Many southerners have a deeply rooted pride in their identity. An identity shaped by their family, home, traditions, spirituality, and history. It's difficult for me to share this pride. Most often I feel misunderstood, stigmatized, longing for change, lonesome, and haunted. I think these same feelings are also characteristics that represent the South in a rapidly changing cultural landscape. A Southern Myth is a contemporary photography series that explores the relationship between identity and place. In other words, these images are the tropes of a young, lonely, middle-class white man searching for meaning in the American South.
Myth is used as a poetic device to narrate a struggle for both the artist and the region to maintain a sense of identity. Sometimes the role of myth is literal and symbolizes cultural stereotypes or southern spirituality. Many of the images in this series are enigmatic. I frame the context of the image to leave the viewer with more questions than truths. The first impression may not read this way, but the intended tone of this series is optimistic. The subject matter may be bleak or critical, but there is an underlying message of hope.
The process of making these photographs is meditative. I either arrive at an idea through meditation, or I just start walking. I choose a direction and amble through my surroundings. I mine the landscape for aesthetic value and patiently wait for happenstance. My process and concept are also informed by the material I use. The photographs in this series are made with large format and 35mm film. Using different styles of analog cameras allows me to create different levels of intimacy with the subject. Working with film is slower, cumbersome, and exact which makes me a more mindful photographer.
These images are important to me personally, but they also fulfill the role of art in contemporary society. A simple photograph can challenge the viewer’s perceptions of cultural practices. A Southern Myth proposes questions and ideas that relate to a broader discussion of identity in the world while encouraging the viewer to compare their interpretations of the work to their reality.