“The South”—two words that bring a number of different things to mind for different people. For some, it’s an image of nothing but Kentucky Fried hillbillies still accepting confederate currency. For others, it’s just a region of the country with a number of monuments to “heroes” of the losing of side of a war that kept thousands of people in chains. Then for some, mainly the locals, it conjures and image of home. Of salmon and grits dinners, ham and turkey Thanksgivings, and just a bit to warm Christmases. It reminds them of spending their childhood Summer’s roaming around grandma’s land, or how excited they would be when they finally got cell service back when the returned to the city from the sticks.
The South is a million different things to a million different people, including its dark history which we of course can never forget. That’s what the Halsey Institute’s new “Southbound” exhibit is all about.
The photos capture images of different people, places and things that all remind me, as a born and bred raised on fried pork chop and collard greens southerner, of home. Or of something that I can easily see reminding someone else of home in the south.
On one on wall, there is a photo of an old dirt road leading into dense woods similar to the one I have to drive down every time I go visit my grandparents. On another, a photo of a black community all gathered in a lake for a baptism. Just across from that is a picture of an older black women in an intricate white dress that you can find any female usher of any southern A.M.E. church wearing with pride on Sunday morning.
Another photo depicts a white farmer milking a goat right into his son’s mouth. The sons face has the biggest smile’s on a
the boy’s face that I had ever seen. Not too far from them is a simple picture of a man standing on what one could assume was his property sporting overalls and a beard long enough to get him at least one season on Duck Dynasty. If you were to look a wall over you would find a photo of a hispanic woman in a sombrero with a distant look in her eyes and a hispanic couple, not to far away, holding each other and staring right at the camera.
In the room next to them are several pictures of Native Americans. There’s one in a which a man is being paid to take photos in an “Indian” costume with some children. If you were to look on the back wall you’d see a black woman waving a flag in protest of a line of Confederate flag supporters.
I bring up race in these photos not as a point of division, but a point of unity. So often the south is seen as the home of backwards racist white people and little else. Instead, these photos show the diversity of the people who call it home and that everyone on matter their color or creed has something of a story behind them. If you want to see pictures of the modern south, of how the people and places have grown and are still in desperate need of progress, then look no further than the “Southbound exhibit” in the Halsey institute. The exhibit runs until March 2.