A Son of the South’s Quiet Photos of a Complex Region

During his travels across the South, the photographer George Etheredge documents the region, with scenes that invite lingering.

Comments: 26

  1. Thoughtful, descriptive article. It’s obvious the author took the time to gain insight into George Etheredge, the creative man behind the lens.

  2. Mr. Etheredge's care in not typing himself for marketing purposes is not only unusual, it is a thoughtful strategy that is essential to experiencing the work he has made. Viewing these images, one gets a feeling of having tapped into a mindset rather than reading an illustrated story. These photographs do not require narrative context; in fact, it is the very absence of overwrought curatorial "ownership" type commentary, or targeted, socio-political critique that allows these images to work their magic. And they do. That is the fascinating (and to me, reassuring) thing here: utter reality without the tour guide. I do hope that the NYT sees a way out of the photography=social documentary box more often!

  3. I see some influence of Stephen Shore and William Eggleston and a dash of Martin Parr. The quiet, even light, quiet color, and the choice of subject matter produce compelling body of work. And, he is only 28?

  4. If you want to see extraordinary documentation of the contemporary South that has no sense of contrivance or cliche and includes one excellent composition after another, check out Betty Press’ series, “Finding Mississippi.”

  5. I grew up in Tennessee and lived there for many years and have seen much of the urban and rural parts of the state. These are good photographs. Too many photographers "documenting" the South seek out the picturesque barns and the sad folk in trailer parks and diners. Of course that is there but all these other things are as well -- but are purposely ignored by most people taking pictures. Just like any area of the U.S., there is great variety. Mr. Etheredge has the eye of someone who understands the region and is not selling a preconceived notion of it to the rest of the country.

  6. Superb photographs and article. Thank you to both artists and to the New York Times.

  7. Ethridge could have saved himself a lot of trouble and just visited Richmond, VA. He could have picked up some great state-funded Confederate monuments (thanks former governors Sen Warner, Sen Kaine, and Terry McAuliffe) as well as every kook imaginable from the Country Club of Virginia to another kind of seediness north of Church Hill. Also, a pervasive Central American influence in all the modern South is readily available. And don't forget hick hipsters who think that Kraft pimiento cheese spread is the acme of "cool" ironic cuisine.

  8. Well done. Beautiful art. Unique and compelling. Fresh. Thanks!

  9. I agree, well done, both artist and article. I live in a poor, rural community and the definition of the place is much more complex, and much more interesting than, a romanticizing of agricultural life or a definition of "what we (in the city) are not." Superb work.

  10. I really enjoyed this. My husband worked as a reporter for a small, family owned newspaper in the late 1900's. Writing that way makes it nostalgic but actually we were poor and the paper was too cheap to hire a photographer so he was also a photographer. We have some epic photographs and memories from that time in our world, what we like to call snapshots of a moving picture.

  11. @Gayle Fascinating photos. If I had to pick a favorite it would be the bearded guy in the yellow vest who may be employed rustling up grocery carts. Can’t be positive. I’m glad the NYT’s mission is expansive enough to include “Lens.” I also enjoyed your memories of small-town newspapering in the ‘90s. I took the exact same vow of extreme poverty for a few years in the early ‘80s. I, too, had a camera shoved at me. When I arrived at work the first day, the editor told me she had a very big story for me. The supermarket in the heart of town had just posted “going out of business” signs. Didn’t seem earth shattering to me. But I set off down the street with my notebook — and the camera. The store’s very location had an archetypal ring — the intersection of Washington and Pleasant. And the story of the old market succumbing to the huge new stores on the outskirts sucked me in to such an extent, and I labored over it so obsessively, I ended up sleeping on the floor of the little office that first night. I remember chronicling life in that town in pre-internet days extremely affectionately all these years later. The paper was thriving then, and the townspeople regarded it as crucial. If it is anything like this city’s paper, it is hugely diminished. As for that camera? I got pretty handy with it. I spent a few years at a much larger paper as an investigative reporter. Then I bluffed my way over to the photo side. For the next couple of decades, I invariably slept well.

