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.