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Georgia: SlowExposures 2014


Concord, Georgia is a small town that most Atlantans don’t know the name of. An hour and an half south of the capital, Concord is the place for a very exciting annual photography festival, aptly named SlowExposures.

Started twelve years ago, the festival was a creative way to call attention to the rapid disappearance of the rural land to subdivisions by using contemporary fine art photography. A group of strong-minded volunteers started inviting reknown jurors and calling for photographers’ applications. And it has worked ever since, turning the slow-paced town into an eventful destination for two consecutive weekends at the end of September.

We asked Christine Curry, one of the founding members of SlowExposures, to give us some insights.

Slow Exposures has been attracting attention, way beyond Pike County and the South, since its inception. What is unique to this festival? And what is it about Pike County?

Christine Curry: The theme of the show has always been the “Rural South” and that jumpstarts an incredible array of images. Everything from a KKK rally to a classic shot of the Mississippi Ladies sipping tea on the porch of an antebellum house to the raw, red Georgia clay of a brand new subdivision. Every year the pictures spark conversations, memories and debate about just what is the rural south of the 21st century. One of the unique things about the show is where we hang the work. All of the exhibits are in late 19th century buildings that once were the infrastructures of the vast cotton economy of the rural South: Cotton warehouses, mercantile stores that sold dry goods to coffins, mule barns and one of the last existing whiskey bonding barns in the US. That’s context. Even though we are only one hour and an half south of Atlanta, it is a different place. Pike County still has only two traffic lights in the whole county!

How many people do you expect every year for the festival? And who are you partnering with? 

C.C: We expect over a thousand people to come to the show, many of the 56 photographers who were juried into the main show will be here from all points of the United States. We try to find everyone a room, or a hayloft! Some will camp out in horse pastures and barns. There aren’t any hotels in Pike County so everyone gets creative.

We do the show in conjunction with Atlanta Celebrates Photography, which has extended to us tremendous support and encouragement. We started 12 years ago at a time of extreme growth, subdivisions emerging overnight from former pastures and historic sites; we wanted to call attention to what was being lost and thought the medium of fine art photography would work. The housing bubble burst, but what has happened is a deeper appreciation of our landscape, our historic fabric and our community. Now we think the notion of developing a “creative economy” in this place might work for us.

This year, the festival features work by photographer Elliot Dudik on battle sites and civil war re-enactors, and a discussion on “Capturing Southern Identity.” Do you feel that this is something that many southern contemporary photographers want to investigate in their work?

C.C: Big question – and it is one of those perennial topics. We have had some striking images of contemporary Southern culture, I am thinking of Owen Jones’ images from several years ago of a three generational family wearing KKK robes, the youngest looking to be about three years old. And Eliot’s work is breathtaking when you look at these lovely pastoral images and know that hundreds and hundreds of soldiers died there. I must say that I am not from the South and I find that many Southerners are very self-aware of their history and the legacy of slavery, they have truly been tested, both black and white, in the caldron of the civil rights era, and they can speak with authority and deep knowledge about the challenges and struggles of living through a monumental societal change. I think you can see that in some of the work on the walls.

When jurors and curators select photography work for your main exhibition, what are they looking for?

C.C: We always ask two jurors, one from the South the other one not. We create a file and turn it over to them. We never know what process they go through but somehow, the show that emerges is coherent and relevant, and well, distinctively “Southern.” I think the accent on the “contemporary” South is the key. Many of our photographers are not from the South but after they sojourn  here,  it is really effective to capture things we take for granted.

SlowExposures Photography Festival: Celebrating Photography of the Rural South
Weekends, 19-28, 2014
R.F. Strickland Center
Concord Arts, Main Street
Concord GA 30206

(770) 567-3600

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