The 2016 news cycle published many articles and images of Eastern Kentucky as both white and poor. However, the town of Lynch, an historically African American community in Harlan County that was established in 1917 by the U.S. Coal and Coke Company, stands strong.
Known as the most haunted city on the east coast, Savannah, Georgia, is a place where people come and go, where, for many, it is easier to leave and forget than it is to stay and thrive. Carson Sanders moved to the Ghost Coast in the fall of 2009 and began to photograph those who make their home here.
Native to the Northeast, photographer Shane Lavalette developed his intimacy with the South primarily through the region’s traditional music, including old time, blues, and gospel. The themes and stories passed down in these songs became Lavalette’s natural entry point for the project One Sun, One Shadow.
Rylan Steele’s Ave Maria is an investigation of the 5000-acre unincorporated town that goes by the same name. Founded in South Florida by pizza mogul Tom Monaghan, Ave Maria was built in 2005 and marketed as a utopia for strict Catholics to retirees and young families alike.
Before The Storm: A Photographic Study of America’s Coastline is an aerial photographic documentation, a portraiture, of the current and ephemeral American coastline. This selection includes images from Eyes on the Edge: J Henry Fair Photographs the Carolina Coast, an exhibit at Columbia Museum of Art closing on October 23, 2016.
Hebrews 12:1 reads: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” Coleman's project A Cloud of Witness, asks how much pain has this land born witness to? What scars—and what joys—do these buildings still hold?
December and Everything After looks closely at end-of-life suffering with a lens on the artist’s aging parents. The images included here follow the steady decline of Polly Gaillard’s mother since 2014, when she was found to have a slow growing abdominal sarcoma.
Elysium is an examination of the diminishing urban forest of New Orleans, forever altered by a 70% canopy loss due to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and further destroyed by rescue and restoration crews in the wake of the storm and in the years since.
In the early 1970s, photographer Bill Yates spent seven months documenting the patrons of the Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink. For forty years, the project sat forgotten until, at the urging of his family, Yates began to process the negatives.
The series Slow Light by AnnieLaurie Erickson documents oil refineries up and down the Mississippi River. “When I first moved to Louisiana,” Erickson says of the project,” I was struck by the appearance of oil refineries at night, which looked like strange forbidden cities.”
“The summer of 2014, my daughter and I found ourselves on McCracken Pike in Millville, Kentucky, staring up at the former Old Taylor distillery,” explains Sarah Hoskins of her project Bourbon as it Used to be, Now Castle & Key, a documentation of the ruins and rehabilitation of the site.
Stephanie Dowda’s series 33 Marks reflects on illness and loss. The series is named for the folds on each image, created by creasing unexposed sheets of 4x5 film. Each mark signifies a moment in time, reminding viewers to consider the preciousness of life.
Yell If You Think You Might Be Sinking by Taylor Finke examines the homes of women—including Finke’s mother—with whom the photographer has lived. Never quite at home in these places, Finke uses the settings to examine her own ideas about space and domesticity.
Everything is Going to Be All Right, by Jared Ragland, is a photographic meditation on Walker Percy’s classic novel of New Orleans, The Moviegoer. In search of meaning amid feelings of loss, isolation, alienation, and malaise, Ragland is Binx Bolling with a camera.
This series by Blake Burton documents the rehabilitation of one of Atlanta’s most historic buildings: the Sears, Roebuck & Company building in the city’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, which reopened last year as the Ponce City Market.
The Mountain Stands Still by Elle Olivia Andersen observes the life of a man named Robert, who is deeply attached to his isolated mountain home. The photographs explore his identity within the Southern landscape and encourage viewers to investigate their own place in the world.
In the series Memorial Water, Maury Gortemiller blends the familiar of everyday scenes into the surreal plane of memory. Whether photographing candidly or staging and digitally altering the shots, Gortemiller focuses on moments in one’s personal history that are just beyond clear recollection.
These photographs by Rusty Miller, taken in the 1960s and ’70s, feature Atlanta’s Summerhill, Old Fourth Ward, and Vine City neighborhoods as well as the MARTA bus line. A careful and intense observer, Miller is known for his often candid and striking images of his subjects.
