Fall 2022 Billboards: Ralph Burns surveys the artist’s distinguished black-and-white documentarian style. These photographs capture the intricacies of worship, ritual, and love through an impartial lens.
As Burns states, he uses his camera as a tool “to try to understand.” In one photo a penitent in Mexico carries the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In another a woman writhes with emotional intensity as she is baptized in the Jordan River in Israel. A third photo depicts a young boy emulating Elvis during a pilgrimage to Graceland. Together, these images serve as glimpses into a connected experience of religiosity and adoration.
This selection of photographs accompanies a larger exhibition of the artist’s How Great Thou Art series in Outlandish: Photographs by Ralph Burns from the Collection of Hedy Fischer and Randy Shull/Photographs from the Collection of Allen G. Thomas Jr, on view in East Building from August 20, 2022 to February 12, 2023.
Using photography from the Museum’s collection, this exhibition examines the peculiarity of human experience and expression. In one gallery selections from a photo series by Asheville-based photographer Ralph Burns donated by Hedy Fischer and Randy Shull capture the intricacies of worship, ritual, and love. For decades Burns followed crowds of devout Elvis fans during their pilgrimages to Graceland. His documentarian style demonstrates a deep understanding of humanness and emotional connection. Ultimately, this exhibition questions the emotions we project onto the subjects of the photographs, confronting our implicit judgments of each other and what we deem unusual.
from the exhibition text
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