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Picturing the South: 25 Years

October 1, 2021 | Gregory Harris

On view November 5, 2021–February 6, 2022

In 1996, the High launched the first commissions for Picturing the South, an initiative that taps contemporary photographers to create new work about the South’s rich cultural and geographic landscape and engage with its fraught history. Since then, this ongoing commissioning initiative—which is unique among American museums in its longevity, commitment to place, and diversity of artistic perspectives—has produced a total of sixteen extraordinary bodies of work, some of which are among the most iconic photography projects of the last quarter century. For example, Sally Mann made the major shift from portraiture to landscape; Dawoud Bey created contemplative portraits of Atlanta high school students; Richard Misrach began a ten-year study of the Mississippi River’s industrialized corridor known as “Cancer Alley”; and Alec Soth made the first photographs in what would become his remarkable series Broken Manual.

Celebrating a quarter century of artistic innovation and drawn from over three hundred photographs from the series in the Museum’s collection, Picturing the South: 25 Years will gather work from each of the completed commissions—including signature bodies of work by Alex Webb, Kael Alford, Martin Parr, Shane Lavalette, Abelardo Morell, Debbie Fleming Caffery, Mark Steinmetz, and Alex Harris—and debut new commissions by An-My Lê, Sheila Pree Bright, and Jim Goldberg. By examining the full range of these works, this exhibition presents a complex and layered archive of the region that addresses broad themes including the legacy of slavery and racial justice; the social implications of the evolving landscape and built environment; and the distinct and diverse character of the region’s people. Further, the exhibition affirms the High’s leading role in promoting and considering dialogues around contemporary American photography.

Clouds float low over the top of Stone Mountain in a black-and-white image with a pine tree framing the lower-right corner.

Sheila Pree Bright (American, born 1967), Rituals from the Invisible Empire series, 2019–2021, gelatin silver print, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, commissioned with funds from the Forward Arts Foundation, 2021.154. © Sheila Pree Bright.

A man in a blue tank top stands at the railing of a porch; tattoos on his arm include the state of Louisiana and the phrase "Bottom of the Boot."

Kael Alford (American, born 1971), Jacob Walker’s Tattoo, Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, 2008, pigmented inkjet print, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, commissioned with funds from Paul Hagedorn, Phyllis and Sidney Rodbell, and the H. B. and Doris Massey Charitable Trust, 2012.26.2. © Kael Alford.

A woman sits on a luggage trolley facing a glass railing across from the curved, glass-fronted airport building.

Mark Steinmetz (American, born 1961) Untitled, 2016, gelatin silver print, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, commissioned with funds from the H. B. and Doris Massey Charitable Trust and the Picturing the South Fund, 2018.595. © Mark Steinmetz.


Picturing the South: 25 Years
Thursday, November 4, 4–8 p.m.
Experience the works of sixteen artists commissioned through the Picturing the South initiative. Members see it first and free!

Preregistration is required. For this preview celebration, your ticket guarantees timed entry to the exhibition. We welcome you to arrive early; however, we ask that you enter the exhibition at your designated time.

Visit to reserve free tickets and learn more about this event!

An exclusive benefit at the Contributing Level and above
December 2 and 11, January 12 and 22
Visit for details and registration.

Smartphone Photography Class
Wednesdays, November 3–December 15 (except November 24), 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Members: $200; Not-Yet-Members: $250

Offered in conjunction with Picturing the South: 25 Years, this online class will prompt participants to make their own distinctive smartphone photographs that speak to their personal engagement with the American South. Led by Nydia Blas, we will explore the way we view images on a screen, the opportunities and technical possibilities inherent in using smartphone cameras, and the ways photographs reflect our lives and the world at large.

Inquiring Minds
Tuesday, November 9, 1–2:30 p.m.
Members: $14; Not-Yet-Members: $18

Curious about Picturing the South: 25 Years? Inquiring Minds invites participants to explore the exhibition through small group conversation facilitated by museum educators. The session will focus on a handful of artworks and will be participatory in nature—it will not be a lecture. Come as you are, with your observations, ideas, questions, and opinions.

For more information, visit, email, or call 404-733-5051.

Jim Goldberg
Thursday, November 4
7 p.m., Rich Theatre
Hear from photographer Jim Goldberg as he discusses his new series of pictures that are part of his Picturing the South commission. He will discuss his process and the project with collaborator Laura Wexler, professor of American Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and co-chair of the Women’s Faculty Forum at Yale. Gregory Harris, Donald and Marilyn Keough Family Curator of Photography, will moderate the discussion.

Sheila Pree Bright
Thursday, January 27
7 p.m., Rich Theatre
Atlanta-based photographer Sheila Pree Bright used her Picturing the South commission to explore the verdant and contentious landscape of Stone Mountain. Bright will be in conversation with University of Alabama professor of history Hilary Green. Don’t miss this conversation that explores Bright’s process and ideas behind capturing Confederate monuments in her work.

An-My Lê
Visit for date
7 p.m., Rich Theatre
Hear from artist An-My Lê as she talks about her Picturing the South commission. Lê took inspiration for her project from Specimen Days, Walt Whitman’s autobiographical account of the Civil War, adopting the title The Silent General (Whitman’s name for Union General Ulysses S. Grant). She grouped her pictures into “fragments” (in homage to the poet’s literary structure) that focus on the social unrest that emerged in Washington, DC, in 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd.

Support for Conversations with Contemporary Artists is provided by the Jane F. and Clayton F. Jackson Conversations with Contemporary Artists Endowment.

This exhibition is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

Henry Luce Foundation
The Forward Arts Foundation
Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation

Delta Air Lines

Sarah and Jim Kennedy
Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot
Dr. Joan H. Weens Estate
wish Foundation

Anne Cox Chambers Foundation
Robin and Hilton Howell

The Antinori Foundation
Corporate Environments
Elizabeth and Chris Willett

Farideh and Al Azadi
Sandra and Dan Baldwin
Lucinda W. Bunnen
Marcia and John Donnell
Helen C. Griffith
Mrs. Fay S. Howell/The Howell Fund
Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones
The Arthur R. and Ruth D. Lautz Charitable Foundation
Joel Knox and Joan Marmo
Dr. Joe B. Massey
Margot and Danny McCaul
The Ron and Lisa Brill Family Charitable Trust
Wade Rakes and Nicholas Miller
The Fred and Rita Richman Fund
In Memory of Elizabeth B. Stephens
USI Insurance Services
Mrs. Harriet H. Warren

Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Isobel Anne Fraser–Nancy Fraser Parker Exhibition Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, and the RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund