What does the rural South look like? The region’s popular image is colored by Deliverance-style stereotypes and misconceptions. But 15 years ago, Christine Curry—a clinical social worker and bookstore owner in Zebulon, Georgia—realized that the area was in danger of having its true character erased. A transplant who grew up in Chicago and New York before settling in Zebulon in 1991, Curry and her neighbors “were seeing our beautiful pastures and woodlands turned into subdivisions,” she says. “We wanted to get people to look at the land and see what was at risk.”
To celebrate and preserve the character of the small Pike County town—about 45 miles south of Atlanta—and others like it, they launched SlowExposures (September 15-18), a four-day fine art photography exhibition that showcases the complexity of the rural South. The vibe is fittingly folksy: Volunteers open up their homes to participating photographers, the woman who hangs the artwork is a retired office manager with a fantastic eye, and the local sheriff is a regular attendee who does extra security checks at participating venues. The juried show has also built prestige. Last year SlowExposures won a Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities alongside Savannah’s Telfair Museums and the Alliance’s Susan Booth.
Despite the rural setting and theme, the exhibition images depict more than just crumbling barns, bucolic pastures, and rheumy-eyed old timers. There are also stunning portraits of transgendered Southerners, diverse young people, and idiosyncratic domestic spaces stamped by the obsessions of their unseen occupants. Many of the photographs lend an air of mystery, intensifying a feeling that here is where the real stories live.
Among the images displayed last year
Photographs courtesy of the artists
This article originally appeared in our September 2016 issue.