“Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.” — William Faulkner, “Light in August”
It’s been a while since I’ve written about my pictures regarding my senior thesis. So here’s an update. Since my crusade of shooting 100 sheets of 4×5 film during the summer, I’ve dabbled here and there in Northern Virginia, much closer to DC than North Carolina, shooting only a little bit. Thanksgiving break saw a 90-sheet increase in my shooting and later at Christmas, 140 sheets down. I took my first picture within the bounds of thesis during the first week of July 2011. It’s a portrait of my father on the beach. The last image I took for this project (for now) was of a red out building out in the community of Vale, North Carolina. The sun had just set and the landscape had sort of a blue sameness to it, except for this pale red barn out near my great aunt’s house. I’m not one to take pictures of barns, but with one last sheet left, I couldn’t resist the visual symmetry on this clear, winter’s evening. Sometimes you have to take those kind of pictures to get to the next ones. Both of these images I described were taken in extreme circumstances, 100+ degree temperatures on a windy beach, the other, nearly below freezing temperatures out in the foothills. As of now, neither one of these pictures made it into the final edit.
A lot of things have come up when talking and photographing this project regarding growing up in the South, that is say, Southern memory, personal and historic. I’m not so sure “what’s Southern” can even be described in words without mentioning some of the stereotypes of the culture. The South I grew up is nothing like the South Bill Christenberry or Bill Eggelston photographed. It remains a part of American mythology. To me, what’s Southern is something much more simple than old storefronts, sweet tea, or NASCAR, although I have photographed those things to get to the next things. Coming closer, but never quite being able to define Southern heritage. It’s almost like living in a photographic paradox, separating what’s Southern from what’s actually American, or more importantly, what’s personal from what’s global. Of course I think it begins with the Civil War, but, writer Walker Percy puts it more eloquently. It’s a statement of his I still stand by.
“There is a Southern heritage, and it has nothing to do with the colonel in the whiskey ad. It has to do with the conservative tradition of a predominately agrarian society, a tradition which at its best enshrined the humane aspects of living for rich and poor, black and white. It gave first place to a stable family life, sensitivity and good manners between men, chivalry toward women, an honor code, and individual integrity. If one wishes to sneer at such values, let him; but I can’t help wondering if the sneer does not conceal a contempt for all traditions.”
I think that’s what my thesis is all about. Here are some new images from that body of work.