The series Plateau by Aaron Canipe examines North Carolina’s Piedmont region. Inspiration for the series comes from Thomas Wolfe’s novella The Lost Boy: “ . . . the earth’s pivot, the granite core of changelessness, the eternal place where all things came and passed, and yet abode forever and would never change.”
Maude Schuyler Clay is known for her work depicting the Mississippi Delta, but she is also a talented portrait photographer. Inspired by Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, and Diane Arbus, Clay seeks to make photographs that emulate, in color, the craft and subtlety these artists cultivated in black and white.
The tintypes in Frank Hamrick’s series Sometimes Rivers Flow Backwards are inspired by the photographer’s home life. Using a nineteenth-century process, Hamrick is interested in the deliberate methods of antique technology, as compared with the split-second nature of digital photography.
Malcolm Lightner’s series Mile O’ Mud documents swamp buggy racing in Naples, Florida, a tradition for which custom-built swamp buggies race through the mud and muck of Florida swampland. A fourth-generation Floridian, Lightner has deep ties to Naples and to this style of racing; his great-uncle R.L. formalized the tradition into a legitimate sport in 1949.
In Steady Is the Tide, John Lusk Hathaway documents scenes that reflect humankind’s relationship to nature and water. The series is inspired by a line in Ron Rash’s book Nothing Gold Can Stay: “Water has its own archaeology, not a layering but a leveling, and thus is truer to our sense of the past, because what is memory but near and far events spread and smoothed beneath the present’s surface.”
In The Florida Heartland, Brian McSwain captures the backroads of a six-county region in south-central Florida, focusing on scenes and objects that are broken or abandoned: a deserted juice stand; a fractured statue; a tilted, net-less basketball goal.
In “Slow Process,” Cait Kovac photographs scenes that expose how nature is reclaiming the landscape across the South. Many of her photos have an improvised feel, as Kovac often makes them while wandering down dirt roads and exploring old parks, churches, and other abandonments.
Battle sites from the Revolutionary War extend across the original thirteen colonies—from Maine to Georgia, from Appalachia to the Atlantic shore. In his series For the Revolution, Keith Yahrling explores the sites of those battles, searching for how the concepts of freedom and liberty are subtly embedded in the American landscape.
Rooted in Phil Jung’s fascination with documenting personal spaces, his series Windscreens explores car cabins across the country, particularly the South. Though Jung is curious about how cars tell stories about their owners, he’s also interested in the project’s more formal elements, particularly how light enters a car and renders color.
In most American cities there is a street or boulevard bearing Martin Luther King Jr.’s name. In her project Martin Luther King Dr., Susan Berger documents the neighborhoods these roads run through, examining the ways in which King’s name is used as an encouragement to residents.
Source and Confluence, by Scott Jost, explores the origins and tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Through his images of floods and rapids, scenic overlooks and weedy river banks, Jost searches for signs of balance between human interests and natural systems.
In Not All, Pascal Amoyel looks at people and places that form the landscape of South Carolina and Georgia. These photos examine the cycle of life and death, of birth and decay, natural rhythms that overlap as winter folds slowly into Spring.
For the past month, The William King Museum in Abingdon, Virginia, has presented Transience a group photography exhibition showcasing the work of Trish Gibson, Joshua Harr, and Amber Law, three students from East Tennessee State University. Exhibited collectively, the trio’s work examines the fleeting nature of personal experience and how local environments change over time.
In Florida’s Waterfront Wonderland Sean Salyards turns his lens to the real estate developments in Cape Coral, Florida. The series was inspired by Salyards’s late grandfather—a longtime resident of the Cape—as well as his father, who died of cancer in 2007.
Inspired by stories of Hurricane Camille, which devastated the Mississippi coast in 1969, Thomas Pearson explores the ways that communities collectively navigate natural disasters. In Flesh Like Grass Pearson focuses on the tornado-ravaged town of Columbia, Mississippi, as well as the post-Katrina landscape of the Gulf Coast.
In “Shiny Ghost,” Rachel Cox photographs her grandmother over the last few years of her life as she struggled with a degenerative brain disease. Through this series, Cox was able to confront the unsettling emotions sewn into their relationship, and finally came to understand how mutual vulnerability and trust could restore their connection.