  12. Striking images are all around you, everywhere you go and often in the most mundane places. The trick is to be there when the light is just right then see and separate the picture from the clutter. The gondola cars are an example of this. The angle, the depth, the mood of the light. The tree hugger shows how a nice image can be enhanced by a simple addition and made into a statement. Lovely work...

  13. Fantastic photos. Just a shot of time. The soccer field with the powerplant evokes so many thoughts.

  14. These are excellent photographs, but not any kind of rare or special. The words that have here been attached to them are stylish and lauding, but set the same trap and snare that are always used by writers and editors to co-opt. Beauty is beauty and American color is American color. Great photographers find great content wherever they are. In my desire, Ethridge would tell his own story, and in-the-telling his eye would best be revealed.

  15. wonderful photos.

  16. Beautiful pics! I would suggest the editors of the Times include some from the states between the Carolinas and Texas. There's a whole of South there that's missing!

  17. Beautiful photos

  18. Can't see anything quintessentially "Southern" about these photos, except maybe the black snake sneaking into the kitchen. Honestly, the only real difference between the South and the rest of the US is that Southerners insist on inserting "Y'all" in every sentence.

  19. Examining the photos I do not see evidence of exceptional photography, just a way for the editor to get some attention to something he is involved with.

  20. @Terrence Erdt, PhD and your comment is merely your opinion.

  21. I have lived in many different parts of the old Confederacy and it is a place still shaped by the ugly history and the settlement patterns, which were different than elsewhere. The colonial south was vastly different from New England or the middle Atlantic regions, and later the traditional midwest (Big 10 footprint). Mostly an oligarchy where a relatively small planter class ruled the roost and played ignorant whites into buying into their views on slavery, racism and the rest. Even after the Civil War, the former planter class resumed control after the failed reconstruction and the region went back to the exploitation of labor and the land. By the time of the Depression, the south as a region was easily the most backward and poverty-stricken in the nation. It was the least well educated and had very poor infrastructure. The brain drain was phenomenal, as poor whites and blacks left the region for better jobs and lives. I find it interesting to see the region support Republicans and their anti-government message when no region of the country has benefitted more from programs of the Federal Government than the South.

  22. Some of the photographs possess a very painterly quality. His work is a continuation of classic street, or candid photography. Nothing in the photographs reveals much about the South in terms of dispelling biased notions about its unique history. However, he does manage to "feel the place and want that emotion and connection to carry through with the work that I make.” Thanks, again, NYT, for this kind of feature!

  23. Beautiful shots of American post-industrial poverty... the early films of David Gordon Green come to mind...

  24. Stunning work, George Etheredge. Quiet and deeply layered, these images invite a lingering viewing which rewards the viewer. Thank you, and keep on keeping on.

  25. Beautiful pictures, though I do have an issue with a sentence, the one about monetization. All art is monetized, as we all need to eat. Though I love the composure of each piece, and they are stirring, it does ask: how does he make money? The kid smoking, what about his share? What about the subjects? My family is from Grayson County, Watauga County, and the places imbetween, and I am moving to Boone. It is an area of intense beauty and intense poverty. These pictures, beautiful as they are, are monetized. And it is a perspective, and if the photographer can't monetize them then they aren't sustainable as subjects. But what about the subjects? What about them? I know of school plays who have to crowd fund for costumes. I know of households where the children must start work in high school. I know of people who need help, who need resources, and feel entirely forgotten by the Democratic Party, and exploited by the Republicans, while everyone makes fun of their lifestyles without understanding them. It is nice to see art that isn't making fun of my culture. But it still begs the question: is it ethical? I appreciate humanizing my community, I do, but how can we help them beyond that? More than that, they shouldn't have to be in those situations. They deserve better. Asheville is becoming gentrified, and though it is Appalachian, I know of more authentic places as they are not gentrified. What about them? Will your lens go there too? And how does it help?

  26. Dear Mr. Etheredge, I really love your photographs and was very impressed by the one in the NYT https://nyti.ms/2ZDdAfC of the Silver Gull. You combine editorial sharpness and emotional meaning in your work. Thank you!