in Zebulon

♦  Photography by Doug Eng at the beautiful barn at Split Oak Farm in Zebulon

♦  PopUp Show by our SlowAIR photographers, David McCarty and Claudia Smigrod, at the Eliot Helms’ Tenant House

♦  Tour of other Popup Shows in various locations around Pike County


Arnika Dawkins and I had the challenge -- and the pleasure -- of jurying this year's SlowExposures Unplugged show. 

We had over 800 photographs to review, and could have chosen far more than our allotted 75 images without any diminution in the quality of the images. Making our final choices was really tough!

The practice of Southern photography always risks producing work that we've seen before, or that privileges one facet of Southern culture over another, or that accepts unquestioningly the pastoral surface rather than evoke the tangled web of history that lies beneath.

Nancy McCrary, the editor of SxSE Photomagazineonce wrote that she had "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." 
 
I'm sure she's right, and I hate to tell her, but we chose some of those for this show. 

But, as she also admits, "the American South is reflected in all of these."  

While freshness and originality in choice of subject matter are important, the issue is, with those "moonlight and magnolias" subjects, how the photographer shows the familiar, and what kind of conversations the image provokes, and what position the image puts us in as its viewers.

We did try to avoid the two big bugaboos of Southern photography -- clichéd subject matter and sentimental treatment.

And, I sincerely believe, the work we have chosen, even when the subject is among the ones on Nancy's list, engages, and helps us make meaning of, the paradoxes of  history and the complex culture and the physical conditions of living in the American South, in our day. 

But Arnika and I will be in Pike County this September, and you can tell us then what you make of the choices we made. 

The full schedule of events for ths year's SlowEX is here. The list of exhibitors in the juried show is here

So much to look forward to in Pike County, Georgia, in mid-September!