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Looking South

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About the author:
Jim Natale was formerly a news writer, college instructor, and college administrator. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi, where he watches film noir on TCM and ponders the fate of the Chicago Cubs. Retired from full-time, gainful employment, he is now CEO, creative consultant, and maintenance supervisor at Past & Present Photographs (, an enterprise with no employees and even less leadership.

Looking South

Photos from Mississippi and Alabama

Authored by Jim Natale
Edition: 1

* See note on paper at the end of this description.

The American South, as much as it is a land of soil, forests, fields, towns and cities, is a land of image and imagination. The region--specifically how it is perceived based on its colorful, sometimes violent history--can elicit strong feelings, both positive and negative, in the U. S. and around the world.

Many people hold views that have been formed by living or visiting extensively in the South. Some love it passionately, love its well known traditions of storytelling, faith, close family bonds, deep friendships, regional cooking, and the blues music that migrated up the Mississippi River and around the world.

Some, however, have left the region, fleeing to escape situations, many of them improved and improving but based on problems both very old and very real.

Southerners who travel (even when that "travel" is electronic and media-based) encounter surprisingly divergent attitudes. One stranger might be someone who dreams of visiting, hoping to feel immersed in a land of sweet magnolias. The next stranger might be someone militantly opposed to the old land of cotton, unable even to conceive of driving an automobile into the region. Many people simply wonder exactly what a fictional character once famously wondered, "What's it like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there." Perhaps looking can be a small step toward knowing.

Looking South presents 118 monochrome photographs made in Mississippi and Alabama between 2003 and 2016. They are reproduced in a highly portable format, inexpensively on plain paper, to encourage the visit.

*Note: In the world of photographs in print, this volume is near the opposite end of the spectrum from large format, coffee table books weighing several pounds. Looking South is small and portable, and is printed on uncoated paper.

Observational photography enjoyed a golden age when news magazines such as Life and Look prospered in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt and W. Eugene Smith produced photo essays that were viewed by a mass audience. Walker Evans did work that was highlighted for two decades in Fortune magazine. The Magnum photo cooperative placed photos in magazines worldwide.

Fast-forward, however, and it would seem that the notion of printed, observational photography is in steep, final declined. Digital images--many of them "selfies"--flash by on display screens into a netherworld. Theoretically they can be retrieved, but they seem strangely impermanent. On the other hand, the current generation of photographs that physically hang in museums and art galleries are non-observational. Typically they are staged creations made in-studio or in calculated settings. Thus, at least at the extremes, images are disposable or, if they exist in print, are divorced from real-world settings and are extravagantly priced.

Just maybe, though, the seeds of change are taking root. Brooks Jensen sells folios, chapbooks, and $25 fine art prints. Stephen Shore and other photographers are collecting their best work from Instagram and transferring it into a newsprint publication. The idea is that photographic work might again be printed, hand held, and inexpensive. This book of photographs from the American South is presented in that spirit.

Publication Date:
0692642293 / 9780692642290
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
8.25" x 6"
Black and White
Related Categories:
Photography / General

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