Out of a course at the Institute for Southern Studies has grown a photography exhibit documenting the people and landscapes of life in small Southern towns.
“Photography of the Rural South” is on display at McKissick Museum through May 10.
In a class of the same name, students who were novice photographers were assembled into teams. Each team worked together to create photographic studies of communities with populations of 1,000 or fewer people. The students turned their lenses on small towns including Elloree, Nichols and Oswego in South Carolina; and Watha, Saluda and Bryson City in North Carolina.
The course was the idea of professor Kathleen Robbins, who proposed it two years ago as a way for Southern Studies students to get out of the lecture hall and into the communities about which they had read. For three subsequent semesters, the students worked to portray the ways in which the people and their communities are connected. The images capture the nostalgia, humor and beauty of life in the South.
The images have been on display in the hallways of the Institute for Southern Studies for the past two years. The exhibit at McKissick Museum opened in January.
The students did not have any constrictions on the assignment. They were free to photograph subject matters either from a personal or an objective viewpoint. They also worked with “everything from large format color film to crude plastic toy cameras to small digital cameras,” said Robbins in an email.
“What surprised me most about the student work is how carefully considered it is,” she added. “The level of the work is quite accomplished considering the fact that many of the students have no prior experience. The students become very aware of their role as either an outsider or a native in these communities – and based on that relationship with the place they tend to capture something profoundly interesting and unique in each community.”
“Photography of the Rural South” continues through May 10, weekdays 8:30 a.m-5 p.m. and Saturdays 11 a.m.-3 p.m. The McKissick Museum is on the university’s Horseshoe.