It's a touchy subject, but as a Southerner, you can't ignore our history any more than a Renaissance painter can ignore the Virgin Mary. And it's impossible to drive down a road or eat a vegetable or pass a church without being reminded of slavery.
Sally Mann Work, Dignity, Presentation I'd park myself in the bookstore and read with one eye on everyone coming in. I remember reading a Robert Bly book of poetry.
There are a number of things that set Southern artists apart from anyone else. Their obsession with place and their obsession with family.
When I read, I take notes and underline things. So reading is a vigorous process for me, but I read in bed. My poor husband is trying to go to sleep, and I'm reaching over him to get the Post-it notes.
Every image is in some way a ?portrait,? not in the way that it would reproduce the traits of a person, but in that it pulls and draws (this is the semantic and etymological sense of the word), in that it extracts something, an intimacy, a force.
I have had a fascination with death, I think, that might be considered genetic for a long time. My father had the same affliction, I guess.
I was just taking pictures to see what they looked like. Just for the fun of it. It wasn't about anything in some cases. Some of them were just about the joy of opening up an aperture and seeing what shows up.
It's always been my philosophy to try to make art out of the everyday and ordinary...it never occurred to me to leave home to make art.
Some of my pictures are poem-like in the sense that they are very condensed, haiku-like. There are others that, if they were poetry, would be more like Ezra Pound. There is a lot of information in most of my pictures, but not the kind of information you see in documentary photography. There is emotional information in my photographs.
There is a great quote from a female writer. She said, 'If you don't break out in a sweat of fear when you write, you are not writing well enough. I tend to agree. I think my best pictures come when I push myself.
When the good pictures come, we hope they tell truths, but truths 'told slant,' just as Emily Dickinson commanded.
Every time it?s the same. It?s easy to prove to myself that good pictures are elusive, but I can never quite believe they?re also inevitable. It would be a lot easier for me to believe they were if I also believed that they came as a result of my obvious talent, that I was extraordinary in some way. Artists go out of their way to reinforce the perception that good art is made by singular people, people with an exceptional gift. But I don?t believe I am that exceptional, so what is this that I?m making?
I have no animus toward digital, though I still pretty much take everything on a silver-based negative, either a wet plate or just regular silver 8x10. But I've started messing a little bit with scanning the negative and then reworking it just slightly.
I will confess that in the interest of narrative I secretly hoped I'd find a payload of southern gothic: deceit and scandal, alcoholism, domestic abuse, car crashes, bogeymen, clandestine affairs, dearly loved and disputed family land, abandonments, blow jobs, suicides, hidden addictions, the tragically early death of a beautiful bride, racial complications, vast sums of money made and lost, the return of a prodigal son, and maybe even bloody murder. If any of this stuff lay hidden in my family history, I had the distinct sense I'd find it in those twine-bound boxes in the attic. And I did: all of it and more.
It's not a lack of confidence, because I can't argue with the fact that I've taken some good pictures. But it's just a raw fear that you've taken the last one.
Sometimes I think the only memories I have are those that I?ve created around photographs of me as a child. Maybe I?m creating my own life. I distrust any memories I do have. They may be fictions, too.
There is something about this process, and about the whole 8 x 10 [camera] business, that takes it out of the arena of the snapshot, even though, of course, I'm always desperate for that feeling. I wanted those family pictures to look effortless. I wanted them to look like snapshots. And some of them did.
When we were on the farm, we were isolated, not just by geography but by the primitive living conditions: no electricity, no running water and, of course, no computer, no phone.