Chip Simone’s Second Coming

Senior moment for the photographer

The art world can be cruel. While critics and curators salivate over the fresh crop of art school grads, an older generation of artists gets lost in the shuffle.

Photograph courtesy of Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta, and Chip Simone/© Chip Simone

But one of Atlanta’s seminal lensmen, Chip Simone, sixty-six, whose photographs reside in the High Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, is finally getting his due. On the heels of a retrospective at the High in 2011, Simone is gearing up for a show at Buckhead photography gallery Jackson Fine Art (through April 7), followed by an exhibition at New York City’s Steven Kasher Gallery in the spring. Of his second coming, Simone has a chuckle: “I think to have a resurgence, first you have to have a ‘surgence,’ and I’m not sure there was much of one of those.”

When Simone arrived in Atlanta in 1972, Southern photographers were expected to shoot black-and-white images of rural landscapes, dilapidated barns, and other pastoral Southern cliches. Simone preferred photographs of urban punk rockers, the oddballs who showed up on Downtown streets, and colorful advertisements molting in the steamy weather. “I’ve gone out of my way to do pictures of Atlanta as an American city,” says Simone, who went on to not only picture what he calls “the New South,” but to secure his foothold in Atlanta’s arts community as one of thirteen founding members of the influential artists cooperative Nexus (now the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center).

As a student of renowned photographer Harry Callahan at the Rhode Island School of Design, Simone learned early that photography is “a lonely job that pays badly.” (Callahan would sell his prints for just $75.) So to pay the bills, Simone also works as a personal trainer. High Museum director Michael Shapiro and Jane Jackson, curator of the Elton John photographic collection, are two of his clients.

But Simone wouldn’t change a thing. “Often enough, I get a good picture,” says Simone. “The work itself has always saved me.”

Felicia Feaster is one of our editorial contributors.
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