Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category
The book Oraien Catledge: Photographs is now available. Oraien will be signing copies of it at Lumière Gallery on Thursday night. If you can’t make it to Lumière on Thursday, go buy the book from one of your local booksellers.
Here is another segment from the video I produced for Oraien’s upcoming exhibition at the Mississippi Museum of Art. In it he discusses his visual impairment and how it has affected his photographic style.
A couple months back I mentioned that I was asked to make a video for an upcoming exhibition at the Mississippi Museum of Art of Oraien Catledge’s Cabbagetown photographs. I just finished this video and will post a couple segments from it in the coming months.
In this segment, Catledge mentions that, from very early on in his work in Cabbagetown, he brought along a video camera and would often use it in conjunction with his Leica still camera. He notes, “ I don’t have a lot of long films or anything you would call documentary at all, but just the everyday life of these people.” It’s interesting that Catledge didn’t consider his video work to be documentary. He suggests that documentary films are long (meaning, longer than a couple seconds or minutes) and are edited into some sort of structure. I feel like that is the general perception of documentary in the general public, but it need not be. Some of the very first motion pictures— called actualitiés— were often simple, short snippets of everyday life, like a baby being fed or workers demolishing a wall. A documentary photograph can capture a glimpse of everyday life, but a documentary film is supposed to provide something more, like context and commentary (as I have done with the museum video). But why can’t an archival film fragment of everyday life just stand on its own, without a scaffolding of story?
While Catledge often downplayed his filmmaking ability, the short archival clip in this segment is an amazing little actualité. The pan around the front yard captures this family just hanging out, with a mother playing patty cake and a boy being yelled at for climbing on the jungle gym. I love the little girl who moves so she can be in the shot twice and the incessant barking of the dog.
Oraien Catledge took some amazing photographs of the residents of Cabbagetown in the 1980s and 90s. Because of the use of black & white and the focus on working-class subjects, Catledge’s pictures have often been compared to the Depression-era images of Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange. Unlike the FSA photographers, who often took their pictures and moved on, Catledge burrowed into a single place and culture over a long period of time, much like an ethnographer. Catledge was welcomed into the lives and homes of Cabbagetown residents, partly because he showed up there virtually every weekend for over twenty years but also because he routinely gave something back, namely pictures and lots of them. There may be other examples of street photographers who have routinely given prints back to their subjects, but I don’t know any.
A retrospective of Catledge’s work will be published in August, and an exhibition at the Mississippi Museum of Art will begin in October. I’ve been asked to produce a video loop for the museum exhibition, and this segment will be part of that larger piece. To view the video in a larger size, click here. Thanks to Constance Lewis for helping produce this segment.
I’d like to begin a series where I pair a single photograph with an archival sound recording. For this first one, I focus on a photograph of bluesman Blind Willie McTell that was taken by Ruby Lomax on November 5, 1940 in a room of the Robert Fulton Hotel (which was located at the corner of Luckie and Cone Streets in downtown Atlanta). Ruby was the wife of John Lomax, who at the time was the Curator of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress. The Lomaxes travelled extensively throughout the South in the late 30s and early 40s, collecting extensive field recordings of vernacular music. In this recording excerpt, John introduces McTell and then the musician delivers a monologue about the various forms of blues. I particularly like how McTell describes the blues of the 1920s as developing an “alley lope.” Michael Gray recently released an excellent book about McTell, and several pages of this book focus on the Lomaxes’ recording of McTell at the Robert Fulton Hotel in 1940.
In 1983 George Mitchell published an amazing book of documentary photographs of the people and places of Ponce de Leon Avenue. His book is unfortunately now out-of-print, but used copies can be located online. In this video, George talks about working on this book project and compares Ponce of the early 80s to today.
This video blog will typically feature material I’ve shot, but occasionally I’ll showcase an archival footage gem. The following short excerpt is from a local television program that aired in the early 80s called “A Day in the Life of the Colonel,” in which Col. Bruce Hampton takes the viewer on a highly unusual tour of Atlanta. I found this footage while working on a (never completed) documentary on Bruce. In this excerpt, Bruce delivers a poignant monologue about the old Ponce de Leon ballpark. He is standing in an overgrown field where the park used to be and where the Whole Foods shopping center is now located.