Celebrating its 10th year, the SlowExposures juried exhibition promotes fine photography about the rural, southern United States. I was fortunate enough to be included in this year’s show and even more fortunate to travel down to Concord, Georgia where I got to see the work and meet some of the artists. It’s one thing to see images online and a whole other experience to see prints in person and get engaged with the work. I was in good company last weekend for the opening reception and juror’s talk and it didn’t hurt either to be in a part of Georgia that felt so far away from home, yet felt like I never left piedmont North Carolina. What SlowExposures is doing is really important for the community in Georgia and the work I saw is equally important in the larger discussion of photography. Here are some of SlowExposures 2012′s greatest hits. Congrats to all that were in the show!
It’s rather hard to believe. Over a year ago, I had some inklings of a senior thesis project that didn’t exist yet. I was (and still am) interested in combining text and image into a single piece. It was an endeavor from the very beginning of my senior year, how exactly to combine text, stories, and pictures into a fluid and cohesive body of work. I’m not so sure that it’s been entirely successful. In fact, I came very close to excluding the handwriting altogether even in December when our first completed pieces were edging to the deadline. It was all the more reason to do it because it was a challenge and still is a bit today. One bit of advice I heard along the way from a man who studied with photographer Minor White for a number of years was that text is plastic. It can change. The pictures can’t. For better or worse, that idea of text being plastic, changeable stuck around in my brain, when my photographs seemed so permanent and static in time.
I became acutely aware of how artists implemented text into their pieces. How long it was, how short, how the text was styled and placed and above, all, the language and tone they were taking. It’s another layer to a project worth considering. I wanted to share a few more photographers and artsits who’ve succeeded.
The list can go on and on. There are a few different ways, I think, that text can assist image or vice versa. Text can simply describe what’s in the image, i.e., what’s there in the denoted image or take the viewer another direction of which the artist is in control in a connotated image. In another way, the artist’s voice comes through, but much like with deciding what to put in that frame of the image, what language, what words, and how much, are used mean so much.
The text’s plasticity comes in to place when it’s reproduced. In a few of these images, what’s written or being said within the text, is hard to read depending on the size, yet the image retains some of its visibility. It’s an important element within the work that suffers a great deal when viewed anywhere else but up close in a gallery or book. Perhaps that speaks to the work as an art object, a specific way of seeing the artist had in mind. Specifically in handwriting, it’s different each time it’s written alongside an image to produce an edition, almost like an original, one-off painting. There’s an important balance that lies in text and image. Not only within the proportionate relationship between the two in terms of size and amount, but how much the two have to do with one another when thinking about them separately as mediums. It’s a happy problem to have.