A new exhibit at the Hunter, “Southbound: Photographs of and About the New South,” reflects the many faces of the shifting southern experience through photography. Although the museum is closed because of COVID-19, you can still learn about the exhibit here.
By displaying many different artists, the exhibit is able to create many different narratives of what the South is. I visited this exhibit on Tuesday, Feb. 25, and I was impressed by the diversity of experiences expressed. From technicolor visions of oil spills, isolated landscapes, and the stoic visages of the children of the South, the range of the exhibit made it almost dreamlike.
The exhibit didn’t shy away from the dark legacy of the South. In the same room, a blonde draped against a car in a Confederate flag bikini was portrayed in contrast to a colorful and joyful portrayal of an African-American family on the beach. For me, the landscapes of the South didn’t tell as much of a story as this juxtaposition. Instead, I was drawn to the portraits. Portrayed was both the devastation of this history of racism in the South and the exuberance of Southern communities. Between bereft expressions and expressions of adoration, the portraits were as complex as a portrayal of the South needs to be (and some photographers rose far above others in their success at this portrayal). “I liked it because it showed fine art photography through an anthropological lens,” Max Montague ‘20, a photographer who also visited the exhibit, said of the experience. “It contrasted all sides of the human experience in the South: the ugliness and the beauty.” Overall, I feel the exhibit was mostly successful in its ambition to transcend the limitations of photography to beg the question: can we ever come to terms with the history of oppression in the South, and should we?
Below is a preview of works. More can be found on southboundproject.org
(top) by Titus Brooks Heagins
by Kyle Ford (middle)
by Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick (bottom two)