Cole Caswell’s photography explores the lives of people who live off the conventional grid, such as a homeless DIY punk couch-surfing in Savannah and a retired stock trader/primitive-skills-master hiding out on a swampy homestead. Caswell develops his images, all tintypes, on the road in a hand-built portable darkroom.
“Do we simply see what we believe or do we believe what we see?” This is the question posed by Elizabeth Moran in her series “Record of Cherry Road,” which investigates paranormal activity on her family’s land in Memphis, Tennessee.
Rising from the artist’s interest in photography and oral history, Tall Timbers is a visual and verbal project. Sass’s goal is both to document the dwellings where tenant farmers once lived, and to hear the stories of the families who contributed extensively to the history of Southern agriculture.
What will happen when humanity pushes itself to the brink of extinction? That’s the question posed by Corey George in “Alas, Babylon,” a series of photographs documenting Florida’s vast underpopulated suburbs. Slowly yet relentlessly, nature is reclaiming places like Lehigh Acres, with its 100,000 empty lots and 10,000 miles of unused roads. “One day,” George says, “these roads will be gone, and this land will go back to being Florida scrubland and forest.”
Once a thriving port during the Civil War, Hopewell hasn’t seen its heyday since. Today it struggles to keep its economy afloat and the local grocery stores in business, but, unlike many American cities, Hopewell isn’t on the decline. In fact it has been about the same my whole life—a small, unchanging factory town in central Virginia.
Our Eyes on the South curator, Jeff Rich, spent a weekend in New Orleans checking out PhotoNOLA, an annual photography festival coordinated by the New Orleans Photo Alliance in partnership with galleries, museums, and photographers. These are his favorite moments from that trip.
For the past year I have been documenting the Santee Coastal Reserve, a Wildlife Management Area operated by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. This twenty-four thousand acre tract encompass some of the greatest bio-diversity on the east coast.
A native of Blanchard, Louisiana, Cody Cobb takes us west, towards the Ark-La-Tex region. Cody says, "These scenes were discovered while exploring dirt roads, abandonments, swamps, and pine forests of northwest Louisiana, east Texas, and south Arkansas."
"This collection represents a small sample of the people and places I've discovered during my weekly photo walks in North Carolina. I dedicate time each week to capturing visual moments and documenting their place in history. I am fascinated by the connection between human influence on nature and the way time serves as a transformative agent."
"This series is a narrative investigation of the man-woman and culture-nature dichotomies. While these comparisons are more metaphorical than literal, they lend themselves to the understanding of how objectification, gender, and oppression translate between systems of being."
Devil’s Promenade is a project about our home region that blends folklore and local history with our present day photographs of Ozark people, the land, and interpretive images based on the living mythology of the Light."
This week for Eyes on the South, we're visiting the work of Kentucky expatriate Carey Gough. Gough uses this photography project as "a lifeline—a way of accessing home from afar. The tension between the realities captured on film and the mythical Kentucky that can only exist in song lyrics imbues these photographs with a sense of loss and impermanence."
"More often, the events allude to a specific reminiscence from my childhood. A car-sized drainage ditch runs parallel to Cherokee Avenue in Columbus, Georgia, and I remember more than once, an automobile would carry its driver tumbling down into the concrete pit."
"To love a place from a distance is to embellish it with memory, desire, and myth. Why Don't You Come Home is a fantasy, a lyric, and a document of one of several returns to the place where I grew up. It is part of an ongoing exploration of a South that is both familiar and strange, both real and imagined."
"Durham's struggles are part of an American trend that keeps our country from living up to its potential.... The human spirit persists as new communities are born of violence and strangers band together for support and change."
With his series Postcards, Florida-based artist Warren Thompson looks at roadside curiosities throughout the South. His work uses a combination of text and color that forms a distinctly Southern narrative of religion and leisure.
In the series Vanishing Points Michael Sherwin documents the modern sites of previous American civilizations. Sherwin writes, "In my most recent project I explore the ancestry of the American landscape, and reflect upon traditional Western Anglo-American views of nature, wilderness, ownership, and spirituality. The project was inspired by the battle over the use of land that is now the Suncrest Town Center in Morgantown, WV."
