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, contain 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.