The South has occupied an uneasy place in the history of photography as both an example of regional exceptionalism and as the crucible from which American identity has been forged. As the first major survey of Southern photography in twenty-five years, this exhibition will examine that complicated history and reveal the South’s critical impact on the evolution of the medium, posing timely questions about American culture and character.
Featuring many works from the High’s extensive collection along with important loans from private and public collections, A Long Arc will include photographs of the American Civil War, which transformed the practice of photography across the nation and established visual codes for articulating national identity and expressing collective trauma. Photographs from the 1930s–1950s, featuring many created for the Farm Security Administration, will demonstrate how that era defined a new kind of documentary aesthetic that dominated American photography for decades and included jarring and unsettling pictures that exposed economic and racial disparities. With works drawn from the High’s unparalleled collection of civil rights-era photography, the exhibition will show how photographs of the movement in the decade that followed galvanized the nation with raw depictions of violence and the struggle for justice. Contemporary photography featured in the exhibition will demonstrate how photographers working today continue to explore Southern history and themes to grasp American identity.
A Long Arc: Photography and the American South since 1850 is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta