Now that Peter Sekaer is finding his place in photographic history as a contemporary and fellow traveler (literally) of Walker Evans, thanks in large part to the catalogue of Julian Cox’s splendid exhibition at the High Museum introducing his work to Atlanta audiences, it is high time to consider the oeuvre of two figures from regional photographic history.
The video above is the latest installment of Steve Bransford‘s video documentation for Oraien Catledge’s upcoming exhibition at the Mississippi Museum of Art this October.
To be more precise, they are figures from an extremely localized photographic history, that of the now-trendy Atlanta community of Cabbagetown. Oraien Catledge photographed its residents during the first half of the slow transition from mill town, to working-class community in crisis, to artists’ haven, to gentrified intown neighborhood. Panorama Ray documented the second half.
Panorama Ray’s legacy is more problematic, given the lack of respect still shown the venerable medium of the panorama photo. (There is a reputation to be made for the curator and photographic historian who situates Panorama Ray’s oeuvre in a revised artistic as well as a social context.) His archives, like Catledge’s until recently, have not been adequately catalogued or even safely preserved for future scholars.
Catledge, at least, is on his way to receiving the level of scholarship that leads to a place in the complex history of photography in the United States of America. His book Oraien Catledge: Photographs is still on track for August publication by the University Press of Mississippi. His retrospective at the Mississippi Museum of Art will follow.
It took a while. Catledge is one of those figures who became invisible through sheer overfamiliarity. After the University of Texas Press published Cabbagetown in 1985, it was dumped on rather brutally in Library Journal by a reviewer who did not have the privilege of seeing the subsequent quarter-century of developments in portraiture.
The photographs look different in 2010 in terms of their mix of social commentary and psychologically charged perception. As those who saw earlier selections from the Cabbagetown oeuvre can testify, context changes things, as does a newly informed sense of curatorship of a type that simply wasn’t possible in the 1980s. We are less wedded to notions inherited from the generation of formalist photography.
The indefatigable Constance Lewis, who co-edited the new Catledge volume and presented Catledge’s Cabbagetown photographs at her now-closed Opal Gallery, was also one of the driving forces behind the current exhibition at the Atlanta Airport Atrium Gallery of Cabbagetown portraits from the collection of Louis Corrigan. (Corrigan’s recent commitment to the rediscovery of Catledge is reflected in the eloquent mini-essay posted with the exhibition.)
Click here to read Karen Tauches’s review of last year’s exhibition, Oraien Catledge: Cabbagetown.
Catledge’s photography will be on view at the Atrium Gallery of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport through August 11.
Peter Sekaer’s retrospective will be on view at the High Museum of Art through January 9, 2011.