A fresh visual perspective on the American South

January 2, 2019


“Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South”, an exhibition currently on view at The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston, South Carolina, comprises fifty-six photographers’ visions of the American South over the first decades of the twenty-first century. And it offers a composite image of the region with works by Matt Eich, Lucas Foglia, Mark Steinmetz, Gillian Laub, to name a few. The selection of photographs echoes stories told about the South as a bastion of tradition, as a region remade through Americanization and globalization, and as a land full of surprising realities. The project’s purpose is to investigate the senses of place in the South that congeal, however fleetingly, in the spaces between the photographers’ looking, their images, and our own preexisting ideas about the region.

© Alex Harris, Eliza’s Birthday Party, 2004, From the Family series Durham, North Carolina
© Burk Uzzle, Green House, 2010, Southeastern Virginia
© Chandra McCormick, The Baptism, 1986, ca. 2010, From the River Roads series, Zion Travelers Baptist Church, Phoenix, Louisiana
© Daniel Beltrá, Oil Spill #4, 2010, From the Spill series, Gulf of Mexico

As described in the introduction, “Southbound” embraces the conundrum of its name. “To be southbound is to journey to a place in flux, radically transformed over recent decades, yet also to the place where the past resonates most insistently in the United States,” it says. “To be southbound is also to confront the weight of preconceived notions about this place, thick with stereotypes, encoded in the artistic, literary, and media records. Southbound engages with and unsettles assumed narratives about this contested region by providing fresh perspectives for understanding the complex admixture of history, geography, and culture that constitutes today’s New South.”

© John Lusk Hathaway, Backman’s Seafood, 2013, From the Archaeology of Water series, Sol Legare Island, South Carolina
© Magdalena Solé, Brooklyn Chapel, 2010, From The Delta: A Journey through the Deep South series, Greenwood, Mississippi
Lauren Henkin, As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God,2015, From the What’s Lost Is Found series, Hale County, Alabama
© Kathleen Robbins, Shotgun House, 2009, From the Into the Flatland series, Leflore County, Mississippi

Recognizing the complexity of understanding any place, let alone one as charged as the American South, the exhibition’s approach is transdisciplinary. The photographs are complemented by a commissioned video, an interactive digital mapping environment, an extensive stand-alone website (SouthboundProject.org), and a comprehensive exhibition catalogue. The catalogue draws on expertise from disciplines in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Filmmaker John David Reynolds has produced a documentary featuring interviews with select photographers and writers.

© Mark Steinmetz, From My House, Bird Impressions, 2013, Athens, Georgia
© Rob Amberg, Kelsey Herding Sheep, PawPaw, Madison County, North Carolina, 2014, From the Little Worlds series, PawPaw, Madison County, North Carolina
© Mitch Epstein, Amos Coal Power Plant, Raymond City, West Virginia, 2004, From the American Power series, Raymond City, West Virginia
© Sheila Pree Bright, #ReclaimMLKDay, Black Lives Matter Disrupts M.L.K. Jr. Day Parades Across the Country, 2015, From the #1960Now series, Atlanta, Georgia

The history of the American South is among the most storied of any region in the world. As a result of the vitality of its culture and the diversity of its inhabitants – to say nothing about the salience of photography in the United States – the region has also come to be among the most photographed. Through the exhibition, video, remappings, website, and catalogue – separately and in tandem – the “Southbound” project charts new courses toward expanded imaginings for the twenty-first century South.

© Shelby Lee Adams, Martha and Kizzie in Pink Room, 2008, Wolfe Creek, Kentucky
© Thomas Daniel, Knibb’s Battery, 2004, From the Southern Cause series, Richmond, Virginia
© Titus Brooks Heagins, Devonte, 2008, From the Durham Stories: Not Hell But You Can See It From Here! series, Durham, North Carolina



Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South

October 19, 2018 – March 2, 2019

The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art
161 Calhoun St.
Charleston, SC 29401


© Tommy Kha, Watch, 2015, From the Mi Chine, Mi Loup series, Memphis, Tennessee
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