The images in Michael Wriston’s project, Ask and it Shall Be Given to You, traverse the often unseen, rural corners of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, capturing the stillness and vivid life of small towns, their residents, and the land that holds them.
In his striking interior and exterior glimpses of the funeral industry in the rural South, Tim Hursley’s photos feature shots of errantly parked hearses, casket showrooms, ranks of carved granite, and portraits of rusted silos and warehouses that look, too, by nature of their juxtaposition, like rows of planted headstones.
In A Southern Myth, Yarbrough’s photos grapple with the persistent tropes, misconceptions, and pressures of belonging in the South, and assume a photographic language where “‘myth’ is used as a poetic device to narrate a struggle for both the artist and the region to maintain a sense of identity.”
Mangrove swamps occupy a vital role in the health of a coastline, particularly under the threat of increasingly powerful storms and rising seas. Inspired by his recollections of mangrove swamps while growing up on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Benjamin Dimmitt decided to revisit the shoreline, paying close attention to the unsuspected beauty and vitality of these resilient organisms.
Jeremiah Ariaz documents the longstanding tradition of black trail-riding clubs among Creole communities in South Louisiana, drawing from scenes of their rides to “depict joy, pride, and familial intimacy, particularly between fathers and sons who are taught to care for and ride horses from an early age.”
Richard Schramm captures the town of Enfield, North Carolina—a place that is currently “looking back so that it can look ahead.” Enfield has a rich agricultural history, but like many towns of its kind, mid-twentieth century mechanization upended the local economy. Today, Enfield is home to many abandoned storefronts and warehouses.
Elijah Barrett’s collection, Rockport, chronicles the weeks and months following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. His photographs reveal the devastation enacted upon the landscape, and give insight into the lives of those who are now suspended in a state of wondering what comes next, and who are left to make sense of what happened.
In Ponce City Market: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of Atlanta’s Largest Building, Blake Burton documents the transformation of the Sears, Roebuck & Company building in Atlanta into the newly restored Ponce City Market. Burton presents “behind-the-scenes views of one of the largest adaptive reuse projects in the country.” What began as “casual exploration soon morphed into a passionate desire to document the historic transformation of an architectural treasure.”
The Drake Equation explores a unique space in West Virginia—one that overlaps with the “National Radio Quiet Zone,” a 13,000-square-mile area where radio transmissions are heavily limited to allow for the investigation of extraterrestrial life by enormous telescopes and monitoring devices.
Ben Depp’s Bayou’s End is the result of three years “flying above the bayous and wetlands of southern Louisiana in a powered paraglider,” taking aerial photographs from thousands of feet above the ground. Depp spends hours at a time in the air, waiting for just the right moment to capture the “spaces where the geometric patterns of human enterprise—canals, oil platforms, pipelines and roads—collide with nature’s organic forms.”
The images in Ryan Steed’s Went Out for Cigarettes span four Southern states but are occupied by a common “physical and psychological landscape” shaped by the act of travel itself. Marked by the omnipresence of roadside signs and messages scrawled on windows and walls, Steed’s project is concerned with the witness and discovery inherent in any journey.
Tianran Qin’s Billboards transforms “billboards into bodies of light to enhance their existence and critique their significance in consumer culture.” By utilizing long-term exposure, Qin floods the billboards in his images with light, essentially erasing the individual advertisements they contain and instead rendering them shining icons of consumerism.
Peyton Fulford’s Infinite Tenderness explores notions “of intimacy and identity among the LGBTQ+ community in the American South.” Her images, which often depict young people in pairs or groups, and bodies in intimate poses of flux, suggest the vulnerability inherent in “growing up and identifying oneself.”
Isabelle Baldwin’s Sleepy Time Down South depicts a quiet “life protected by the mountains,” and embraces the wash of romantic nostalgia that sometimes colors childhood when we recollect it as adults. Inspired by Louis Armstrong’s 1930s track, “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” her photographs are sun-drenched and peaceful.
The images in Matthew Genitempo’s Jasper capture the faces, lives, and daily landscapes of men who have chosen to sequester themselves in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and Missouri. Attuned to the allure of “running away from the every day,” Genitempo’s project occupies the hazy space “between fact and fiction.”
Bradley Marshall’s Hearing Through Walls is a photographic “exploration into American masculinity, lost youth, and domesticity.” The project often pairs the familiar with the unknown, involving childhood friends alongside relative strangers, and images of places to which Marshall has a deep personal attachment presented alongside photographs of new territory.
Rory Doyle’s Delta Quinceañera is “part of a larger body of work documenting Latino immigration in the rural Mississippi Delta over the last five years.” These images of a single Quinceañera, which shepherd the viewer from a Mass held in a young woman’s honor to a “dance party held in Cleveland, Mississippi’s local Army National Guard Armory,” convey the particular mix of grand, joyful celebration and deep, solemn importance that marks the transition from childhood to womanhood throughout Latin America.
