Throughout the spring of 2016, Athens, Georgia, will host imagery from all over the South as a multi-venue exhibition, Pictures of Us: Photographs from the Do Good Fund Collection, opens its many doors. The Do Good Fund, a Columbus, Georgia–based nonprofit charity focused on the acquisition of contemporary southern photography, currently has nearly two hundred images in its holdings, over half of which will be in Athens for six uniquely curated shows via sponsorship from the Global Georgia Initiative of the University of Georgia’s Willson Center for Humanities and Arts.
The collection ranges in time from Gordon Parks’s storied photographs of African Americans in the Jim Crow-era South to present-day images of cities and rural communities, and it features such names as William Christenberry, Rineke Dijkstra, and Baldwin Lee alongside such up-and-coming photographers as Sophie T. Lvoff, Brandon Thibodeaux, and Joshua Dudley Greer.
Alan Rothschild, founder of the Do Good Fund, aims to make the collection as broadly visible as possible “through regional museums, nonprofit galleries, and nontraditional venues, and to encourage complimentary, community-based programming to accompany each exhibition,” with the hope of sparking conversations about the history and culture of the South. “What drew me to the images in the collection is that each is about, rather than just of, something—telling a story in one way or another about the southern experience. Very often the photograph captures routine occurrences, but in a way that reveals the story of the historic or evolving South, along with a simple beauty that we tend to overlook. My hope is that the photographs touch others in the same way, that seeing the images will cause them to pause a bit longer to appreciate scenes previously taken for granted as mundane or routine, while gaining a deeper understanding of the people and places around us.”*
The following portfolio concentrates on some of the newest shots in the collection and presents a diverse scope of locale and subject, from Jeff Rich’s Blue Ridge Paper Mill in North Carolina to Tamara Reynolds’ Man in Truck in Mississippi. Almost all of these photographs will show in Athens sometime between January and March, including our cover image, Cynthia Henebry’s Mavis in the Backseat, which will be on display at the Lyndon House Arts Center as part of its portrait-focused exhibition.
This large-scale collaboration with the Do Good Fund features shows on campus at the Richard B. Russell Special Collections Libraries, the Lamar Dodd School of Art Galleries, and the Willson Center house, as well as throughout Athens at the Lyndon House, Ciné BarCafé, and the Athens-Clarke County Library. The first exhibition opens on 21 January and the last closes on 31 March, and several of the featured photographers will be in town on 18–19 February for a battery of related events—all free and open to the public—including an opening reception, a panel, a photography portfolio review, and a Global Georgia talk by William R. Ferris, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
*From “The Do Good Fund: Brought to Light,” interview with Aline Smithson at LENSCRATCH, 2014.