As I work on Southern Memories, The South started out as a magical place like all places children inhabit absolute good and evil that change moment to moment, shadows could become creatures and even wall paper could move, shape shift if you had to stay in bed and look at it for a day or two. Home and church filled your life – that was a constant.
So there are a few of these images in the show, some of the most interesting are done by Ms Jane Robbins Kerr, a woman who took up photography later in life and burns with a passion to make pictures and to tell stories with them. I met this Georgia lady in New York when she came to see a show of Sylvia Plachy work, I heard that accent and turned around to see a ball of energy and, of course had to ask that question; where are you from? Since then I have become one of the people on her journey. Ms Kerr as four images in the exhibition the one that stands out are her groupings of churches and houses taken in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Small black and white photographs that make you aware of the basic language of structures. Simple, almost naive, as if a child had drew them. You recognize them; they reassure. If one was to look at grander building you would find these basics in some variantions it is a human thing.
Because all the pictures have the same viewpoint and central placement in the camera’s frame, one feels that they fall into the tradition of Topography. This is a clean and intellectual approach to making photographs but by her arrangements of images Ms Kerr has created rhythm and magic.
Speaking of magic, when I was a child, Sunday was an all day event from Sunday school to evening service. This was not a delightful day for a child of serendipity. That is why Anderson Scott’s image of an abandoned(?) church with the words “Thank God’ scribbled on the back wall behind the altar brings a smile to me –makes me pause; is it a tribute to something happening, a soul saved, or the realization that church is over for the day? Photography allows you to question the moment and the details of life. Is this the interior of a church Jane R Kerr photograph on her travels through 3 southern states as she found her way home.
I hope once all the pictures of Southern Memories come together that people will try to read the stories created by these photographs being placed in a room together. To look backward to see the good and the bad of a time leaving us now as each moment we move forward.
John A. Bennette