Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South
Art Exhibition and Event Seriesvisit the site
The Forum for Scholars and Publics, in collaboration with the Power Plant Gallery and the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at NC State University, was excited to help bring Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South to North Carolina.
The Power Plant Gallery and the Forum at Duke organized and presented a full slate of events in dialogue with the exhibition.
About the Exhibition
Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South is about the storied, charged, and enduring place that we call the South. The exhibit is curated by Mark Sloan and Mark Long of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston School of the Arts, and organized in this iteration by author and North Carolina native Randall Kenan into two interrelated exhibitions: Flux: Nostalgia vs. the Future, on view at the Power Plant Gallery, and Home: How We Make Ourselves, on view at the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at NC State University.
The purpose of this exhibit is to engage with the South through the eyes and minds of fine art and documentary photographers working in the region since the year 2000, a time when, for all the overlapping processes of economic, demographic, social, and cultural change, it makes sense to think about a New South. The photographs that result from the artists’ sustained thinking about, looking at, and discovery of the multifaceted and startling New South speak to the history, complexity, and ongoing transformation of the region. The images represent the photographers’ own considered responses to their chosen environments — no photographs were commissioned for the project. The Southbound photographs provide the viewer with shifting pathways to moments of unbridled joy and deep frustration, and, ultimately, to an understanding, however fleeting, of this place.
While the South represents too many things to too many people ever to be condensed into any one medium — literary, cartographic, scholarly, or photographic — Southbound opens windows onto the region. The photographs presented underscore the resilience of the South even as they reveal it as a place remade, once again, in the early twenty-first century.
Our Call & Response Series
At the start of the exhibition, the Forum and the Power Plant Gallery reached out to nearly a dozen writers with North Carolina ties and asked each to select a photograph to inspire new writing. Contributors represent a range of genres, including poetry, songwriting, fiction, and nonfiction. The writers hail from all over the state of North Carolina, some having lived here their whole lives and others having arrived more recently. Some are well-known authors while others are on their way to establishing themselves among the South’s literary stars. With our Call & Response series, we’re honored to present new work by Kelly Alexander, Belle Boggs, Kofi Boone, El’Ja Bowens, Ina Cariño, Tyree Daye, Jaki Shelton Green, Malinda Maynor Lowery, Michael Ramos, and Kamara Thomas on the Forum Online.
“The ideas and problems which have dogged the South from the beginning are still afoot: race and the legacy of slavery; the bloody blunder that was secession and the Civil War; a powerful fondness for Jesus and the Protestant religion; a particular food culture tied directly to the agricultural bounty that sprang from that very landscape.” —Randall Kenan
“Before you start, know what you’re trying to achieve with the photo. Have a goal in mind, and think through what you need to do to get there. Go in close. Kneel down if you need to. Ask the subject to lean in towards you a little — it can completely change the way a photo feels.” —Titus Brooks Heagins
“Photographers tell stories with their camera, and as viewers, we must think deeply and create space where reflection can lead to action.” —Caitlin Margaret Kelly
“Featuring photos of interracial couples, oil-ridden oceans and ‘Black Trans Lives Matter’ protests, the collection displays an unmistakable awareness of the social, economic and environmental issues of today. But it does not neglect the influences of the past, as photos of Confederate reenactments, rural churchyards and rifle-adept women illustrate how Southerners still look to the past for guidance and self-understanding.”—Skyler Graham
The photographs at the Power Plant Gallery are presented in partnership with the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University. Programming for Southbound at Duke University is also supported by the Vice Provost for the Arts–Duke Arts, Center for Documentary Studies, and the Art, Art History & Visual Studies Department.