Steinmetz to exhibit stylistic Southern photography series

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Mary Mac Jones, Contributing Reporter

Mark Steinmetz is a predominant American photographer based in Athens, Georgia who photographs eclectic Southern subjects in working class surroundings. His photographs are on display worldwide in cities such as New York, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Paris. A selection of Steinmetz’s photography is on display until May 10 in the exhibition “South” at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

Steinmetz is one of the rare contemporary photographers who chooses to continue to photograph in black-and-white and develop and print his own work.

“Printing has become a dying art,” said Richard McCabe, the photography curator at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. “His work is counter to things happening now in photography.”

His photographs are characterized by an open-ended quality allowing for a range of interpretations from viewers. His photographs create an emotional concoction of cute, funny, sweet, sad and sanguine all at once. Critics have often compared his photos to the writing of Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor due to their poignant depiction of Southern individuals and locale.

“Black-and-white photography is more about light and structure in the picture, so perfect it’s almost staged,” McCabe said.

“South” features photographs from three of Steinmetz’s acclaimed photography books, “Southeast”, “South Central” and “Greater Atlanta.” The photographs selected for the exhibition revel in ambiguity. Many of the contexts of and happenings within the photos are unclear, yet this uncertainty serves to heighten the emotional appeal, intimacy and personal meaning for viewers.

McCabe describes the photos as having a cinematic quality and being evocative of a constructed reality. He likens Steinmetz to a “kinder, gentler Larry Clark.” Steinmetz’s impeccable timing offers viewers unfettered glimpses into the nuanced existences of “idiosyncratic Southern characters” and heartwarming depictions of the beauty and resilience of nature. Steinmetz’s photos are diverse in content yet holistically powerful and stylistically distinctive. “South” is a record of the beautiful anomalies of everyday life.