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Gillis, Natalie Kersey.
b the contemporary Southern landscape by its photographers
h [electronic resource] /
by Natalie Kersey Gillis.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 69 pages.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: The purpose of this thesis is to examine the work of landscape photographers living and working in the Southern region of the United States and to explore what their images visually communicate about their relationship to the Southern land and its distinctive history. This objective is accomplished through an analysis of the work of three contemporary landscape photographers who reside in the South, and work primarily within their local hometowns. This thesis examines the work of photographers William Christenberry, Sally Mann, and John McWilliams. Each is a photographer who is native to the American South and has used his or her indigenous Southern landscapes as subject matter. These photographers' work not only articulates the connection between the artist and the land in and on which they have lived, but also provides social and political commentary on the South's struggle to maintain its identity while grappling with its haunting past.The research for this thesis has been derived from primary sources, including the artists' images, museum and gallery exhibitions and published writings. A "reading" (as defined by Alan Trachtenburg) of individual images is used as support for the central argument, as well as discussion of a photographer's work as a whole. Interviews with the photographers in academic, popular and trade publications were also used. Historical and academic literature on Southern history and culture is used as reference in order to provide a framework in which the photographers' work is positioned. Photographers who are native to the South are particularly adept at portraying the region's distinctive culture and growing pains as it struggles to come to terms with an ever-changing America. Images of the South by natives of the region are noteworthy because they are imbued with the artist's own individual emotions about their land and their history.Southerners are an American demographic who feel a distinct tie to the land from whence they came. Therefore, Southern landscape photography offers its viewer a gateway through which to explore this complex relationship between landscape, home and history.
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Advisor: Robert E. Snyder, Ph.D.
x American Studies
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Reconstructions: The Contemporary Sout hern Landscape by Its Photographers by Natalie Kersey Gillis A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of Humanities and American Studies College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Robert E. Snyder, Ph.D. Andrew Berish, Ph.D. Elaine Smith, Ph.D. Date of Approval: October 30, 2008 Keywords: southern states, photography, landscape photography, Sally Mann, William Christenberry, John McWilliams Copyright 2008 Natalie Kersey Gillis
i Table of Contents List of Figures iii Abstract ii Chapter One: The American Land through the Lens 1 The American Landscape as Symbol 1 The Southern Landscape as Symbol 2 The Southern Landscape Documented 3 Chapter Two: The Southern Mind 6 The South Geographically 6 The South Demographically 7 The Civil War and Reconstruction 8 The New South 9 Chapter Three: Reconstructing th e Southern Image 11 The New Deal and the Farm Security Administration 11 The South in Media 12 The South in Art 14 Chapter Four: The Southern Land through the Lens 16 William Christenberry 16 Biography 17 Other work 18 The Photographs 24 Sally Mann 30 Biography 31 Other Work 33 The Photographs 38 John McWilliams 43 Biography 45 Other Work 45 The Photographs 47 Epilogue 54 References 56
ii Bibliography 59 Appendix A: The Photographs 63
iii List of Figures Figure 1. House, Stewart, Alabama, 1962 64 Figure 2. Building with False Brick Siding, Warsaw, Alabama, 1974 64 Figure 3. Building with False Brick Siding, Warsaw, Alabama, 1982 64 Figure 4. Building with False Brick Siding, Warsaw, Alabama, 1984 64 Figure 5. Building with False Brick Siding, Warsaw, Alabama, 1991 64 Figure 6. Building with False Brick Siding, Warsaw, Alabama, 1994 64 Figure 7. Kudzu with Storm Cloud, near Akron, Alabama, 1981 65 Figure 8. High Kudzu, near Akron, Alabama, 1978 65 Figure 9. Kudzu Devouring Building, near Gr eensboro, Alabama, 2004 65 Figure 10. Green Warehouse, Newbern, Alabama, 1973 65 Figure 11. Green Warehouse, Newbern, Al abama, 1978 65 Figure 12. Green Warehouse, Newbern, Al abama, 1989 65 Figure 13. Green Warehouse, Newbern, Alabama, 1973 65 Figure 14. Green Warehouse, Newbern, Al abama, 2004 66 Figure 15. Side of Palmist Building, Havana Junction, Alabama, 1971 66 Figure 16. Palmist Building, Havana Juncti on, Alabama, 1981 66 Figure 17. Site of Palmist Building, Havana Junction, Alabama, 1988 66 Figure 18. White Door, near Stewart, Alabama, 1977 66 Figure 19. Emmet, Jessie, Virginia, 1992 66
iv Figure 20. Untitled 66 Figure 21. Untitled 67 Figure 22. Untitled 67 Figure 23. Untitled 67 Figure 24. Untitled 67 Figure 25. Untitled 67 Figure 26. Blackville, South Caroli na, 1974 67 Figure 27. Dearing, Georgia, 1974 67 Figure 28. Eatonton, Georgia, 1973 68 Figure 29. Sumter County, Georgia, 1973 68 Figure 30. Crowfield Plantation, 1974 68 Figure 31. Oconee River, Georgia, 1973 68 Figure 32. Washington County, Georgia, 1975 68 Figure 33. Copperhill, Tennessee, 1977 68 Figure 34. Chatooga County, Georgia, 1974 68 Figure 35. Alabama, 1975 69
v Reconstructions: the Contemporary Sout hern Landscape by its Photographers Natalie Kersey Gillis ABSTRACT The purpose of this thesis is to exam ine the work of landscape photographers living and working in the Southern region of the United States and to explore what their images visually communicate about their re lationship to the Southern land and its distinctive history. This objective is accomp lished through an analysis of the work of three contemporary landscape photographers who reside in the South, and work primarily within their local hometowns. This thesis examines the work of photographers William Christenberry, Sally Mann, and John McWilliams. Each is a photographer who is native to the American South and has used his or her indigenous S outhern landscapes as subject matter. These photographers work not only articulates the co nnection between the artist and the land in and on which they have lived, but also provi des social and political commentary on the Souths struggle to maintain its identity while grapp ling with its haunting past. The research for this thesis has been de rived from primary sources, including the artists images, museum and gallery exhibi tions and published writi ngs. A reading (as defined by Alan Trachtenburg) of individual im ages is used as support for the central argument, as well as discussion of a photographer s work as a whole. Interviews with the photographers in academic, popular and trade publications were also used. Historical and
vi academic literature on Southern history and culture is used as reference in order to provide a framework in which the photographers work is positioned. Photographers who are native to the South are particularly adep t at portraying the regions distinctive culture and growing pains as it struggles to come to terms with an ever-changing America. Images of the S outh by natives of the region are noteworthy because they are imbued with the artists ow n individual emotions about their land and their history. Southerners are an American demographic who feel a distinct tie to the land from whence they came. Therefore, Southern landscape photography offers its viewer a gateway through which to explore this complex relationship between landscape, home and history.
1 Chapter One: The American Land Through the Lens The American Landscape as Symbol The landscape has captivated the imaginat ions of the American people since the countrys settlement. In a new country in a se arch for history, icons or heroes to bolster the identity of its citizens, the land became th e symbol of the American spirit. Painter Thomas Cole captured the essence of Americas unique landscape in a lecture given in 1835. Cole proclaimed, the most distinct ive, and perhaps the most impressive, characteristic of American scenery is its wildness those scenes of solitude from which the hand of nature has never been lifted, aff ect the mind with a more deep toned emotion than aught which the hand of man has touc hed (Philips in Betsky, et al, 1996, p.15). The landscape gave this fledgling country a sense of identity and became the most American of symbols. It has been calle d our nations special endowment." Its development and settlement, Americans Manifest Destiny, became a motivator for the pioneers of this great land. From these earliest days of Western exploration and expansion, photographers have been on scene to document the landscape and present it to the rest of the nation. The work of nineteenth-century photographers such as William Henry Jackson, Carleton Watkins and Timot hy OSullivan, echoed these ideas about the American landscape soon afte r the inception of photography itself in 1839, and helped define Americans perception of their new nation.
2 The Southern Landscape as Symbol While the majority of Americans have found other symbols to which to pledge their allegiance as the nation has matured, Americans from the Southern states still maintain a strong relationship to the land of their region. the mythic theme of place and community posits a vision of the S outh as sacred ground, creating special relationships between people and place (Smith, 1985, p. 116). For many Southerners, the land is the lifeblood of thei r survival. It is the place th ey were born and will always belong to. The South has historically been an agricultural regi on, making the land that central locus from which all life springs. Historian Harlan Davids on stated, the land has represented a rootedness fr om which all other cultural elements ties to family, religion, place and people follo wed naturally (1987, p. 196). The land has sustained its citizens ph ysically and financially. For many Southerners, the land also sustains them emotionally. Southern photographer William Christenberry said, Im proud of being fr om the South. Im proud of the way I was raised with ties to the landscape Its wh at I know, and what I care deeply about (in Feaster, 2006, para. 3). Although this emoti onal response to the American landscape has its roots in the era of explor ation of the 1800s, in the 20th and 21st centuries, this trait seems to be one that has become uniquely Southern and contribut es to the regions distinctiveness. As W illie Morris stated in Good Old Boy: A Delta Boyhood Southerners have an allegiance and love for one small place (in Dugan, 1996, p.14). Indeed, Americans born or living in the S outhern region of the United States see themselves as a demographic set apart from the rest of the countrys citizens. It has been argued that as technology a nd industry advances, and people move more fluidly from one
3 region to another, that the South has become homogenized, and no longer possesses the traits which once distinguished it from th e rest of the United States (Egerton, 1974). However, Southerners seem to have felt th at the South was somehow distinctive, and they have been just as ready to admit that distinctiveness as others outside the region (Smith, 1985, p. 94). In fact, in the majority, Southerners dialect, social customs, diet, genealogical ties and political and religious practices do fundamentally differ from those of Americans living north of the Mason-Dixon Li ne. Furthermore, the South is also the only region of the United States to have e xperienced both massive wealth and massive poverty, according to historian C. Vann Woodward in his seminal work The Burden of Southern History (1968). In a country that values strength and virili ty, the South has been defeated both economically and militari ly. In a land of i nnocence and purity, the South has had to shoulder the guilt of sl avery (Woodward, 1968). Southerners have struggled to survive since the inception of this nation. It is, perhaps, those years of struggle to work and defend the land which th ey claim as theirs that makes Southerners so devoted to that land. The Southern Landscape Documented The special history and geography of the South clearly set it apart in ways that frequently spill over into art (Freehling, et al, 1986, p. 3). Artisti c representations of the landscape of the South can provide remark able insight into the complex relationship Southerners have with their land. Images of the South by natives of the region are particularly noteworthy because they are pe rmeated with the artists own individual emotions about their homeland and their hist ory. Photographer William Christenberry said, I know there are other places but Alab ama is where my heart is (in Grundberg,
4 2001, p. 58). Specifically, for native-born Sout hern photographers, the land is often a subject matter imbued with a great sense of passion and pride, as well as nostalgia, sadness and longing. In the words of Theodore Rosengarten, For better and for worse, the South has not kept up with the rest of the nation (in McWilliams, 1989, p. 5). Rosengarten made this statement in his introduction to John McWilliams book of photographs of Southern landscapes, Land of Deepest Shade. For photographers like McWilliams, Christenberry, and Sally Mann, who were working in the second half of the twentieth century, the Southern landscape is haunted not only with the mythology of moonlight and magnolias, but also the realities of Civ il War, Reconstruction, Civil Rights, industrialization and a New South struggling to recaptur e its regional identity and sense of place within a new, unified America. It was in the 1930s that the South was sy stematically photographed, scrutinized and stereotyped (Clayton and Salmond, 1987, p. 189). Like the images of the early American landscape by Jackson and OSulliv an, the resulting photographic images by members of the FSA photography project have bo th informed the nation at large what the South is, as well as informed Southerners themse lves what it meant to be from the South. However, as Burl Noggle pointed out, all of the FSA photographers who produced those images were outsiders (in Clayton and Salmond, 1987, p. 189). The term outsider calls attention to a signifi cant fact: much of the great photographic documentation of the South in the thirties was the work of artists w ho were neither native to or residents of the South (Clayton and Salmond, 1987, p.189). In Noggles essay about the FSA photographs, he even went on to suggest that the Yankee photogr aphers motivations may have been, in part, to expose or reveal some shortcoming or to perpetuate regional
5 stereotypes or hostilities (Clayton and Salmond, 1987, p.189). This practice is not limited to the FSA photographs. The pract ice of south-watching by outsiders attempting to depict Southern culture to the world continued into the 1970s. In his book Myth, Media and the Southern Mind, Stephen Smith quotes Mike Ryoko, of Chicago newspaper fame, who observed, Thanks to Ji mmy Carter, the journalistic trend-seekers and social scientists have discovered the South. They are now going to explain the Southerner to himself ( 1985, p. 98). Southerners have responded, with literature, art and both academic and popular publications in wh ich they present and define themselves. In the second half of that same century which produced the slanted FSA images, native Southern photographers have answered t hose works with their own images which document and attempt to capture that atmosphere of place they know, presented in a way only they can.
