Monday, March 24, 2008

a picture is not worth a thousand words if you don't know the alphabet

Listening to an interviewer with the photographer who documented Daufuskie Island most recently (an exhibition currently at Fernbank Museum of Natural History) reminded me that photographs are never as transparently documentary as their makers think they are, even if they are also frequently far more informative than the casual observer might think.

I chose not to write about the photographs for a general audience because they seemed to require such skill at reading small visual details, if one were to get anything more out of them than generalized romanticism.

And I was basically right: the photographer's stories are fascinating, as is Daufuskie Island once one gets the hang of knowing what to look for.

But until then, one is basically just seeing more and still more of the Southern surfeit of weatherbeaten buildings and antique kitchen equipment. There is a tale to be told, but it needs to be told, not just put forth in pictures for the perceptive viewer to pick up on.

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