“I never want to see another picture of ________.” Industry veterans share their pet peeves on themes in contemporary photography. In this series they present their “rule” along with five photographs that break the rule in an effort to show that great work is the exception to the rule.
I never want to see another picture of the low-hanging fruit of the South. I reside again on the farm where I grew up in the American South. The south is in my blood. I know how easy it is to take those sensational photos that portray the stereotypical parts of the South. For 8 years I was co-director of SlowExposures, a photography exhibition focusing solely on the rural South. Since 2011 I’ve been the publisher and editor of South x Southeast photomagazine featuring documentary and fine art photography of the region. I have seen more photos of kudzu and magnolias, angry dogs on chains, plantation homes, rusted-out trucks, cotton still in fields, broken-down houses, poor white trash, and elderly black people on rickety front porches than one person should have to view in a lifetime. I get it, though, as the American South is reflected in all of the above. However, unless presented well, it’s just low-hanging fruit.
It’s so easy to find cliché’s in the South. What’s not easy is finding that photograph that is like a blink. You know it. You’ve driven past it. You saw it and you thought, “wow, that would make a great photograph.” But, you didn’t make it. That’s what Jessica Hines’ photographs of the South are. They are those little glimpses, little blinks into the South. The ones you wish you’d made. Looking at them I imagine myself riding in a convertible along a two-lane road on a hot summer afternoon clicking off photographs. If I was as good. Her photographs also invoke spirits and ghosts, and make tangible our childhood run-wild imaginations growing up in this oppressive heat. They catch the irony, the mysticism, and the trade-off of crazy v. gorgeous. I look at her photographs – wild dogs and trailers, early morning sunrises that catches the dew on the the Fall fields, long-cast shadows of mid-summer southern suns, the ridiculous “architecture” of our tourist “attractions”, the way we dovetail guns and religion, and I think, “yeah, this is good.” This is what I wish I were shooting.