6 Chapter Two: The Southern Mind In her book, The Lure of the Local Lucy Lippard states that when she asked twenty university students to name a place where they felt they belonged, most could not (Lippard, 1997, p. 9). Surely, that group of students di d not include any Southerners. John Shelton Reed, after si fting through copious amounts of census data, computer printouts and decades of public opinion polls ascertained that Southerners seem more likely than other Americans to thin k of their region, their states, their local communities, as theirs and as distinct from and preferab le to other regions, states, and localities (in Smith, 1985, p. 96). Mississi ppi Congressman Frank Smith has been quoted as saying, Southerners have a sense of identity with place that is only slightly less compelling than our identity with family. It is one of the distinctions that still separates our section from the rest of the country (in Smith, 1985, p. 116). In order to fully explore this distinct and complex rela tionship a Southerner has for his homeland, it is advantageous to first discuss what else ma kes the South itself distinct as a region. The South Geographically Many chroniclers of Southern histor y and culture have argued over what parameters define the region of America refe rred to as the South. Geographically, the South has been defined since roughly the time of the American Revolution as Maryland and anything south of it. While there has been not been a definitive consensus reached on the exact parameters which make the region dist inctive, scholars have agreed that there is
7 a place of America called the South and a sub-group of Americans referred to as Southerners. Climate, environment, demogr aphics, economy, agriculture and the social culture and heritage of its people are all crosscurrents wh ich have been studied as potential contributors to the regi ons idiosyncratic way of life. The first of these is climate. The South is largely thought to be a place of extreme heat, humidity, and sunlight with very little or no cold, frost or significantly wintry conditions. Sociologist Ellswort h Huntington said that it was this heat and climate that contributed to the Souths inhabitants le thargy and laziness. He referred to this phenomenon as environmental determinism a theory he derived from Social Darwinism (1924). Likewise, scholar Ulrich Phillips argued a version of this theory, calling it climatic determinism (1929). Phillips proposed th at the intense and unrelenting heat in the South led to Southerners frequent need to rest from work and take vacations to conserve energy that the climate depleted, thus contributing to the stereotype of the lazy and indolent citizen. This slow approach to work and moving through their day also crept into a slow manner of speec h, making them appear uneducated or slow mentally. The hot climate also contributed to a higher incidence of illness and disease, thus making the Southerner appear weak and unhealthy (Phillips, 1929). The South Demographically The demographics of the people living in the South also differentiate them as a group from Americans inhabiting other regions of the country. Southerners have been polled to have the lowest income and educat ional level per capita and are employed in agricultural jobs in significantly higher numbers (Vance, 1945). Most Southerners live in fewer, smaller towns in which the primary religious affiliation is Protestant. However, by
8 far, race has set the South apart more than any other demographic marker. The largest majority of the African-American populati on prior to the Civil War was found in the South. Up to ninety percent of the countrys African-Americans occupied this region. The Souths relationship to this race, however, was a precarious and often violent one. It is perhaps this relationship between black a nd white Southerner that has most lastingly defined the region, as well as served to isolate it. The Civil War and Reconstruction Southern photographer Sally Mann said in her book of Southern landscape photographs, Deep South Living in the South often m eans slipping out of temporal joint, a peculiar phenomenon th at I find both nourishes and wounds. To identify a person as a Southerner suggests not only that her hist ory is inescapable and formative but that it is also impossibly present (Mann, 2005, p. 7). The South s unique distinction as the only American region to have b een militarily occupied is on e its residents cannot seem to escape. It is irrefutable th at the Civil War decimated th e South. As C. Vann Woodward argued, in a country that values strength, vi rility and morality, the South was defeated militarily, economically and soci ally (1960). The myths of the plantation culture and its chivalrous, paternalistic land-owners, happy ha rd-working slaves and lily-white, virtuous Southern Belles were exposed; and the realities of the institution were laid bare. The South struggled to re-build and re-define it self while still holding on to some of those myths and holding onto its sense of place. One of the only symbols of the former Southern way of life left unscathe d for the Southerner was the land. From the plantation paradigm to Cashs version of Turners frontier thesis, the sense of place has been a prominent part of the history and so cial reality in the South Henry Grady and his cohorts in th e first New South movement called for
9 industrialization, urbanizati on and exploitation of the Souths resources, both natural and human, with a vision of progr ess that seemed almost revolutionary; fifty years later the Vanderbilt Agrarian s contended that the True South was actually a land of bucolic farmers with sma ll agricultural units di vided by pristine wilderness areas, a vision of reality that was labeled reactionary. Today, neither of these visions is controlling in the my thology of place. The contemporary South has developed a new mythic vision which draws from elements of both and which continues the theme of place and commun ity that has always captivated the regions people and engendered a strong attachment to the South (Smith, 1985, pg. 117). The New South Although the New South faced the unavoida ble arrival of industrialization, it came slowly to the region and was often resist ed. After the Civil War, the South faced a monumental dilemma. Should it rebuild itself in the likeness of its former archetype, or forge ahead to craft a new, industrial cultu re? Men such as Jefferson Davis, first president of the Confederacy, wanted a model of the Old South and continued to deride the pioneering ways of the North. Others like Robert E. Lee, however, understood that the path to the New South included tec hnological advancement and supported the teaching of subjects such as chemistry and engineering at Washington College. He proposed that the future lead ers of the South would need this education in order to recognize and solve the problems an advancing South was sure to face. Francis Dawson and Henry Grady, like Lee, saw that the path to a New South must, indeed, be a new one. Grady espoused three tenets for the creators of the New South to follow. First, the South must repudiate slavery. Second, it must reconc ile itself politically and economically with the North; and third, the South must dive rsify it population by attracting immigrants, particularly from th e North (Gaston, 1970).
10 However, the Souths attempts at industria lization did not serve its people or its land. Because the region did not have the money to finance indus trialization, it began trading its assets namely land, railroads, iron, steel, textiles, lumber and labor in order to attract Northern investment This only served to facilitate Northern control of Southern resources and labor an unwelcome alternative (Daniel, 1972). The abolition of slavery also left the Southerner with th e dilemma of how to work and profit from its land. The solution was also an unproductive one. In fact, agricultu re and its mode of operation was still functioning much like it had before the war. The grand, sprawling plantations may have been gone, but, effectiv ely, the plantation system remained intact. There were simply more, smaller farms bei ng worked. Since the white land-owners did not have money to pay laborers after the war wiped them out, the freed slaves did not have the opportunity to earn a living. Another way to get th e freed slave and master back together was devised, namely, tenantry and sh are-cropping. This system turned out to be worse than slavery (to quote author David Oshinskys 1996 book of the same name) because it gave the impression that ex-slaves were working the land themselves when, in fact, a system of peonage was established that kept them perpetually in debt to the land owner. Most importantly, the system signi ficantly contributed to the slow economic recovery of the South because it did not provi de the farmers with an incentive to advance their agricultural prac tices (Daniel, 1972).
11 Chapter Three: Reconstruc ting the Southern Image The New Deal and the Farm Security Administration By the time President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the New Deals Farm Security Administration in the 1930s, and th e Resettlement Administration in 1935, the South had become the nations number one economic problem as declared by Roosevelt (in Clayton and Salmond, 1987, p. 194). In that decade, the South more than any other region found itself photographed, stereotyped and scrutinized (Clayton and Salmond, 1987, p. 189). Roy Stryker headed the Historical Section of the Resettlement Administration and was charged with, among other things, providing images of the administrations programs at work. However, because the purpose of the Historical Section was to serve as a visual explicator of various New Deal programs to aid poor farmers the Resettlement Administration a nd the Farm Security Administration dealt with the poorest elements of society Black s, sharecroppers and mountaineers. The Historical Section photographe d these groups, forgot the re st and called the result a portrait of the South (W atkins, 1982, p. 280). There were few to no images of a metropolitan, middle-class or upper-class S outhern population included in the FSA collection, save Walker Evans focus on the emerging urban areas (Daniel, 1987). However, the photographers themselves were from urban areas and their careers were spent largely photographing those types of environments. Charles Watkins 1982 dissertation, The Blurred Image: Documentary Photography and the Depression South
12 discusses in great detail this gaping hole the FSA photographers left in their chronicle of Southern life. Watkins suggests that, Instead of dealing with the South on its own terms, the photographers solved their problems by creating a Sout h, really several Souths, that could be approached with the skills and att itudes they had at hand (1982, p. 180). FSA Photographer Carl Mydans supports this presum ption when he said, I had never been to the South before and it fascinated me. It wa s largely agricultural, and I found it romantic and absorbing. But it also proved to be a di fficult region to photograph (in Watkins, 1982, p. 178). As a result, images of a poor, uneducated, dilapidated and decaying South flooded the American media and the American mind. That image, a non-native image, became the national image for decades until indigenous artists began to publish work from their own point of view and take back the Souths representation. The South in Media In the 1970s, southern media and sout hern artists began to reclaim and reconstruct their regional identity. Until that time, the South was defined largely in terms of antiquated but widely circulated stereoty pes the cavalier, th e Southern belle, the African-American slave, the sharecropper. Sout hern writers, journalists and artists began a movement to re-define these stereotypes and thereby redefine Southern identity. The editors of Southern Exposure complained Throughout the c ountry, and even in this region, people view the South th rough myth and stereotype. It s not surprisi ng. If they turn to newspapers, to television and radio, to popular films and magazines, to most history books and folklore, they encounter these distortions (Smith, 1985, p. 98). The publishers of Southern Exposures, felt it takes a publication of the South to present the region as it really is (Smith, 1985, p.99). This idea was echoed by other media and
13 cultural outlets, as well as politicians. During that time politically, finding a way to advance in a rapidly devel oping industrial and technologi cal America was a focus of many Southern legislators and leaders. Ste phen Smith said of this movement, One of the most effective ways of developing a cultu ral myth is through public discussions of the nature of the future and that has been a me thod characteristic of Southern mythmakers almost as strong as their tendency toward discussion of the past (1985, p. 120). There was a conscious initiative towards shaping the fu ture of the South in such a way so as to preserve some of the regions cultural distinctiveness, mythical or not. Keeping the land intact and not over-populated or over-built, th ereby helping to preserve the Southerners sense of place, became an obj ective of this movement. The contemporary vision of the South gave special emphasis to the in terrelationship between place and community and recognized the possible impact of change upon the values inherent in the Southerners sense of place (Smith, 1985, p. 121). The Southern land became a central focus politically and culturally during this ti me. There was a realiz ation that how this land would change and develop was vitally im portant to the preservation of Southern culture and identity. In f act, the 1974 Commission on the Future of the South declared one of its primary objectives of regional gr owth management to be to preserve and enhance, in meeting the issues of growth and change, the human sense of place and community that is a vital element of the uni que quality of Southern life (Smith, 1985, p. 122). Photographers William Christenberry and John McWilliams were both working at this time to record evidence of this struggl e with regional growth. Their images deal photographically with this theme.
