In the late 1890s, self-taught photographer Hugh Mangum (1877–1922) began riding the rails as an itinerant portraitist, traveling primarily in North Carolina and Virginia. Mangum worked during the rise of the segregationist laws of the Jim Crow era. Despite this, his portraits reveal a clientele that was both racially and economically diverse, and show lives marked by notable affluence and hard work, all imbued with a strong sense of individuality and self-creation.
This separation and unrealized sameness of southerners is my subject matter. These images capture the culture of mostly poor and working-class southerners, black, brown, and white. From festivals to protests, a Native American reservation and a Civil War reenactment, and the inexplicable overlap of national patriotism and Confederate allegiance displayed by some white southerners, they show the complexity of the region—what brings us together and pulls us apart. The images are a record of this sometimes brutal, sometimes beautiful mortal world.