Front Porch: Photography 2007

Tom Rankin tells us that the South has long attracted some of America's finest photographers, including Lewis Hine, Walker Evans, and Dorothea Lange, whose photograph of this crossroads store from 1937 in Alabama was the first image ever published in Southern Cultures, on the cover of our inaugural issue.

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Front Porch: Photography 2007

by Harry L. Watson
Southern Cultures, Vol. 13, No. 2: Photography

"The best photographs freeze time with more depth than the cheap pages of nostalgia, capturing the pain as well as the wonder that wells up in the tension between our 'now' and the picture's 'then.' And the mixture of pain and wonder is a southern specialty."

Southerners are famous for their stories. We have sharp, sly tales about the Rabbit and the Fox that skewer the powers that be. And hilarious family anecdotes about the time when Uncle Buford slipped his garter snake into the prayer meeting and Aunt Fannie entered the wrong jar of “preserves” at the county fair. There are tragic warnings repeated in song, like the love of Frankie and Johnny, or the wreck of the Old 97. In the opening pages of Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner evoked “the deep South dead since 1865 and peopled with garrulous outraged ghosts,” who had nothing left but the power to keep telling their endless stories. All those fables get folded into southern literature, and make the South notorious for its writes and would-be writers.