14 The South in Art Southern photographers began to docum ent their landscape not only to preserve that sense of place, but to claim it, presen t it to the nation and world, and document what was happening to it, or what was not happening to it. Each artist imbued their work with their own feelings about the land and how th e passage of time had affected it and its traditions. In The Lure of the Local Lucy Lippard states that as a writer on visual arts, Ive spent a lot of my life looking but less of it looking around, or around here (1997, p.5). The photographers surveyed in this thesis devo ted a large part of th eir artistic vision to looking solely around here or around thei r homelands, their unique local place. Lippard states in her book she is concerned with the historical narrative as it is written in the landscape or place by the people who lived or live there, and explains this is of value because, Inherent in the lo cal is the concept of place a portion of land/town/cityscape seen from the inside, th e resonance of a specific location that is known and familiar (1997, pg. 7) That is what photographers like Sally Mann, William Christenberry and John McWilliams give their viewer a look at their place from the inside. Their images are not just pretty pict ures, snapshots of a Southern scene to frame and hang on the wall; they are cultural documents informed by the collective history of not only the artist himself, but of genera tions of his or her family and community. In a 1998 essay for Aperture magazine, Lippard proposes Perhaps the only lay people who are really able to interpret so cial landscapes are lo cals those who can recognize subtleties of change within a pl ace over time, who know what the lumps and bumps once were, and what has replaced them (1998, p. 60). This is exactly the theme
15 photographers like Christenberry, Mann and McW illiams are grappling with. Each artist has devoted a large amount of their body of work to capturing on f ilm the landscape of the local places they inhabit. The focus of each artist is, in part, to come to terms with that landscape and, through it, come to terms w ith the history of the South, which is also their personal history.
16 Chapter Four: The Southern Land through the Lens William Christenberry Whenever someone asks why I always photogra ph in Alabama, I have to answer that, yes, I know there are other places, but Alab ama is where my heart is (in Grundberg, 2001, p. 58). William Christenberry has contributed to every major movement in the visual arts from the 1960s to the present (Hood in Christenberry, 2007, p. 1). He is an artist who has devoted the entirety of the body of his work to expl oring his relationship to the landscape of his homeland, Hale County, Alabam a. Im deeply involved in caring about where Im from the site, the place and all of my work comes out of that place, the positive and the negative (Williams, 2008, para. 2) Christenberry speaks generously and openly about the influence being from the South has had on his work. It became clear to me early on in the 50s that I wa nted to find a way to come to grips with the Southern landscape. Not just the trees and the vistas, but the makeup of the place, both the positive side and the negativ e side (Christenberry in Art and Soul, 2008, para. 2). When asked why he has not worked anywhere else, Christenberry said, This is and always will be where my hear t is. It is what I care about Everything I want to say through my work comes out of my feelings about that place to paraphrase William Faulkner, There is enough to write about on this little stamp-sized state to occupy me all of my life (in Hirsch, 2005, para. 5).
17 Biography. William Christenberry was born November 5, 1936 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He is a photographer, painter, draw er and sculptor. Chri stenberry received his Bachelors degree in fine arts in 1958 from the University of Alabama, and his Masters degree the following year from the same institution. Christenberrys original concentration was drawing and painting. Du ring his study of those mediums, he was a student of renowned abstr act expressionist Melville Price. After graduating, Christenberry accepted a faculty position at th e University of Alabama and spent a short time teaching there. He left Alabama fo r New York in 1960, at the suggestion of a colleague. Although Christenberry would only live in the city briefly, it would turn out to be a life-changing experience, for it was there he met FSA photographer and author Walker Evans. 1936, the year Christenberry was born, James Agee and Evans were in Hale County researching for the project that would become Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Christenberry discovered the book fortuitously in 1960 wh ile he was a painter in the art department at the University of Alab ama and it greatly influenced his work. He left New York in the summer of 1962 to accep t a teaching position at the University of Memphis (Hirsch, 2005). Since 1968, he has ta ught at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C. His artistic career began with the painting of large ab stract-expressionist canvasses, but gradually he began to be drawn to material that spoke about the place of his childhood. Though he was raised in Tus caloosa, Christenberry spent his summers with extended family in rural Hale County. It has been said that I was born in Hale County, but I was actually born in the city of Tu scaloosa, which is just a few miles north. My grandparents on both sides, the Smith Family and the Christenberry Family, were
18 farming families in Hale County I was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, went to high school there, and to the Univer sity of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. My summer forays past and present into Hale County are constant (Christenberry in Hirsch, 2005, para. 3). Other Work. Originally, Christenberry only used photography as a means to record scenes he wanted to recreate in hi s paintings. He used a simple Kodak Brownie camera which had been a Christmas gift, a nd developed the prints at a drugstore (Dykstra, 2007). He took his first Brownie sn apshots in 1958 while at the University of Alabama. It was a little 127 Brownie Holiday that Santa Claus had brought one year. It was in the chest of drawers in my parents house. As a painting student, I wanted to reference the landscape and things in the landsca pe, mostly the vernacular architecture, in my painting Back in the studio, it was the color reference, the memory jog that was important to my paintings (Chris tenberry in Hirsch, 2005, para. 16). Walker Evans turned out to be a grea t influence on Christenberrys work, both through his own photographs and through their long personal relationship. In fact, it was by Evans suggestion that Christenberry decided to pursue photography seriously (Dykstra, 2007). The two met while Christenbe rry was living in New York. I had eight different jobs in twelve months. I had a Mast ers degree, but I did not want to teach. I sold mens clothes in Greenwich Village. I was a custodian in Norman Vincent Peales church on Fifth Avenue Next I worked for a gallery on Madison Avenue, and finally I ended up as a file clerk on the twenty-eight h floor in the picture collection at TimeLife And that was where Walker Evans worked as a senior editor for Fortune on the eighteenth floor Months went by before I got up the nerve to see him (Christenberry in Hirsch, 2005, para. 13).
19 Evans asked to see Christenberr ys Brownie snapshots. Young man, Christenberry recalls him saying, this little camera has beco me the perfect extension of your eye, I suggest that y ou take these seriously. (in Dykstra, 2007, para. 5). Christenberry admits, At the time I was about as interested in photography as I was in physics zero. But thats how it began (in Hirsch, 2005, para. 32). After that, Christenberry regularly used his camera to ex plore the subject he had already been using in his paintings, his home of Hale County, Alabama. Throughout his photographic career, Christ enberry has used increasingly more sophisticated cameras. The formal qualities of scale and flattened two dimensional space are what distinguishes the photograph as be ing from a particular camera (Hood in Christenberry, 2007, p.3). It was Lee Friedla nder who suggested Christenberry try using a large format 8x10 camera for his landscapes in 1977. One day, out of the blue, Lee Friedlander said to me that it would be in teresting to see what I could do with a camera that produced a large negative, preferably 8x10. I said I never used anything like that. You can learn, cant you?, he said. Shortly after that, I began work ing with a Deardorff view camera lent to me by a friend (Chr istenberry in Hirsch, 2005, para. 36). More recently, he has begun to use a contemporary 35 mm camera. Christenberry returned south in 1962 to teach at Memphis State University. In 1968, he accepted a faculty position at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C. Christenberry remains on Co rcorans faculty today. However, he has continued to make annual pilgrimages to Hale County, fulfilling a personal ritual and documenting the physical changes wrought by the passing of a year (William Christenberry, 2008, para. 1).
20 The Pace-MacGill Gallery in New York, New York currently represents Christenberry and list his exhibitions and publications as follows: 1996, William Christenberry: The Early Years, 1954 1968, Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia; and Reconstruction: William Christenberry's Art, Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona; 2001 Willia m Christenberry: Changing Landscapes The Source Revisited, the Kreeger Muse um in Washington, D.C.; and William Christenberry: Architecture/Archetype at the University of Cincinnatis DAAP Galleries. Also in 2001, Christenberrys imag es of Alabamas Cahaba River and Bibb County Glades were included in the group s how In Response to Place: Photographs from the Nature Conservancys Last Great Pl aces organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian Am erican Art Museum in Washington D.C. exhibited Passing Time: The Art of William Christenberry in 2006. Christenberry is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Lyndhurst Foundation Prize in 1982; a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1984; a Washington D.C. Mayor's Arts Award in 1986; the Alabama Prize in 1989; an Art Matters, Inc., gr ant in 1994; and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa awarded in 1998. Christenberrys work belongs to num erous collections, including the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, Massac husetts.; the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson; the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the the National Museum of American Art in Washi ngton, D.C.; the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia; the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas; the Museum of Modern Art and the Wh itney Museum of American
21 Art in New York; the Milwaukee Museum of Art; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; and the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven. Although Christenberry is a multi-medi a artist, he is best known as a photographer of the vernacular South count ry churches, graves, signs, shacks and tumbledown buildings whose slow decline he records in seri es of photographs taken over a period of years, sometimes decades (Dykstra, 2007, para. 1). Christenberrys photographs, however, differ from those of other Southern phot ographers like Sally Mann. Christenberry distinguishes his phot ography from the work of other Southern shutterbugs through its restrained palette and no-nonsense compositions (Art and Soul, 2008, para. 11). Although his work comes from a place of deep love and sentimentality for the landscape of his chil dhood, Christenberry does not want his work viewed as melancholy or wistful. I don t want my work thought about in terms of nostalgia. It is about place and sense of place I am not looking back longing for the past, but at the beauty of time and the pa ssage of time (in Hirsch, 2005, para. 38). Therefore, Christenberry does not use any al ternative photographic processes, filters or special treatments during developing to alter his images. Because the theme of his work is the chronicling of the passa ge of time, Christenberry want s the viewer to see what he sees, and what is actually on scene. I don t want the color hyped up and saturated. I want the photography to look ju st like what Im seeing ( Art and Soul, 2008, para. 12). Christenberry admits that his work springs out of a deep love and attachment to the county where he was born and raised. It info rms all of his work. He is interested in showing not just a Southern way of life, or an Alabama way of life, or a Hale County way
22 of life, but life as he experienced it. The familys involvement with or attachment to that county and that place cant help but affect the way I s ee it. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears were put into that landscape by these families hard-working, deeply committed people (Christenberry in Lange, 2008, p. 13) His work is, therefore, not just representative of a region, culture or socioeconomic group, but of Christenberrys own experiences with that place. His mother on ce asked him why he doesnt shoot any of the sprawling, ornate antebellum mansions that popu late the area. Chri stenberry feels that the buildings are too accessible, too readymade for making a picture of them (in Lange, 2008, p. 15). But perhaps it is also th at these mansions are not the type of structures Christenberry and his family lived in or were surrounded by on a daily basis. Christenberrys upbringing was a modest one; hi s father drove a bread truck for several years, and his uncle ran a general store. Those mansions and the people who lived in them were not Christenberrys people. He was more interested in seeing and studying what was around him, the landscape of his youth, and the structures in that landscape touched by men like him. Due to this subj ect matter, Christenberrys photographs seem similar to the FSA photographs of the 1930s. Both chronicle a rural, slow-to-develop, behind-the-times South which is struggling to keep up with the rest of the nation. But whereas the FSA photographs were meant not merely to document, but to exploit or condemn that rural Southern culture, Christen berrys images document the vestiges of the region in order to preserve and celebrate them. It is important to recognize that Christenberry was so influenced by Agee and Evans book, both of whom worked for the FSA. Both the FSA and Christenberrys work is biased, but their stances are quite different. My stance is very subjective. The place is so much a part of me. I cant
23 escape it and have no desire to esca pe it. I continue to come to grips with it. I dont want my work to be thought of as maudlin or overly se ntimental. Its not. Its a love affair a lifetime of involvement with a place. The place is my muse (i n Hirsch, 2005, para. 52). Christenberrys first image was taken in 1961. It was made with his childhood Kodak Brownie camera Christenberry used to record scenes he wanted to recreate in paint. Christenberry says his Brownie phot ographs are as honest a statement as Ive ever made in my work, because I wasnt th inking about making art. I was photographing things that caught my eye (2007, p.3) House, Stewart, Alabama (Fig. 1), taken in 1962, before Christenberry saw himself as an art pho tographer, foretells of the kind of work he would create later in his career, and the type of structure and landsca pe that continues to engage his creative eye. As Christenberrys career developed, he began to branch out in different creative mediums. Christenberrys th eme, however, is singular: the history, the very story of place, is at the heart of his project (William Christenberry, 2008, para. 1). Lucy Lippard defines place as space combined with memory (1997, p. 9). And Memory, in all its slippery in constancy, is integral to Chri stenberrys work (Dykstra, 2007, para. 2). Since 1961, he has returned to the South and Hale County yearly to re-photograph the landscape and structures which dot that landscape. His work shows the inevitable marks time has affected on the land, and what it has done to the culture of the South. Holly Koons McCullough, curator of fine arts and exhibits at the Te lfair Museum of Art in Savannah, who recently held a Christenberr y retrospective, says, In the age of the New South, Christenberrys work memoria lizes the disappearing aspects of the region,
