Vol. 22, No. 1: Documentary Arts

Vol. 22, No. 1: Documentary Arts

This Documentary Arts issue explores “the privilege of perception,” participatory archive, self-documentation, and, ultimately, self-preservation. From Hale County, Alabama, to Harlan County, Kentucky, to a Lao Buddhist temple in the mountains of North Carolina, we examine the many ways southerners create a record of themselves and their communities. Mormons, migrants, parades, and poetic collaborations round out our photo essays, and personal meditations on ethnography and autobiography invite us to reconsider the “fundamentally permeable boundaries of art, fiction, document, and fact.” What is real and what is true, and who gets to decide?

Front Porch: Documentary Arts

by Harry L. Watson

“So what is the truth about documentary?”

Looking and Telling, Again and Again: The Documentary Impulse

by Tom Rankin

“How do we find a documentary voice that makes room for the documentary artist’s point of view and also embraces . . . those voices of local people who talk to us in ways we understand but would rather not hear?”

Compelled to Listen: The Making of an Ethnographer

by Martha King

“When people asked the stale question ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?,’ I started responding: ‘The President’ . . . With ‘President,’ I never had to reply, ‘Well, sir, when I grow up I’d like to understand what compels you to ask me that question.’”

Missionary: Boyhood as an Elder

by Marcus Journey

“At eighteen years old, Mormon Elders are still developing physically and spiritually while working to share their gospel in a culture far from home.”

“It’s Not All Hard Candy and Horse Shit”: Christmas in Cat Square

by Aaron Canipe

“The camera became my excuse to talk to the beauty queens, fine artists, musicians, rebels, angels, and street preachers of my community.”

Protesting the Privilege of Perception: Resistance to Documentary Work in Hale County, Alabama, 1900–2010

by Scott L. Matthews

“‘No, I don’t want my picter took. / Gwine all round in de paper and de book—/ Ever-body knowin’ des how I look.’”

“Written and Composed by Nora E. Carpenter”: Song Lyric Scrapbooks, Home Recordings, and Self-Documentation

by Emily Hilliard

“‘Big Mama was intimidating, not particularly warm, but extremely sentimental.’”

This is a Reflection

by Paige Prather

“‘This house is as old as my grandma. This house is like a junkyard. This house is like an animal in the woods. This house is as raggedy as an old car. This house is as ugly as an ugly tree.’”

“Those who complain often don’t come back”: Stories of Migrant Life

by Kyle Warren

“The rank smell of rotting sweet potatoes lingered in the air, molding in their crates just a few feet away from where Luis slept at night.”

Home in a New Place: Making Laos in Morganton, North Carolina

by Katy A. Clune

“It is the sense of place going with us still that is the ball of golden thread to carry us there and back and, in every sense of the word, to bring us home.” —Eudora Welty, “Place in Fiction,” 1957

On the Participatory Archive: The Formation of the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project

by Karida L. Brown

“They warned me that I’d never get the real history the way I was going about it. They said I needed to capture the story. I listened. And I stepped on a wellspring.”

The Uses of Memoir in Writing History: Or, What I Learned About Autobiography from John Hope Franklin and August Meier

by Kenneth R. Janken

“Meier told me, ‘A Man Called White is worthless, nothing but lies.’ And then he walked off, unable, apparently, to suffer fools for much more than a minute.”


by Jesse Graves

“Behind all those overspilling clouds, the moon catches light still and sends it to you, unbidden, but you would know to ask for it if it never came . . .”

Community Archiving at the Southern Historical Collection

by Southern Cultures

“In a community driven archive, it’s not an individual or institution deciding what goes into the archive, but rather a collective of people who are able to curate and present their own history.” —Bryan Giemza