In his series Southern Vernacular, Don Norris documents the architecture of the 19th and early 20th century throughout the South. As a landscape photographer Norris is interested in the commonplace, with a focus on in vernacular architecture. He has photographed widely, but especially in small towns and rural settings in the South that prospered before the Civil War, and his photographs have been selected for many national and regional juried competitions and have won several awards.
Maury Gortemiller’s work Do the Priest in Different Voices shows us familiar scenes from an unfamiliar viewpoint. The images in this series blend the icons of Christian epiphany and mysticism with mundane objects from our everyday experience, changing the backdrops of one thousand year old stories to this century in a distinctly American setting.
"These places have seen their share of hardship, as economic downturns and shrinking populations have left them with few traces of their former prosperity. The built environment and its artifacts are reflective of the life and culture found here. Traditions of faith, love of country, and pride in hard work are deeply rooted in these communities."
This week we feature the series Of This Place by David Simonton, which focuses on the seemingly empty places of North Carolina. Simonton works in a traditional format using black and white film and prints, developed solely in the darkroom.
"In terms of subject matter, I always look first to the common and the everyday. Often this includes familiar interior spaces and, more recently, the surrounding landscape. The portfolio This Is Nowhere relies upon the inherent poetic qualities of the Smoky Mountain region, where the enduring theme of time marks its presence most succinctly."
Through photography, Tamara Reynolds casts images that are committed to overcoming Southern stereotypes—the ideas that all Southerners are religious fanatics, hillbillies, and racists. Her images paint a South that is rich in culture.
"The title comes from the name of the river that runs through the city, and alongside my grandfather’s farm and brother’s house. It is also the name of the Native American burial mounds that reside on the edge of my family’s property."
In Daniel George's series, Natural Selection, we are invited into the quiet yards, driveways, and streets of suburban coastal Georgia. We see a yard where, behind a chain link fence, barking dogs are replaced with stoic plastic deer, a house where dolphins frolic on the shutters, and an alley where a potted plant lays forgotten.
This week we are featuring a selection from Tammy Mercure's series Cavaliers. Tammy was one of the OA's 100 New Superstars of Southern Art in the Visual South issue from 2012. This new project focuses on car culture in the South.
In Eyes on the South, Kevin Thrasher explores recreational landscapes in and beyond the region with this series. He says that "these photographs exist between accepted ideas of landscape and these newer more controlled spaces."
Scott Hubener’s project The Space In Between documents the landscape and residents along U.S. Route 23, between Asheville, North Carolina, and Johnson City, Tennessee. This highway was the only way to reach Johnson City until an extension of Interstate 26 was constructed in 2003. Interstate 26 now towers over the landscape of Appalachia, and the small towns and villages are completely bypassed by the many visitors to the region each year.
In his ongoing series, Nashville photographer Hollis Bennett documents the leisurely, and sometimes not-so-leisurely, moments of the great American Weekend. All is not as it seems with these revelers, Hollis writes, "I explore the state of relaxation, joy and general delight that we strive for at the end of the week and the absence of work. In many instances though, such states as anxiety, fear, and doubt are mixed in, lurking under the thin veneer of a good time."
Sarah Hoskins's The Homeplace is a beautifully considered study of the small African-American communities that sprang up in post–Civil War Kentucky. Some of these communities have endured, and even thrived throughout the past 150 years. Others are on the verge of disappearing.
In her photographs White contrasts landscapes from Mississippi with scenes from Maine. White’s work speaks to the experience of travel. Not only the pleasure of seeing a new landscape with its unfamiliar textures and light, but also our tendency to seek out the forms and landscapes that remind us of home.
Aaron Norberg’s project Open Field shows us landscapes in the midst of transition. Whether they are being clear-cut, filled with more earth, or reclaimed by nature, these landscapes are all managed and ultimately shaped by man.
The project Ecotones by Gary Pilcher takes the ecological transition zones of coastal Georgia as its subject matter. Most of his images depict a screen of light and color that overlay the subtle details of a landscape underneath.