24 reminding us of the relentless march of time and the bittersweet ce rtainty of change (William Christenberry, 2008, para. 10) The Photographs. One structure, which Christenberry calls Building with False Brick Siding, he has photographed in Wa rsaw, Alabama, from 1974 to 1994 (Fig. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). The series of images shows the stru cture being taken over by vines, starting first as a single growth up one pill ar on the right of the porch, to engulfing the entire structure a decade later. The building is only revealed dur ing winter when the vine briefly dies off. But when the seasons change and the rain co mes, the vine flourishes again, and the building is reclaimed by the S outhern landscape. This seri es of images not only shows the passage of time on this abandoned buildi ng, but also portrays the landscape as a living, breathing organism, that although man may attempt to a lter it, clear it, build upon it, is capable of reasserting itself and recl aiming that which man has taken. The vines swallow the building, and it is almost imperceptible that a man-made structure is even there. The building is hidden in the landscape ; history is hidden in the landscape. In a lecture given at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 26, 2007, Christenberry discusses a phot ograph of a roadside landscape engulfed by kudzu vine. Kudzu with Storm Cloud, near Akron, Alabama, 1981 (Fig. 7) shows a similar scene. He remarks to the predominantly Southern crowd, I dont have to tell you what this is. Southerners are all too familiar with the plan t and the effects it has had on the Southern landscape. Kudzu was first in troduced to the United States in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. In the 1930s, a congr essional division named the Soil Erosion Service, recommended its use in the South to help stop th e soil erosion caused by overuse of the land from poor agricultural methods a nd over-planting of crops. About 85 million
25 kudzu seedlings were given to southern landow ners by the Soil Erosion Service for land revitalization and to reduce soil erosion. Th e Civilian Conservati on Corps also planted kudzu throughout the South. About 3 million acres of kudzu had been planted on farms by 1946 (Everest, 1999, para. 4). What could not have been predic ted, however, was the Souths perfect combination of soil, humidity and weather whic h allowed the invasive vine to grow at astounding rates. By the 1950s, kudzu had sp read rapidly throughout the South because of the long growing season, warm climate, pl entiful rainfall, and lack of disease and insect enemies Today, an estimated 7 million acres of land in the Southeast are infested with kudzu (Everest, 1999, para. 9). Christenberry first began photographing kudzu in 1978 (Fig. 8) (Lange, 2008). Kudzu Devouring Building, near Greensboro, Alabama (Fig. 9) taken in 2004, shows further evidence of the deleterious effect th is parasitic plant has had on the Southern landscape. Although it is a non-native species, kudzu has become emblematic of the Southern landscape. These images dem onstrate the failure of the manmade to withstand the steady encroachment of natu re (Dykstra, 2007, para. 7). The kudzu covers the evidence of man, yet takes on the contours of the structure man made, leaving a lingering reminder of what once was. Although not a part of the landsca pe like the kudzu-covered buildings, Christenberrys subject Green Warehouse, Newburn, Alabama (Fig. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14) depicts a building that, because of its faded, lim ey color, seems to simply rise out of the grass, almost like a hill in the Southern gr asscape. From 1973 to 2004, the building has remained largely unchanged. The remarkab le thing about the Green Warehouse is, in
26 fact, its constancy over 30 years, since that trait is not shared with most of the things Christenberry photographs (Dykstra, 2007, para 8). It effectively conveys, however, that Christenberrys work is not entirely abou t loss and longing. In this case, time has not effected much change to the Green Warehouse. This fact supports the case that the South has not entirely changed over the decades, ei ther. It is not all disappearing some structures and institutions, both positive and negative, rema in. Although a lot changes in the South, a good deal stays the same. It is no t, in fact, being entirely homogenized into mainstream American culture. With this one series of simple, straightforward shots of a dilapidated green building, Christenberry makes a strong statement about the status of the South. In fact, Christenberrys photographic series of individual buildings, gridded images tracing changes over time, are about an ever-the-same presen t, emphatically still here and now, even if the art world, and the rest of our world, too, for that matter, has consigned it to the past (Christenberry, 2006, p. 15). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor and author George Tinda ll said, The Vanishing South, it turns out, has staged one of the most prolonged disappe aring acts since the decline and fall of the Roman Empire (in Smith, 1985, p. 96). The Green Warehouse series exemplifies this in living color. Perhaps one of Christenberrys most we ll-known subjects is the Palmist Building in Havana Junction, Alabama. It is one of Christenberrys most well-documented subjects, and the one that is most personal to him. He fi rst photographed the building in 1961, but he had known the Palmist Building all of my life. Origina lly, it was a country store run by my great uncle S ydney Duncan, my grandmothers brother. It was on my fathers break truck route in the 1940s (Chr istenberry in Hirsch, 2005, para. 44). It also
27 stood in the fork of the road which led to Christenberrys maternal and paternal grandparents homes, so he continued to pass it frequently all his life. Gypsies took over the space when Christenberrys uncle reti red and turned it into a palm-reading and fortune-telling business for a very short time. Christenberr ys 1961 photograph was a rare black-and-white image shot with his Kodak Brownie. The first color picture, and probably the definitive view, was made in 1971 (Fig. 15) (Christenberry in Hirsch, 2005, para. 46). Christenberry continued to retu rn to this site, faithfully documenting the changes in the structure after it was ab andoned (Fig. 16). The weathered boards and growth of trees show the passage of time, wh ile the stage of the foliage marks the passing seasons. The position of the palmist sign in the window also invites commentary on the place of a practice like palm-reading in the ev angelical Christian-dominated South. Just as palm reading turns religion on its head, the inverted sign comments on the place of a palmist in Southern society. The last photograph of the building, in 1988, shows a lonely cluster of trees marking the spot where the structure used to be (Fig. 17) (Dykstra, 2007, para. 8). Eleanor Harvey, chief curator at the Smith sonian American Art Museum, says about images such as the 1988 photograph, Theres a sense of loss, of coming to a place youve been visiting for years a nd realizing that something yo u took as permanent isnt (in Butler, 2007, para. 5). The Palmist Buil ding studies not only re flect Christenberrys love of signs and vernacular architecture but, like all of his work, are acts of preservation (Dykstra, 2007, para. 8). In 2008, Susanne Lange published a comp ilation of Christenberrys photographs, as well as some of his sign-work and sculpture, in a book called Working from Memory
28 Along with the visual record of his wo rk, Lange included personal stories from Christenberry about each of the subjects incl uded in the book. Christenberry has said that the oral traditions of the S outh have greatly influenced his work. He was quoted as saying it was Agees words in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men that resonated with him more than Evans photographs. It was Agee s words Agee being a fellow Southerner, from Tennessee that literally overwhelmed me (Christenberry in Winters, 2007, para. 9). In Working from Memory Christenberry not only tells the stories of how his photographs were made, but also relates an ecdotes from his childhood and life growing up in and visiting Hale County. Taking a seco nd look at Christenberrys work with the benefit of this personal refl ection alongside adds an entire ly new layer to his images. Christenberry speaks in a non-studied, easy conv ersational style about his life and work. He allows the reader to see a very poignant side of his relationship to Alabama, to his family and to his lifes work. By doing so, he gives his reader and viewer the opportunity to better understand not only wh ere he comes from as an artist, but where he comes from. For example, the photograph White Door, near Stewart, Alabama, 1977 (Fig. 18) at first glance appears to be another of Chri stenberrys attempts to capture a particular type of Southern vernacular architecture. However, in Working from Memory Christenberry tells us that this structure is actually the former residence of his Grandparents Christenberry. That white door was in reality much more personal, as it was the exterior door of my grandmothers kitchen (Christenberry in Lange, 2008, p.20). This information gives the image an entirely different sense of depth and profundity, as it suggests all the activity that surrounded it as he was growing up the family who entered and exited, the meals en joyed there, the physical and spiritual
29 nourishment he must have received just inside that door. But as it tells the Christenberry family story, the image also tells the stor y of countless other rural, Southern families living and working in the region as his did. Christenberry revisits the Green Warehous e series in Langes book. He tells how he came to know the owner of the property, Mr Walthall, who also owned the property on which another of his subjects, Black Buildi ng, stands. Mr. Walth all was supportive of Christenberrys work and allowed him to photograph freely and repeatedly on his properties. One year, while Christenberry was re-photographing the Green Warehouse, Mr. Walthall told him of his plans to pa int the building. However, he said to Christenberry, Oh, dont you worry son. Im going to paint it the same John Deere green just for you (in Lange, 2008, p. 38). Furthermore, upon his death, Walthall gave instructions that the building was to remain untouched for Christenberry. Christenberry writes of the gesture, Isnt that nice? (in Lange, 2008, p. 38). With his casual storytelling, Christenberry gives the viewer and r eader the rare opportunity to understand the culture of the South not onl y visually, but personally. The sense of family and community, and Southern grace that has been mythologized in pop culture, is present in this anecdote in living, bona fide form. A se ries of images which were once valuable as a record of the effect of time on a region, is now also a testament to the personal culture of the region. Christenberrys images and words are poi gnant, personal and deeply illuminating. His simple, straight-forward photographs tell the story of a place, its inhabitants and its culture. In the process of documenting the evolution of a building and its surrounding over time, he provides a chroni cle of that structures evol ving identity and thereby, a
30 chronicle of the evolution of the South (Pace/MacGill Gallery, 2008, para. 1) To be able to glimpse inside his minds eye, and explor e and understand Christenberrys relationship to his homeland, gives all viewers, Southern or not, an opportunity to better understand Southern culture. Christenberry is not only telling the story of Hale County with his images, but also telling his own story, bot h as an artist and as a Southerner. I feel very, very fortunate that I have something to say and to record through my work, Christenberry says, I hope I have created a record of what I care about It may not be spelled out in words, but I do hope theres a certain visual poetry to what I do. And it means the world to me (2008, p. 102). Sally Mann The repertoire of the Southern artist has long included place, the past, family, death, and dosages of romance that would be fatal to most contemporary artists. But the stage on which these are played out is always the S outhern landscape, terrib le in its beauty, in its indifference (Mann, 2005, p. 52). Speaking about herself and other Southern artists, photographer Sally Mann said, I think theres certain things you can say about Southern artists, and th at is their love of the land, their commitment to the past, their su sceptibility to myth, but the main thing, I think, about us Southerners is were willing to experiment with dosages of romance that would be fatal to any other post-modern artist (in Cantor, 2006). This can certainly be said on Manns body of work. She ha s spent her career photographing people, landscapes and objects which are both familiar and sentimental to her. It never occurred to me to leave home to make art, Mann said (in Cantor, 2006). Manns first one-person show was in 1977, Sally Mann: the Lewis Law Portfolio, but it was the often nude photographs of her three childre n published in the early 1990s which thrust her onto the
31 national art scene. More recently, however, she has focused her lens on the landscapes of her homeland, Virginia, and landscapes of the South at large. Biography. Mann was born in Lexington, Virginia in 1951. She was raised on her familys large farm in Lexington, wher e she continues to live and work. Mann has rarely left the state. Mann stayed in Virginia for college, and receiv ed a Bachelor of Arts from Hollins College in 1951, and a master of arts in writing from the same school in 1975. According to the Corcor an Gallery in Washington, D.C., which holds some of Manns work in its collection, Manns ach ievements include: numerous awards, including three National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and a Guggenheim fellowship. Time magazine named Mann as America s best photographer in 2001. Her photographs have been exhibited internationall y and are in the permanent collections of major museums worldwide, including the Co rcoran Gallery of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Manns photographs have been featured in several Corcoran exhibitions including In Response to Place: Photographs from The Nature Conservancy s Last Great Places in 2001, Hospice: A Photographic Inquiry in 1996 and Sally Ma nn: The Lewis Law Portfolio in 1977. Her publications include Second Sight, At Twelve, Immediate Family, Still Time, Deep South, and What Remains Mann frequently contributes essays and commentary to her publications, demonstrating her talent for craf ting the written word, as well as a haunting visual image. A documentary film about Manns work, Blood Ties, directed by University of Southern California Film School Graduate Steven Cantor, was nominated for an
32 Academy Award in 1993. Cantor followed that documentary with a feature-length film about Manns career titled, What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally Mann Mann still lives on the same family fa rm where she spent her childhood. In the documentary, What Remains: the Life and Work of Sally Mann she comments that most of the trees on the property were planted by he r father, a sculptor, whom she describes as a modest, but brilliant and complicat ed man. Her husband, Larry, a lawyer professionally, is also a sculptor. Howeve r, Mann became the bread -winning artist of the family with her photography while Larry pursued the law. Mann started as a commercial photographer. In her words, her early wo rk was hand-shake and hand over the check kind-of pictures the swim team, all that stuff (in Cantor, 2006). Her husband, Larry, has said that Mann has always had a camera in her hand since the day they met. After more than two decades of marriage, Larry Mann can tell when she is thinking of a new photograph by th e way her face changes. She sees the world in images, Larry Mann said (in Ca ntor, 2006). Her son Emmet Mann has also said of her creative process, She sees some thing that she doesnt want to forget (in Cantor, 2006). Mann explains why she feels the need to photograph and record what she does, The land itself isnt going to remember but the artist will (in Cantor, 2006). Mann is deeply rooted to the local la nd she photographs; it is her foundation and motivation, it is both what grounds and excites her. One of my favorite poets (William Carlos Williams) makes it all about what he calls the local, and he actually makes it a noun, and hes right For me, the local has 2 parts, my family and the land. They give me comfort in times of failure and, of course theyre the wellspring or inspiration for all of my work (in Cantor, 2006).
