“Ticket Booth, Dallas County, Alabama,” by Jerry Siegel.
But for the most part, the images featured in "Black Belt Color" at Spalding Nix Fine Art (with a few exceptions) are elegiac, dreamy, capturing a place with contours as exotic and strange as any far-off photojournalist's reportage from Greece or Guatemala. The South in Siegel's images is a peculiar and particular place with rituals and rites all its own. There is an air of familiarity in Siegel's perspective, coupled with an observer's wariness that not all those features are admirable ones.
In a series of newer works not included in Siegel’s “Black Belt Color” book, things can grow a little darker. Siegel shoots the torso of a tattooed young man who has emblazoned Nazi markings on his stomach. His angelic young daughter poses in the family’s front yard, flanked by a collection of Confederate flags hung from the porch.
Jerry Siegel’s “Shooter, Dallas County, Alabama,” is part of his exhibit at Spalding Nix Fine Art.
Though people often factor into Siegel’s images, they are often tangential: just part of the storytelling. Siegel has a particular love of placing people visually out of reach: with their backs to us, their faces cut off by the camera frame. They become iconic types like the young black girl shooting a rifle in a county fair game draped with a ubiquitous Confederate flag, standing in for entire swaths of the population.
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Siegel is admittedly training his camera on a familiar dimension of the Southern terrain with roots in William Castleberry and William Eggleston, a carefully edited place where old-time religion and Friday night football games are favored over vape shops and bland commercial strips of fast-food and chain stores. It’s a timeless view of the South, and that vantage can be both comforting or damning, depending upon your perspective. Timeless can be an admirable thing, but can also suggest stagnation and resistance to progress.
“Black Belt Color”
Through Nov. 4. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. Spalding Nix Fine Art, The Galleries of Peachtree Hills, 425 Peachtree Hills Ave. NE, Building 5, Suite 30-A, Atlanta. 404-841-7777, www.spaldingnixfineart.com.
Bottom line: An insider's view of the South in all its complexity in "Black Belt Color."