Smoke and Magnolia

By  |  July 17, 2017
All photos © Phyllis B. Dooney | Greenville, Mississippi, 2011–16 All photos © Phyllis B. Dooney | Greenville, Mississippi, 2011–16

Artist: Photographs by Phyllis B. Dooney; Poetry by Jardine Libaire

Project: Gravity Is Stronger Here

Description: A collaboration between photographer Phyllis B. Dooney and poet Jardine Libaire, Gravity Is Stronger Here is about “looking for America in America.” In 2011, Dooney visited Greenville, Mississippi, and began a five-year-long documentary project focused on one dynamic Southern family. The result, which features Libaire’s documentary poems, delivers an intimate look at this family’s complexities, bringing viewers so close they can smell “cigarette smoke, meat cooking in the backyard, and magnolia blooming by the door.”  

Outsiders
Up North, they read Walker Percy and Eudora Welty in
college and dream of pale blue humid mornings on porches,
and bourbon punch, and jasmine, and manners. They deride
the Confederate flag and the plantation legacy. They collect
records by Son House and Charley Patton. They shake the
Delta like a snow globe, watch the majesty and pain as it
glitters in their hands, falling gently like a bedtime story.

—Jardine Libaire from Gravity Is Stronger Here


This week’s edition of Eyes on the South was guest curated by Alexa Dilworth, publishing and awards director for the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Eyes on the South is founded by Jeff Rich. The weekly series features selections of current work from Southern artists, or artists whose photography concerns the South. To submit your work to the series, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Phyllis B. Dooney is a documentary photographer and visual storyteller. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, and elsewhere online and in print. Dooney was awarded Center’s Editor’s Choice Prize in 2015. This work will be on view at the Lightfield Festival in Hudson, New York in Summer 2017.

Jardine Libaire’s most recent novel, White Fur, was published by Hogarth in May 2017. She is a recipient of the Hopwood Award and the Glascock Poetry Prize.