33 Other Work. There is nothing more local and in timate than a persons family, and that is where Manns artistic work began. In 1992, her book, Immediate Family, was published. It was a compilation of the work she had done over a several year period photographing her children. The work proved to be both popular and controversial. After working with that project for over ten years, Mann began to focus on the landscapes those children inhabited the landscape of not onl y her children but Mann and her mother as well. Manns first exhibition of th e resulting images was aptly titled Mother Land: Recent Landscapes of Georgia and Virginia The move to landscape photography was an organic evolution. Mann has said that the la ndscape was always present and integral to her photographs, just to a lesser degree. S omehow, it was such a smooth segue between the children and the landscapes; the childre n kept getting smaller and smaller in the pictures and Id be looking at the landscapes and place this little distant child off in it, and then pretty soon the landscapes really took over (in Cantor, 2006) This encroachment of the landscape is evid ent in Manns photograph, Emmett, Jessie, Virginia, 1992 (Fig. 19). Although the children are still the central focus of the image due to their location in the frame, they are reduced to hazy, minus cule figures rendered unrecognizable. Upon closer examination, the viewer sees it is the tree branches, twigs and scrub flowers which figure more predominantly in the photograph. In a 1994 letter to Aperture magazines senior editor Melissa Harris, Mann writes, I sense that theres something strange happening in the family pictures. The kids seem to be disappearing from the image, receding into the landscape. I used to con ceive of the picture first and then look for a good place to take it, but now I seem to find the backgrounds and place the child in them, hoping for something interesting to happen (1995, p. 24).
34 However, in Immediate Family Mann discusses those landscapes in which her children pose, I have lived all my life in s outhwestern Virginia, the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And all my life many thi ngs have been the same Some time ago I found a glass-plate negative picturing the cli ffs in the 1800s. I printed it and held it up against the present reality, and the trees and caves and stains on the rock are identical. Even the deadwood, held in place by tenacious vines, has not slipped down it seems that time effects slow changes here. (in Ma vor, 2002, para. 3). From that statement, it is clear that Mann already saw the landscape as fundamental to her work and to herself as a Southerner. It follows that she would eventu ally make it the central focus of her work. Mann says she was ambushed by my backgrounds and admitted that the resulting images were wildly romantic and sentimental (in Cantor, 2006). As a result, she was expecting them to be poorly received by the art world. However, the opposite was true, and the collection was lauded by critics and vi ewers alike, both Southern and not. In creating her Southern landscape phot ographs, Mann employed an antiquated method of using glass plate negatives and a wet-collodion process. Introduced in 1851, the wet-collodion process is a method of making photographic negatives using a glass plate coated with chemicals. The plate is sensitized in a silver nitrate solution and exposed to light while still wet and sticky, which gives the photogr apher about 5 minutes to make the exposure (Sally Mann, 2004, para. 6). Mann first began experimenting with this process in 1999 (Sip le, 2008). Mann frequently to ok her darkroom with her on shooting expeditions, mixing chemicals and deve loping glass plates under a tent in the back of her sport utility ve hicle. The combination of unstable chemicals and an unpredictable environment in the field led to many happy accidents in the development
35 of several images. Mann likes it that wa y. Many of her favorite photographs contain flaws, discoloration and defect s, which are present due to the fickle nature of the wetcollodion process. Mann marvels at the pe rfection in the prints created by Western expedition photographers, like Carlton Watk ins and William Henry Jackson, who carried their glass plates ou t into the wilderness on donkeys. Mann hopes she never becomes as proficient at the process. The hazy, dream-like quality the process gives her images adroitly communicates the romanticism and sentimentality with which she strives to imbue them. When making th ese photographs, Mann said, I look for it always, the thick, vespertine gloaming that douses the da ys heat. When it comes, the landscape becomes soft and vague, as if inadequately summoned by some shiftless deity, casually neglectful of the details. Making a photograph in these conditions is a challenge and the resulting image often appears to have been breathed onto the negative, a moist refulgence within deepening shadows ( 2005, p. 7). Mann unashamedly admits to making images that are not only documenta ry, but provide commentary on a native observation of the Southern landscape. Sh e sees her homeland as a muse, something which is magical, full of memory, nourishmen t and inspiration. Mann said, There is magic in the landscape, the question is whethe r I could get at it (in Cantor, 2006). As Mann herself states, this treatment is somethi ng common to Southern ar tists, and they get away with it. The wet-collodion process Mann uses for her landscape images was also used during the time of the Civil War by Ameri can photographers like Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner. The large format camera she employs is also the same equipment used during that era. The resulting images which are flecked with marks and blemishes
36 from the sticky collodion negative, are unnervingl y similar to their hist oric counterparts. Where faces and bodies once punctuated dim fi elds, the trees overhead are still rendered in a blur (Siple, 2008, para. 2). This is noteworthy because Ma nn visits and shoots some of the same battlefields and landscapes Brady and his staff documented. The opportunity to see the same or similar la ndscapes, well over a century later, by a contemporary artist like Mann but through th e lens of the same antique equipment provides the modern viewer with such a t hought-provoking look at not only the history of photography, but the history of the S outh and of America. Wet collodion photography was the most popular photograp hic process between about 1850 and 1880 or, during the Souths last gasp, the Civil War and Recons truction (Green, 2004, para. 8). Manns decision to use this process is ex citing and affords her viewers an opportunity to look more acutely into Southern history. However, Manns foray into this type of photography was by happenstance. She stumbled onto a collection of antique glass-plate negatives in the attic of the University of Lexington in 1972 (Mother Land). Taken by a returning Civil War veteran, Mann discovered that many of the images were familiar views of the rivers and cliffs that surround her home. Whereas the post-Civil Wa r images are over a century old and evoke places in the present, Manns Mother Land images, taken in 1996, seem to recall places from a forgotten past (Mother Land, 2001, para. 2). For a Southern artist, however, these places and their history are not forgotte n. Southerners embrace and perpetuate their history and all its traditions and myt hologies. In the opening to her book, Deep South Mann writes, Because of this history of de feat and loss, we Southerners embrace the Proustian concept that the only tr ue paradise is a lost para dise. Like Proust, we know
37 love emerges from loss and becomes memory, and that memory informs and enriches art (2005, p.7). Southerners hold onto the past a nd these mythologies fe rvently, not wanting to yield to advancement and homogenization. Katherine Dieckmann writes in her review of Mother Land Its often said that the South is hyperbolized by those seeking a site of nostalgia and excess, a place where th e sweet, humid air forever carried an aroma of loss But its often Southe rners who promote their own clichs, and every clich contains a smidge of trut h (in Mavor, 2002, para. 10). W.J. Cash, author of The Mind of the South said the landscape of the South was a sort of cosmic conspiracy against reality in favor of romance where directed thinking is all but impossible, a mood in whic h the mind yields almost perforce to drift and in which the imagination holds unchecked sway (in Smith, 1985, p. 6). The viewer can certainly believe this when gazi ng upon the hazy images in Manns book, Deep South Published in 2005, Deep South is a compilation of photographs Mann took throughout the 1990s. She began on her own fa milys land in Lexington, Virginia, and then went further south to Georgia, finally ending up in the Deep South of Louisiana and Mississippi, for which the book is named. The book is divided into sections based on this migration. It begins with plates shot in Georgia, followed by a second section in Virginia. The photographs themselves are not identified by a title or any other way, leaving the viewer to imagine the subject and project their ow n histories onto the images. The middle portion of the book is titled Deep South, the final section is Last Measure, and contains images of former Civil War battlefields. Ending with these photographs is most appropriate since these scenes were the fi nal vision for closing eyes of so many men (Mann, 2005, p. 89). Mann also contributes a short introduction
38 to each of these sections, in which she disc usses her feelings about being a Southerner, and what historys legacy has been to Southe rn people. She is, th erefore, acutely aware of the history and memory that her images conjure. Mann writes, Living in the South often means slipping out of temporal jo int, a peculiar phenom enon that I find both nourishes and wounds. To identify a person as a Southerner suggests not only that her history is inescapable and form ative but that it is also im possibly present (2005, p. 7). The Photographs. One of the early photographs in Deep South is of a tree covered in vines, the edges of the image h azy and black, light filtering through the center and right edge, pulling the viewer into the photogra ph, into the forest, into reverie (Fig. 20). Although this image could be of any tree in any forest, the vine swallowing this tree is kudzu and therefore signals that this is a Southern scene. In fact, it is not even evident that the large mass in the fore ground of the image is a tree the trunk and leaf canopy are not visible. However, a Southern viewer would instantly rec ognize what was hidden beneath those vines. Kudzu has been called the vine that ate the South, and is a familiar feature of the Southern landscape. Kudzu has pervaded Southern life to such an extent that for many it has become a distinct emblem of the South. Refere nces to kudzu abound in folklore, music, literature, advertising, and Sout hern popular culture testifying to kudz us invasion of the individual psyche and the co llective ethos of the South (Blaustein, 2001, p. 55) Therefore, although this image may appear on fi rst inspection to be a simple scene of a lush forest landscape, the image actually sp eaks of the history of an agriculturallystruggling South, where government intervention was needed to keep farms and families
39 afloat, but did not always succeed. Whether or not Manns intention was to convey this type of message, only a Southern artist coul d convey those nuances from such a scene. On page seventy-two of Deep South (Fig. 21), ruined columns of an ancient plantation reach skyward. Decorative ir onwork which may have once adorned a grand balcony is suspended precariously in the s ky. Mann shot this photograph at a sharp upward angle, making the columns appear, at fi rst glance, to be trees. In fact, from Manns perspective, the structur es tower above the tree canopie s in the distance. As the viewers eye is pulled from the darkened lowe r edge of the image, up to the lightened top edge, he realizes that this is not a natural structure, but man-made. These abandoned monoliths seem as ancient as the trees th at surround them, less the product of human hands than of the land itself (Deep Sout h, 2001, para. 1). Page seventy-four also shows such an image (Fig. 22). These beautiful, but decaying, remnants of once-grand plantations tell the story of loss and abandonm ent which occurred afte r the Civil War. The South of moonlight and magnolias, chival rous plantation owners and their beautiful Southern belles was over. Like ancient Roman ruins stand as testaments to the prosperity of a once-great empire, so, too, do these dilapi dated architectural st ructures recall glory days gone by. However, unlike the Roman ru ins, these are not being preserved for any historical significance. They have simply b een abandoned, forsaken remnants of the past. They also expose the fact that progress has not come easily or successfully to the South. The fact that these physical structures are st ill intact suggests that the ideologies which were housed by them may s till be intact, as well. The plate on page eighty-three of Deep South (Fig. 23) speaks more loudly and obviously of the turbulent history of the S outh. An image of a tree in Woodville,
40 Mississippi becomes a striking symbol of the condition of the South. Cutting deep into its trunk, a massive scar becomes the focal point of an otherwise idyllic image; and yet the tree continues to thrive, just as the South itself (Deep South, 2001, para. 1). What happened under that tree? A lynching, a picnic a farms harvest, a slave plantation, kids swinging from its branches? How did that scar seemingly by an axe, come to be there? Although the actual reas on may be benign, the image it invokes is menacing. The aged treatment of the photogra ph harkens the viewer back in history, which for the South was rife with hardship and violence, causing the mind to immediately jump to images of pain or turbulence. The image confronts the viewer plainly with that past and thrusts its pain upon you. The viewer is left with the overwhelming feeli ng that something sinister happened here. And in the history of the Sout h, that something was likely to have ended in death. By the late nineteenth century, mob viol ence had become a prominent feature of race relations in the South that for many symbolized black oppression. Lynching also came to define southern distinctiveness every bit as much as the Mason-Dixon line marked the boundary of the region (Br undage, 1997, p. 4). Although the practice of lynching took place across all regions of th e United States early in the countrys settlement, it continued to o ccur with more frequency and ferocity in the South and became primarily an implement of racism. T he proportion of lynchings that occurred in the South rose with each succeeding decade after the Civil War, increasing from 82 percent of all lynchings in the nation during the 1880s to more than 95 percent during the 1920s (Brundage, 1997, p. 4). There were an estimated threethousand two-hundred and twenty blacks lynched in the regi on from 1880 to 1930 (Brundage, 1997).
