Friday, October 16, 2015

"In Time We Shall Know Ourselves": The Photographs of Raymond Smith

On Oct. 24, Raymond Smith’s iconic photographs of his 1974 summer journey through the American South will go on display here at the Georgia Museum of Art. Smith is most certainly in the tradition of James Agee’s “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” with his honest portraits of southerners who look us at head-on, retaining their inherent dignity, yet his corpus is considerably more diverse than Agee’s.
Fotomat Girl, Louisville, Kentucky 

While Agee focused on the families of three white Alabama tenant farmers during the Great Depression, Smith’s subjects include both African American and white people of all ages and professions, in locations ranging from Boston, Massachusetts, to Orlando, Florida. In a way, Smith’s photographs display the New South as it was immediately following the civil rights movement, a world where blacks and whites now co-existed in the same spaces on a more equal footing, but also a world in which more insidious forms of racial divisions and inequalities remained.
                                                          Bourbon Street, New Orleans 
Smith chose the title of this exhibition from words he saw on a church marquee in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, that fateful summer. Smith points out that they are particularly relevant as it took 40 years from the year in which he took the photographs until their publication and exhibition. The people of his photographs and the social conditions of the American South seem clearer to him 40 years later, and he notes that the people themselves, if still alive, will have a better understanding of themselves that comes through years of experience and maturity.

Self-Portrait, Motel Room, Williamsburg, Virginia

“In Time We Shall Know Ourselves” will be on display through Jan. 3, 2016. Visitors are encouraged to drop by and reflect on the themes of knowing, memory and reflection present in Smith’s work. A book by the same title, including both the photographs and scholarly essays, is available for purchase in the Museum Shop. On Nov 19, Smith will give a presentation on his work from 5:30-6:30 pm here at the Museum. 


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