A reception for Finding Mississippi, a documentary photography exhibit by Betty Press, which will be open in the Gammill Gallery until March 23. Her artist statement for the exhibit follows:
This selection of images reveals a slightly surreal, hidden narrative of Mississippi’s landscape and the indomitable spirit of the people—sometimes fanciful, humorous, quirky, mysterious, and at times disturbing. I have been living in Mississippi for more than fourteen years and it will probably be my home for a long while.
I grew up on a farm in Nebraska, left for college, was exposed to different cultures by traveling around the world with my husband, and later worked as a photojournalist for eight years in Africa. Because of this, I bring a singular perspective to portraying the Black and White Southern experience, which is so intertwined, and keeps the South a unique region in our country.
My muse, photographer/writer Eudora Welty, called herself a recorder of “real life,” as she traveled around Mississippi taking photographs for the WPA. She photographed not “to point the finger in judgment but to part a curtain.”
History is clouded with uncertainties due to selective memories. Time past loses its clarity but not its meaning. Thus I chose black and white film to use with plastic and vintage cameras to capture evidence of the past with cameras used in the past. The resulting imperfections and vignetting highlight how landscape, race, and religion have played a part in the complicated history of Mississippi, and still affect lives today.