41 Furthermore, lynching continued to be carri ed out in the South long after it had been largely abandoned in the rest of the country. Casualties of extralegal violence in some lynch-prone states in the Sout h equaled or exceeded the tota ls of entire regions outside the South (Brundage, 1997, p.4). Given thes e statistics, the Sout h has come to be equated more widely with lynching than the ot her regions of the United States. Many of these executions were carried out via hangi ng. Manns image of the butchered tree, therefore, can readily invoke a mental image of this type of execution. The length and width of the trees scar hi nts that perhaps someone attempted to cut it down. Was the trunk too strong and t ough to be broken? In this way, the tree is emblematic of the South itself. It is matu red, with a strong trunk and deep roots, thriving in a rural landscape, but it possesses a d eep, disfiguring mark which cannot be erased, which it eternally will bear. On page seventy-seven of the book is an image of the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi, the site of young African-American Emmett Tills murder in 1955 (Fig. 24). This image is the only one which Mann singles out to discuss. The murder of Emmett Till has haunted me since I first became aw are of it, early in my life (Mann, 2005, p. 50). The resulting photograph Mann made of th e scene is yellowed, distorted and almost impossible to decipher. Perhaps this is a test ament to the fact that the murder of this young man was also impossible to understand. Mann says of the scene, Pushing through the undergrowth at the rivers edge, we stared in amazement at the humdrum, backwashy feeling of the place. How could a place so fraught with historical pain appear to be so ordinary? (2005, p. 52).
42 The murder of Emmett Till, a black t eenager from Chicago, Illinois, was a motivating event for the Civil Rights Movement in the South. Till was murdered in rural Money, Mississippi while in town visiting family. Till was alleged to have made an inappropriate comment to a local white woman, something that was punishable by judgment of the lynch mob at this time in much of the South. Within Southern communities, interracial intimacy was unevenly distributed. The least intimacy existed between white women and black men therefor e, black men were careful not to look or act offensively in the presence of a wh ite woman, and in general attempt to minimize contacts with them in order to avoid the to o-ready suspicion of wh ite men (Brundage, 1997, p. 53). Young Emmett was caught in the middl e of this delicate dance. As an outsider in the small community of Money, Miss issippi, the retribut ion for such an act was all the more brutal. If a black man accused of misbehavior toward a white woman was a complete stranger, the likelihood of lethal punishment was all the greater (Brundage, 1997, p. 54). Till was kidnapped, beaten and killed by a mob headed by the womans husband, and his body discarded in the Tallahatchie River of Manns photograph. This incident was a pivotal one for many Americans, both in and out of the South, including Mann. In fact, Mann name d her only son, Emmett. When the viewer possesses the benefit of this background, what was once a simple photograph of a river bank is transformed into a social and political document fraught with emotion. The final section of Manns book also gr apples with the Souths history of violence. Last Measure, comprised of imag es of Civil War battlegrounds, contains an image on page one-hundred-eight in which th e rolling hills of the landscape look like burial mounds (Fig. 25). The image suggests that the Southern landscape is alive; there is
43 life beneath the ground, literall y and figuratively. Manns new series could be called Gothic Picturesque. They suggest the fright ening quiet of the Civ il War battlefield at night, or the unsettled ghosts that might roam the landscape today (Green, 2004, para. 7). Perhaps the most defining event in Southe rn history was the Civil War. That event triggered the legacy of the South viewing th emselves as a Gothic, defeated place the memory of that loss has not left the region. Mann writes. in America only the South has known the tread of the occupiers boot and the homeward shamble of defeated soldiers. Pain is a dimension of old civiliza tions; the South has it, the rest of the United States does not (2005, p. 7). John McWilliams My work is inspired by expe riences and life in the Lowcount ry, where the issues of life and its transitions are so poignantly felt within the landscape (in John McWilliams, Artist Biography, para. 1) Unlike Mann and Christenberry, photographer John McWilliams was not born in the South. However, he came to the region as a young man and has spent the past thirty years living, working and photographing his adopted home. McWilliams describes his first visit to the South, a very romantic unde rtaking. All I remember is that when I got back to Providence, I wanted to leave, real bad (in Lesy, 1985, p. 97). True to his words, McWilliams immediately moved to Atlant a, and has remained in the South since. McWilliams length of time in the region, and his devotion to capturing its landscapes photographically, qualifies his work for di scussion here. In his latest book, Working from Memory Christenberry remarked, I think that of tentimes art can make an outsider look back on something he has never been a part of, and make him feel like he has always been a part of it(2008, p. 13). Indeed, there is a definitive u ndercurrent of the local and
44 familiar in McWilliams photographs. His images make interesting juxtapositions with Christenberrys photographs. Whereas Christ enberry spent his ch ildhood in the South, but his adulthood in Washington, D.C., McW illiams spent his childhood outside of the South, but his entire adult life (more than forty years) in Georgia. Therefore, each photographer approaches and attempts to gr apple with the landscape from a unique position. Through McWilliams images, we have an inside view of the relationship he develops with the Southern landscape the longer he lives in the region. Like both Christenberry and Mann, McWilliams photograp hy began at home. To me the whole involvement with photographing the South has be en an organic recognition. It started in my own backyard, in my own tomato patc h (Rankin, 1989, p. 12) His work begins where most would, exploring th e past through images of old plantations, ancient trees and kudzu-covered landscapes, but ends with im ages of the rapid industrialization and resulting destruction and degr adation of the landscape of the New South. We can see McWilliams discovering, and coming to terms with, the South he is becoming a part of. His eyes become more open as he looks fo r more photographic subject matter, and our eyes become more open to the realities of the new Southern landscape as well. Biography. John McWilliams was born in 1941 in Massachusetts, and received his Bachelors and Masters de grees in fine art from the R hode Island School of Art and Design (RISD). Since leaving RISD, McW illiams taught photography at Cooper Union in New York before moving to the South, sp ecifically Georgia in 1969. He joined the Georgia State University School of Art and Design faculty that year. Since then, McWilliams has had a successful academic career, expanding the size and reputation of the programs under his direction. McWilliams became the Graduate Director of his
45 department in 1995, and shortly thereafter was made Director of the School. While still working with the university, he maintains a home, a log cabin McWilliams built himself, in the countryside of McClellanville, Georgia. Other Work. McWilliams work has been exhibited both regionally and nationally, and he has been aw arded several honors and grants The same year he became Director of the School of Art and Design, McWilliams was awarded the Georgia Council for the Arts Artist Grant. His biography pr ovided by the Georgia State University lists his awards and exhibitions as follows: Som e Southern Stories at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois in 1999; First Light: The Nexus Photographers 1973-1978 at the Atlanta Photography Group in Atlanta, Georgia in 1998; Sea Change: The Seascape in Contempor ary Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson in 1998; Evicted Sentiments: Southern Documentary Photography at the Southeas tern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1998; Pic turing the South: 1860 to the Present at the High Museum of Art in Atlant a, Georgia in 1996; and Ei ght Georgia Photographers, exhibited in Finland from 1995-1996. McWilliams work is in a number of private and corporate collections includi ng the Jacksonville Art Museum, the Delaware Art Museum, the University of Nebraska Sheldon Art Ga llery, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Fogg Museum at Harvard University, the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Smithsonian National Museum of American Ar t, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Massachusetts In stitute of Technology. Publications containing McWilliams photographs include: Sea Change: The Seascape in Contemporary Photography, Sleep: Bedtime Reading Picturing the South:
46 1860 to the Present A Short Course in Photography The South: A Treasury of Art and Literature Places with a Past: SiteSpecific Art in Charleston A Season of Giants and Land of Deepest Shade: Photographs of the South by John McWilliams Like Christenberry, McWilliams was informed by Agees and Evans book, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men However, McWilliams photos are not celebratory like Manns and Christenberrys. His photographs are always a stark and melancholy black and white. All show a defeated South or an exhausted landscape. Th ere is nothing joyful in his images, although they are still achi ngly beautiful. McWilliams photographs do not function as acts of preservation, but as documents of a forgotten, abandoned South. His images seem more like a testament to all that has gone wrong in the South. As McWilliams absorbed the atmosphere of his home, he saw a landscape that was barren, burnt-out, desolate, washed-out. Stretches of pines and non-descript land that looked like it had been there for centuries without change. I felt I had to go unde r the surface of it. Somewhere, underneath, there were sha dows (in Lesy, 1985, p. 106). Abandoned, once-glorious, now decaying plantation hous es; scarred, depleted earth from overfarming, wastelands of landscapes stripped ba re of any and all na tural resources that could be profitable; and debris from fact ories and industry pollute his landscapes. Theodore Rosengarten, who wrote the introduction to McWilliams 1989 book, Land of Deepest Shade said in an Aperture magazine article, No phot ographer has done more to discover and accept the truth of Southern defeats than John McWilliams (1989, p. 2) His Southern photographs in Land of Deepest Shade both a 1989 museum exhibition at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and an accompanying book published by the Aperture Foundation and the High Mu seum, were taken between 1973 and 1987.
47 Like Christenberry, McWilliams also used a Deardorff camera, but a five by seven inch format, to make his landscape photogra phs (Lesy, 1985, pp. 113-114). The exhibition also traveled to museums throughout the S outh and was comprised of over one hundred of McWilliams images. I think the first one s were when I started to go out into the country and I initially photogr aphed architecture. Those pictures would lead me into pictures I really cared about, pictures about the atmosphere the architecture versus the vegetation. The conflict that might exist there (Rankin, 1989, p. 11) The Photographs. One such photograph opens McWilliams book. Blackville, South Carolina, 1974 (Fig. 26) is of the round neo-cl assical portico of a crumbling Southern mansion. The stature of the struct ure and its fluted columns suggest it may have once been a stately plantation house representative of Southern mythology. However, the house itself is competing, both in the image and in reality, with the advancing foliage and undergrowth in which it is situated. In fact, the front of the house appears to be emerging out of that landscape, not sitting upon it, but a pa rt of it. The wild landscape is in control of the environment, a nd it is only a matter of time before the oncegrand home is consumed and re-claimed by it. Similarly, Dearing, Georgia, 1974 (Fig. 27) and Eatonton, Georgia, 1973 (Fig. 28) both show homes being slowly consumed by vegetation. In Dearing, Georgia, 1974 the process has just begun one vine is creeping across the clapboard porch and up the side of the modest dwelling. It peeks into the homes windo w like an intruder, patiently biding its time until it possesses the en tire structure. In the dark left corners of the image, a porch swing is visible, and the viewer is left to wonder if the home has been recently abandoned, or simply neglected. The home in Eatonton, Georgia, 1973 conversely, is a
48 much grander home, but also shows obvious evid ence of long-term neglect. The floor to ceiling windows are barred with rotting shu tters, and the frontporch columns, once majestic in scale, are choked by thick, dry vines. Unlike Blackville, South Carolina, 1974, it is those gnarled vines wh ich are the focal point of the photograph; the house has become the backdrop for the wild landscape. In Sumter County, Georgia, 1973 (Fig. 29), the metamorphosis is complete. The building in this image, perhaps a barn, shed or small home, is completely engulfed by vines. It has now become a part of the la ndscape. It is impossible to tell what the structure once was; the vines conceal the s cale of the building, onl y a roof-line can be discerned. In Crowfield Plantation, 1974 (Fig. 30), McWilliams photographs a single remaining wall of what we know from the title to have been a plantation house. The word plantation suggests al l sorts of stereotypes incl uding a grand, columned manor house (like in McWilliams other images) popul ated by cavaliers, Southern Belles and their slaves, sitting atop a sweep ing vista of cotton or tobacco fields. Here, however, the myth of the plantation paradigm is uncovere d, literally. The building has been worn down by time and the unforgiving Southern weathe r year after year until all that remains are a few bricks. Likewise, although many S outhern image-makers would like to hold onto the memory of the Southern plantati on, the allegory has gone with the wind. McWilliamss landscapes depict scenes from various historical stages, from remnants of original sites to frightful in carnations of the New South (Rosengarten, 1989, p. 7) One image of the failures of the New South is Oconee River, 1973 (Fig. 31) depicting a deteriorating tres tle bridge stretching over a murky body of water. And once
49 again, the vines we see overwhelm so many of McWilliams subjects here, too, have begun to crawl up and claim the structure. The machine may have intruded into the garden, but nature is swallowing it. Just as the steel bridge and cement pillars stand as a testament to American engineering, the Sout hern environment evid ences its erosive and corrosive impact over time. No longer serving its intended purpose, the bridge stands as a testament to the attempt and frequent failure of the South to advance and industrialize. The photograph, then, becomes a document of that failure. History may have occurred here, but it is not occurring now, Rose ngarten observes (in McWilliams, 1989, p. 5) Bridges like the one in Oconee River were one of McWilliams preferred subjects. However, he describes an epiphany he ha d one day while shooting under a bridge in Kentucky. I was standing underneath a highw ay bridge I got a sense of the scarred land, the dirt, lit by this prophetic, holy light. It was timeless underneath there. I saw the land for the first time Everyone looked at what was on top, but underneath was the enigma on which everything rested (in Lesy, 1985, p. 108) From that moment on, McWilliams decided to travel the South, phot ographing its landscape along the way. As author Michael Lesy describes it, McWilliams had the hope and the indictment that all were hidden in the shape of the southern land (1985, p. 108). In Washington County, Georgia, 1975 (Fig. 32), McWilliams shows us another muddy body of water, this time running through a ravaged landscape. Being in the South at that time (1970s) I found things were ch anging rapidly. You would go to these places and it was just startling sometimes. The land was being completely transformed and changed. You really didnt have to look very hard to find the juxta positions of new with the old, the scarred land of development and that sort of thing. (Rankin, 1989, p. 13)
50 The natural landscape here has been decima ted to make way for industry and profit; a barren, uninhabitable wasteland is all that remains. The image tells not only of the wasteful agricultural practices of the New South, but also re minds us of the unsuccessful attempts at farming during and followi ng the Great Depression, when government intervention was needed to save the Souths agrarian poor. The South has not learned its lesson, this image says, the scale may be larger, but the result is the same. McWilliams documents a similar scene again in Copperhill, Tennessee, 1977 (Fig. 33). Washington County and Copperhill could be mistaken for differently angled views of the same landscape, with Copperhill shot from a more removed distance. However, we know from the photographs titles that they are two di fferent locations in two different states in the South. McWilliams po ints out to the viewer that this type of environmental misuse occurred throughout the re gion, and on a large scale. The hole left in the landscape in Copperhill is canyon-like, and the vantage point McWilliams gives his viewer pulls him down into that abyss. The landscape which stretches out for miles in every direction from the chasm is patchy and barren, only broken by roads which seem to lead to nowhere. Where are all the people who created this mess? It certainly took a great number of men and machinery to create such a canyon. But, th ey are gone now. All that is left is wasted land. McWilliams image s uggests the uselessness of this practice. Neither Christenberry nor Mann come cl ose to touching this type of subject matter. Perhaps it is because they have seen th is type of waste all their lives that they are not as moved by it. McWilliams, on the other hand, seems to be calling out to Southerners and demanding they pay attention to what they ar e destroying. These series of photos have a decidedly environmental bent These are images of sterile and denuded
51 landscapes possibly caused by over-cutting or strip-mining. For Sout herners, The land is a great provider, they all sa y; it is the essential provider, and we kid ourse lves to think we can put it behind us or continue to do to it the unutterable things we have been doing (Rosengarten in McWilliams, 1989, p. 7) Chatooga County, Georgia, 1974 (Fig. 34) captures a barren meadow littered with debris. A furrow runs through the center, runnin g out of the image and into the viewer at the bottom of the frame. The scene could almo st be mistaken for a Civil War battlefield a left over foxhole or bunker full of the wreckag e of longvanished soldiers. However, another battle has been waged here, that of man versus natu re. This is a sterile and denuded landscape, possibly as a result of st rip mining or deforest ation. The land has been abused and discarded, populated only w ith the garbage of those who abused it. One of the enduring witnesses to these activities are the Sout hern live oaks. Trees are McWilliams continuing primary subject (Rosengarten in McWilliams, 1989, p. 2). The grand, spreading oaks of th e Southern landscape ar e one of its most widely-recognized natural features. McWilliams titled his book of Southern landscape photographs, The Land of Deepest Shade referring, in part, to the refuge from the heat these giants provide. However, these tr ees also live for over a hundred years and, therefore, have born witness to both the negati ve and positive events of Southern history. The trees are much like the Southerner himself, deeply tied to the landscape, influenced and marked by events past and present. Alabama, 1975 (Fig. 35) is perhaps one of McWilliams most profound images. At the center of the photograph is a giant oa k with a strong, stra ight trunk, and widereaching canopy. At first glance, the canopy appe ars to be festooned with silver strands
52 of Spanish moss that adorn many oaks in th e South. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that it is not moss, but someth ing else. The ground below the oak is also strewn with the web-like debris. It is th e waste product from a co tton gin, the effluent blown out the back of a building where cotton seeds are removed from the lint. The poor tree standing in the foreground cannot get out of the way. Being rooted means it has to submit (Rosengarten in McWilliams, 1989, p. 6) In a region whose primary industry was ag ricultural crops, the crop which reigned supreme was cotton. The cotton industry got its start near the end of the 18th century in Georgia and South Carolina (Cooper and Terrill, 2002, p. 180). It quickly became the staple crop of the South. By 1860 cotton fields stretched from North Carolina in the east to Texas in the west and from Tennessee down to Florida At the beginning of the century just over 73,000 bales were produ ced; by 1820 that number had almost quintupled, to just over 335,000 bales (Cooper and Terrill, 2002, pp. 180-181). The invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney a llowed for this production of ever-increasing cotton harvests by providing a more efficient way to separate the seeds from the cotton. However, the enormous amount of cotton grow n and processed on Southern land took its toll. The injury cotton has d one to the southern land ca nnot be attributed to the tailings from the ginning process, which can be vacuumed or swept away. Concentrated in one place, however, they a llude to the extractive nature of cotton farming, a process that can be as ruinous to the land as st rip mining (Rosengarten in McWilliams, 1989, pp. 6-7). This is perhaps McWilliams most iconi c image of the South. It tells of not only of the Souths landscape, but of its colonial Civil War and Recons truction history, as
53 well as its dark record of slavery, share-cr opping and too often disastrous attempts at industrialization. Rosengarten sums it up perfectly when he says, the landscapes of John McWilliams show us where we find ourselves (Rosengarten, 1989, p. 2). For the Southerner, the history of the region they call ho me is inescapable. It lives on in the land of their ancestors. The landscape all too often bears the mark of that history, constantly reminding the Southerner it is a part of them. John McWilliams photography has brought him home to the South, and made him a part of its narrative. I always kept coming back there (to McClellanville ). To me, its one of the few places that is relatively wild. When I was doing the landscapes that deal with analogy and irony I was really trying to make some sense of the land scape outside myself But going back to McClellanville, theres something very pe rsonal about that (Rankin, 1989, p. 14)
54 Epilogue Photographs are about memory providing pi ctures to fill voids, illustrating our collective memory. So they are an excellent means with which to trigger concern and soothe anxieties about history and place (Lippard, 1997, p. 20). What photographers William Christenberry, Sally Mann and John McWilliams have accomplished is to contribute to the collective memory of their community, and to help reconstruct the national memory of the South to one that is more representative of the people who live there. It has been photography which ha s arguably had the most sustained, wideranging, and indelible role in chronicling how the region has perceived itself and been understood (or misunderstood) by others (Dugan, 1996, p. 14). Through their images of the Sout hern landscape, photographers William Christenberry, Sally Mann and John McWilliams consider what it means to be from the South. The very choice of the land as their s ubject testifies to both the importance of the land to the Southerner as well as its vene rated place in Southern culture. The photographs these artists create allow both the viewer and the photographer to explore and comment on the themes of home, family and community, as well as the distinctive history, which the Southern land signifies. Another American landscape photographer, Ma rk Klett, has said that the objective of his work is to lessen the distance one often feels when looking at landscape photographs The longer I work, the more importa nt it is to me to make photographs that
55 tell my story as a participant, and not just an observer of the land (in Lippard, 1997, p. 182). These Southern landscape photographers achieve just that. Because they are photographing the landscapes in which they ha ve spent their lives, the resulting images are unavoidably inculcated with their persona l stories. And they share those stories, Southern stories, with all of us.
56 References Blaustein, R.J. (2001). Kudzus Invasion into Southern United States Life and Culture Retrieved September 9, 2008 from www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/ja/ja_blaustein001.pdf. Brundage, W.F. (1997). Under Sentence of Death: Lynching in the New South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Cantor, S. (Producer/Writer/Director). (2006). What Remains: the Life and Work of Sally Mann [Motion Picture]. United States: Zeitgeist Films. Cash, W.J. (1941). The Mind of the South. New York: A.A. Knopf. Christenberry, W. (1983). Southern Photographs. Millerton, New York: Aperture, Inc. Christenberry, W. (2007). William Christenberrys Black Belt. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. Christenberry, W. and Lange, S. (2008). Working from Memory Gottingen, Germany: Steidl. Cooper, W.J. and Terrill, T.E. (2002). The American South: A History, Volume 1. New York: McGraw-Hill. Daniel, P. (1972). The Shadow of Slavery: Peonage in the South, 1901-1969. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Dugan, E. (Ed.) (1996). Picturing the South: ph otographers and writers. Atlanta: High Museum of Art; San Fr ancisco: Chronicle Books. Dykstra, J. (2007). Southern exposure: a current career survey of works in diverse mediums by William Christenberry show s him continually revisiting sites in his native Alabama, a lifelong artistic obsession. Art in America, May, 2007 Retrieved July 7, 2008 from http://findarticles.com/p/ar ticles/mi_m1248/is_5_95/ai_n25439036 Egerton, J. (1974). The Americanization of Dixie: the Southernization of America New York: Harpers Magazine Press.
