A new exhibition challenges the perceived identity of the American South, at a time when the definition of regionalism itself is in flux.
By Melissa Smith
The New York Times
Accepting the South for what it is, instead of what we imagine it to be, is not easy. “I think that if you were to Google ‘Southern photography,’ you’re going to come up with the images of a rusted pickup truck in a field,” Richard McCabe said. “But the South is as much Houston as it is the Mississippi Delta. I think what we don’t realize is the place is just as connected as everywhere else.”
“New Southern Photography,” an exhibit Mr. McCabe organized at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, challenges the outdated assumption that the South is disconnected and isolated. Many people have tried to create a new visual language for the South, only to fail because they’d presumed there was a singular, representational way to do that. Mr. McCabe, who is the museum’s curator of photography, didn’t make the same mistake.
“‘New Southern Photography’ is not intended to define the South,” Mr. McCabe wrote in the exhibit’s catalog, “but rather to create an open discussion.” And that discussion includes a diverse group of photographers. There are photojournalists: A beautiful collection by Kael Alford depicts the environmental threats to Louisiana’s coastal communities; another collection by Scott Dalton, a Houston-based photographer, tells the story of immigration, drug trafficking, and trade at the United States-Mexico border in Texas.