American South Gets Portrait Taken In MOCA's 'Southern Exposure' Photography Show

May 18, 2015

Visitors contemplate the "Southern Exposure" exhibit at MOCA.
Credit Peter Haden / WJCT News

A new photography exhibit at Jacksonville’s Museum of Contemporary Art focuses on the American South. Southern Exposure: Portraits of a Changing Landscape features the work of seven renowned photographers.

The project looks at the stories the land can tell.

MOCA Jacksonville Assistant Curator Jaime DeSimone says she knew the new show would be about the South.

“It took us awhile to understand and refine what that meant. Eventually we decided to focus only on the land,” DeSimone said. “Most of the photographs that you’re seeing don’t include people.”

But that doesn’t mean they’re not about people. Quite the opposite. For one series, Dallas-based photographer Jeanine Michna-Bales spent more than a decade researching and shooting what she calls Through Darkness To Light.

Michna-Bales said, “It’s supposed to be one person’s view of what they would’ve seen on their journey to freedom on the Underground Railroad.”

She began the series at Magnolia Plantation in central Louisiana and ended 16 hundred miles away at Sarnia, Ontario, Canada — the site of a colony founded by escaped slaves. She took the pictures at night, one about every 20 miles — the distance someone on the Underground Railroad could travel before the sun came up.

“When you’re out there at night you’re hearing all the cicadas, and your hearing the bullfrogs. So, you can just imagine the sound of shouting and dogs barking and being chased and having to run and all of those things,” Michna-Bales said. “It was very profound being out there.”

In another series in the Southern Exposure exhibit, photographer Andrew Moore focuses on the storytelling powers of man-made structures.

“Often it’s a home. It’s something that’s maybe seen better times,” Moore said. “It expresses a certain kind of ambition and then sometimes failure or that times have moved on.”

Southern Exposure: Portraits of a Changing Landscape runs through August 30th at MOCA in downtown Jacksonville.