57 Gaston, P. (1970). The New South Creed: a Study in Southern Mythmaking New York: Knopf. Green, T. (2004). D.C. Diary Retrieved July 24, 2008 from www.artnet.com/Magazine/rev iews/green/green8-27-04.asp Harris, M. (1995). Sally Mann: Co rrespondence with Melissa Harris. Aperture, 138, 24-35. Hirsh, R. (2005). The muse of place and time: an interview with W illiam Christenberry. Afterimage. Nov-Dec, 2005 Retrieved September 18, 2007 from http://findarticles.com/p/ar ticles/mi_m2479/is_3_33/ai_n15999827 Huntington, E. (1924). Civilization and Climate New Haven: Yale University Press. Lesy, M. (1985). Visible Light: Four Creative Biographies. New York: Times Books. Lippard, L. (1998). Outside (but not necessarily beyond) the Landscape. Aperture, 150 60-69. Lippard, L. (1997). The Lure of the Local. New York: the New Press. Mann, S. (1997). Mother land: recent landscape s of Georgia and Virginia. New York: Edwynn Houk Gallery. Mann, S. (2003). What Remains Boston: Bullfinch Press. Mann, S. (2005). Deep South. New York: Bull Finch Press. Mavor, C. (2002). Mother Land Missed: Longing for Sally Manns Landscapes. Retrieved July 24, 2008 from www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/C ontent?imageIndex=1&oid=16975. McWilliams, J. (1989). Land of Deepest Shade: phot ographs of the South. Atlanta: High Museum of Art. Oshinsky, D. (1996). Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice New York: Free Press. Phillips, U. (1929). Life and Labor in the Old South Boston: Little, Brown and Co. Rankin, T. (1989). Land of Deepest Shade: An Interview with John McWilliams. Southern Changes, 11 10-14.
58 Siple, A. Sally Mann Retrieved July 24, 2008 from www.mocp.org/collections/permanent/mann_sally.php Smith, S.A. (1985). Myth, Media and the Southern Mind. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. Vance, R. (1945). All These People: the Nations Human Resources in the South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Watkins, C. (1982). The Blurred Image: Documentary Photography and the Depression South Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International. Williams, J. (2008). William Christenberry: Ro oted Deeply in the South Retrieved September 9, 2008 from www.gomemphis.com/news/2008/ aug/29/rooteddeeplyin-south Winters, D. (2007). Going Home: William Christenberry. Retrieved October 7, 2008 from www.stopsmilingonline.com Woodward, C.V. (1960). The Burden of Southern History. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
59 Bibliography Allen, B. and Schlereth, T.J. (1990). Sense of Place: American Regional Cultures. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. Art and Soul: Southern Comfort. (2008, July 13). Retrieved October 7, 2008 from http://savannahnow.com/node/532967 Beaver, P. and Hill, C. (Eds.) (1998). Cultural Diversity in the U.S. South: Anthropological Contributions to a Region in Transition. Athens: University of Georgia Press. Brannon, B. and Fleischhauer, C. (1988). Documenting America: 1935-1943. Berkeley: University of California Press. Brownlee, P. (Spring 1994). Interview with William Christenberry. Southern Quarterly: A Journal of Arts in the South, 32, 3 89-95. Brundage, W.F. (2000). Where These Memories Grow: History, Memory and Southern Identity. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Butler, C.K. (2007). Time After Time: William Christenberry embraces the impermanent. Retrieved July 7, 2008 from www.smithsonian.com Clayton, B. and Salmond, J.A. (1987). The South is Another Land: Essays on the Twentieth-Century South. New York: Greenwood Press. Cobb, J. (2005). Away Down South: a Histor y of Southern Identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Corn, A. (1998). Photography Degree Zero : Sally Mann, Aaron Rose, Edwyn Houk Gallery, New York, New York. Art in America, Jan n.p. Retrieved September 18, 2007 from http://findarticles.com/p/ar ticles/mi_m1248/is_n1_v86/ai_20148118 Daniel, P. (1985). Breaking the Land: The Transformation of Cotton, Tobacco, and Rice Cultures since 1880. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Daniel, P. and Stange, M. (1987). Official Images: New Deal Photography. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
60 Daniel, P. (1996). Standing at the Crossroads: Southe rn Life in the Twentieth Century. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Dowling, S. and Sollins, S. (2003). Art:21: Art in the twenty-first century: seasons one and two. Alexandria, VA: PBS Home Video. Elliott, S. (1996). The South by its Photographers. Birmingham: Birmingham Museum of Art. Escott, P., Goldfield, D., McMillen, S. and Turner, E. (Eds.) (1999). Major Problems in the History of the American South. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Feaster, F. (2006). Speakeasy with William Christenberry Retrieved July 7, 2008 from http://atlanta.creativeloafing.com/gyroba se/william_christe nberry/Content?oid =155184 Fowler, H., Freehling, W., Poes ch, J., et al. (1999). A Place Not Forgotten: Landscapes of the South. Lexington: University of Kentucky Art Museum. Gefter, P. (2006). Southern Exposures: Past and Present through the Lens of William Christenberry. Retrieved July 7, 2008 from www.nytimes.com/2006/07/02/ar ts/desgign/02geft.html Glusker, I. (ed.) (1975). A Southern Album: recollections of some people and places and times gone by. Birmingham, AL: Oxmoor House. Golden, T. (2001). Art 21: art in the twenty-first century. New York: Harry N. Abrams. Goldfield, D.R. (1987). Promised Land: the South since 1945. Arlington Heights, IL: Harlan Davidson, Inc. Grundberg, A. (2003). The Land Through a Lens: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Spain: Smithsonian Institution. Grundberg, A. (2001). In Response to Place: Photographs from the Nature Conservancys Last Great Places New York: Bullfinch Press. Harper, F. and Presley, D.E. (1981). Okefinokee Album. Athens: University of Georgia Press. Hornaday, A. (2004, June 6). Remains to be Seen. Retrieved September 30, 2008 from www.washingtonpost.com
61 Jacobson, D. (2002). Place and Belonging in America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Jussim, E. and Lindquist-Cock, E. (1985). Landscape as Photograph. New Haven: Yale University Press. Kwilecki, P. (1981). Understandings: Photographs of Decatur County, Georgia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Leigh, J. (2000). The Land Im Bound To. New York: Norton. Naef, W.J. (1975). Era of Exploration: rise of landscape photography in the American West, 1860-1885. Buffalo: AlbrightKnox Art Gallery. National Museum of Amer ican Art. (1992). Between Home and Heaven: Comtemporary American Landscape Photography. Albuquerque, N.M.: University of New Mexico Press. Orvell, M. (2003). American Photography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pegler-Gordon, A. (2006, February). Seeing Images in History. Perspectives, 44, 2831. Pool. P. (ed.) (1999). The Altered Landscape. Reno: Reno Museum of Art in association with University of Nevada Press. Price, R. (1989). Neighbors and Kin. Aperture, 115, 32-39. Rankin, T. (2007). Introduction: Th e Injuries of Time and Weather. Southern Cultures Summer 2007 Rosenblum, N. (1997). A World History of Photography. New York: Abbeville Press. Sally Mann: Deep South series (n.d.) Retrieved 8/02/2007 from www.pbs.org/art21/artists/mann/card1.html Sally Mann: Mother Land series (n.d.). Retrieved 8/02/2007 from www.pbs.org/art21/artists/mann/card2.html Sideman, A. (2008). Capturing Time with Smithsonian Ex hibitor William Christenberry Retrieved October 7, 2008 from www.imaginginfo.com Smith, D. (1989). Photographys New Southern Dream. Aperture, 115, 16-30.
62 Sollins, S. (2003). Art 21: art in the twenty-first century 2. New York: Harry N. Abrams. Southall, T. (1990). Of Time and Place: Walker Ev ans and William Christenberry. San Francisco: Frie nds of Photography. Spencer, J. (1999). Native Soil: photographs by Jack Spencer. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. Stack, T. (Ed.) (1996). Christenberry Reconstruction: th e Art of William Christenberry. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press. Starnes, R.D. (Ed.) (2003). Southern Journeys: Tourism, History and Culture in the Modern South. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. Stoehr, J. (2008, January 16). William Christenberrys brilli ant photos dont come to light. Retrieved October 7, 2008 from www.charlestoncitypaper.com Stott, W. (1973). Documentary Expression and Thirties America. New York: Oxford University Press. Strauss, D.L. (1998). Sally Mann Edwyn Houk Gallery. ArtForum. Feb, n.p. Retrieved September 17, 2007 from http://findarticles.com/p/ar ticles/mi_m0268/is_n6_v36/ai_20544488. Trachtenberg, A. ( 1989). Reading American Photographs: Images as history, Mathew Brady to Walker Evans New York, N.Y. : Hill and Wang. Wetzel, H. (2005). Deep South. Afterimage. Sept-Oct n.p. Retrieved September 17, 2007 from http://findarticles.com/p/ar ticles/mi_m2479/is_2_33/ai_n15856462 William Christenberry (2006). Retrieved July 7, 2008, from www.aperture.org/store/books-detail-w.aspx?ID=490 Wilson, C.R. (1995). Judgment and Grace in Dixie: Sou thern Faiths from Faulkner to Elvis. Athens: University of Georgia Press. Zanes, W. (1998). Primitive Myths: P hotography and the American South. Afterimage. Jan-Feb, n.p. Retrieved September 17, 2007 from http://findarticles.com/p/ar ticles/mi_m2479/is_n4_v25/ai_20418249
63 Appendix A: The Photographs
64 Figure 1 House, Stewart, Alabama, 1962. William Christenberry Figure 2 Building with False Brick Siding, Warsaw, Alabama, 1974. William Christenberry Figure 3 Building with False Brick Siding, Warsaw, Alabama, 1982. William Christenberry Figure 4 Building with False Brick Si ding, Warsaw, Alabama, 1984. William Christenberry Figure 5 Building with False Brick Sidi ng, Warsaw, Alabama, 1991. William Christenberry Figure 6 Building with False Brick Si ding, Warsaw, Alabama, 1994. William Christenberry
65 Appendix A (Continued) Figure 7 Kudzu with Storm Cloud, near Akron, Alabama, 1981. William Christenberry Figure 8 High Kudzu, near Akron, Alabama, 1978. William Christenberry Figure 9 Kudzu Devouring Building, near Greensboro, Alabama, 2004. William Christenberry Figure 10 Green Warehouse, Newbern, Alab ama, 1973. William Christenberry Figure 11 Green Warehouse, Newbern, Alab ama, 1978. William Christenberry Figure 12 Green Warehouse, Newbern, Alab ama, 1989. William Christenberry Figure 13 Green Warehouse, Newbern, Alab ama, 1997. William Christenberry
66 Appendix A (Continued) Figure 14. Green Warehouse, Newbern, Alabam a, 2004. William Christenberry Figure 15 Side of Palmist Building, Ha vana Junction, Alabama, 1971. William Christenberry Figure 16 Palmist Building, Havana Junction, Alabama, 1981. William Christenberry Figure 17 Site of Palmist Building, Havana Junction, Alabama, 1988. William Christenberry Figure 18 White Door, near Stewart, Al abama, 1977. William Christenberry Figure 19. Emmett, Jessie, Virginia, 1992. Sally Mann Figure 20 Untitled. Sally Mann
67 Appendix A (Continued) Figure 21 Untitled. Sally Mann Figure 22 Untitled. Sally Mann Figure 23 Untitled. Sally Mann Figure 24 Untitled. Sally Mann Figure 25 Untitled. Sally Mann Figure 26. Blackville, South Carolina, 1974. John McWilliams Figure 27. Dearing, Georgia, 1974. John McWilliams
68 Appendix A (Continued) Figure 28 Eatonton, Georgia, 1973. John McWilliams Figure 29 Sumter County, Georgia, 1973. John McWilliams Figure 30 Crowfield Plantation, 1974. John McWilliams Figure 31 Oconee River, Georgia, 1973. John McWilliams Figure 32 Washington County, Georgi a, 1975. John McWilliams Figure 33 Copperhill, Tennessee, 1977. John McWilliams Figure 34 Chatooga County, Georgia, 1974. John McWilliams
69 Appendix A (Continued) Figure 35 Alabama, 1975. John McWilliams