Brett Schenning’s Small Towns, Big Dreams examines the effects 2008’s Great Recession had on rural American communities. Schenning is interested in what was left behind when many families who had settled in small towns “looking for a quieter way of life” were forced to move closer to urban centers and the employment possibilities they offered, and his photographs focus, in part, on that absence.
Ethan Tate’s photographs of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, reflect a complicated homecoming; Tate lived in the community when he was young and wasn’t entirely happy to return as an adult. He took long drives through the Delta as a way of re-acclimating to the place.
The photographs in Meghan Kirkwood’s Four Blocks in Chalmette were taken at four intervals within a four-block area of Chalmette, Louisiana between 2008 and 2017. Located east of the lower Ninth Ward, Chalmette sustained heavy flood damage during Hurricane Katrina. The neighborhood Kirkwood photographed, dense with rental properties, has been particularly slow to recover.
Devin Lunsford’s All the Place You’ve Got documents the changing landscape along Corridor X, a newly completed interstate project that connects Birmingham to Memphis through a once-remote part of northwest Alabama populated by desolate towns and shuttered coal mines.
Taken over the course of two consecutive summers, the photographs in Rosie Brock’s And Ever Shall Be explore the collision of economic depression and the familiar fantasy of the Southern county fair. A man in a Domino sugar t-shirt sits atop a white horse, a boy in a cowboy hat leans so close to the camera the rest of the world fades out of focus, and a woman, unsmiling, watches a carnival spectacle the viewer can’t see. Meanwhile the sun sets over empty train tracks and a carousel trailer, and the overall effect is at once hopeful and melancholic.
In Through Darkness to Light: Photographs Along the Underground Railroad Jeanine Michna-Bales recreates the long voyage north toward freedom as it might have looked through the eyes of a single individual “oftentimes carrying little more than the knowledge that moss grows on the north side of trees.” These photographs of unpeopled rural landscapes, taken almost exclusively under the cover of descending or ebbing darkness, have about them a sense of both intimacy and mystery, conveying “how vast, strange, and forbidding these remote places must have felt to those making the journey” with an almost painful steadiness of vision.
Forks & Branches is an intimate meditation on the people and landscapes of Western North Carolina, where Aaron Canipe was raised. Tinted with a pervasive sense of loss and nostalgia, the project captures the particular poignancy of an adult returning to the geography of his childhood and reckoning with both his love for the place and a new understanding of its deep flaws, “hurt, detachment, and stubborn grace.”
In Myths of the Near Future Rob Stephenson considers the “Space Coast” of Florida after the closing of the Kennedy Space Center’s shuttle program. Interested both in documenting the very real economic struggles communities surrounding the Space Center have faced in the aftermath of the program’s end, and in exploring the “ambiguous realm between dream and reality, between past and future, nature and technology,” Stephenson’s photographs provide a portrait of a place suspended: “nostalgi[c] for the future as the promise of the Space Age slowly fades away.”
One of eight historic African-American neighborhoods in Raleigh, North Carolina, SE Raleigh was first settled more than 130 years ago. Once a hub for business, education, and cultural life, rising property taxes and increased rent have forced many people in the area to move out of their homes.
In Fair Bluff Evan Simko-Bednarski explores a North Carolina town “in danger of simply fading away,” struggling to recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The flood and its destruction come after the one-two punch of the tobacco and textile industries crumbling in the 1990s. As one resident put it, “The town was dying. The hurricane just sped us up by ten or fifteen years.”
In The Pines Chuck Hemard photographs remnants of the longleaf pinelands to reflect on the significance of loss and beauty in our past, present, and future. Hemard offers a glimpse of what was once “an extraordinary biodiverse ecosystem, rivaling that of tropical rain forests” while also exploring the tension between human settlement, environmental progress, and the beauty of nature.
Richard Max Gavrich’s Across the Brown River explores “memories of past fictions” in towns along the Mississippi River. Inspired by Flannery O’Connor’s obsession with place, Gavrich follows the river in search of the “ordinary and extra-ordinary.”
Jessica Ingram’s Road Through Midnight: A Civil Rights Memorial explores forgotten sites of the civil rights era. The project “is the result of a deep questioning of American racial history and ideas of collective memory, of how we mark historic sites—or don’t mark them.”
New Orleans is known as the impossible and inevitable city, due to its complex geography that tests the boundaries of human engineering. In her latest project, Virginia Hanusik examines “how a distinct sense of place is perpetuated through the built environment,” in a city whose uniqueness and aesthetic beauty is tied to the uncertainty of rising waters outside of the levee walls.
The region of South Carolina coast dubbed the Grand Strand is known for its beaches and attractions that draw millions of people in the summer months. In Above the Surface, Tyler MacDonald looks beyond the popular tourist spots to explore the region’s unique landscape and community.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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."
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.
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.