“I am frequently asked by people who have not seen my work why I spend my life documenting one simple place like Decatur County, Georgia. People confuse simple with small; they’re not the same thing. There are no simple places or simple lives. . . . Life [in Decatur County] is like life everywhere, and I cannot think of a higher goal than understanding what we can of it.”—Paul Kwilecki, excerpted from his essay “Decatur County” in One Place
Though he ranks among the most important American documentary photographers of the twentieth century, Paul Kwilecki is also one of the least well known. A major new exhibit of his work at the Center for Documentary Studies features selected photographs from a book of the same name, One Place: Paul Kwilecki and Four Decades of Photographs from Decatur County, Georgia. Edited and with an introduction by CDS director Tom Rankin and coedited by Iris Tillman Hill, One Place is published by CDS Books of the Center for Documentary Studies in partnership with the University of North Carolina Press.
One Place exhibition
March 18–July 27, 2013
Juanita Kreps and Lyndhurst Galleries
Center for Documentary Studies
1317 W. Pettigrew Street, Durham, North Carolina
Reception, talk, and book signing with Tom Rankin
Thursday, April 25, 6–9 p.m.
Center for Documentary Studies
Paul Kwilecki was born and lived his entire life in Bainbridge, Georgia, running the family hardware store, raising a family, and teaching himself how to use a camera. Over four decades, he documented life in his community, making hundreds of masterful and intimate black-and-white prints. The self-taught artist developed his visual ideas in series of photographs of high school proms, prison hog killings, shade-tree tobacco farming, factory work, church life, the courthouse. “Decatur County is home,” Kwilecki said, “and I know it from my special warp, having been both nourished and wounded by it.”
Praise for One Place:
“One Place is a deep reflection on one artist’s tilling of the soil at the heart of home, but mostly, these words and images are about time, what lasts, what doesn’t.”—Natasha Trethewey, U.S. Poet Laureate
“One Place is a masterpiece of documentary art.”—Roger Hodge, editor-in-chief, Oxford American magazine
“There is something downright supernatural about Kwilecki’s accomplishment. . . . It is a monumental chronicle of the real, messy, complicated, redeemed and redeeming American spirit.”—Randall Kenan, author of Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century
“Paul Kwilecki’s photographs and writings, and Tom Rankin’s introduction, offer evidence of a masterful visual drama of life in the South.”—Deborah Willis, photographer, author of Posing Beauty and Reflections in Black
“As full of riches as Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, Kwilecki’s sustained portrayal of Decatur County is an American classic.”—Alec Soth, photographer, author of From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America
Eight graduating seniors who have completed the Certificate in Documentary Studies at Duke University are showcasing their final projects in Beyond the Front Porch 2013. At an open house celebration at CDS on April 26, the students presented their projects and received their certificates.
2012 Certificate in Documentary Studies Graduates:
Sarah Van Name
For more information on the student's and their projects, click here.
Under the guidance of Alex Harris and teaching assistant Amanda Berg, the students completed their projects in the spring 2013 Capstone Seminar as the culmination of their documentary studies classes and certificate requirements. The works ”span the range of documentary possibilities from printed still black-and-white-photographs to audio, video, and multimedia,” says Harris. “Their projects have a deep personal connection to the lives [the students] have lived, or to the futures they envision. . . .They must translate their personal observations and experiences into something universal, something for the rest of us.”
Opening reception Tuesday, May 14th at 6 p.m.
Photographer MJ Sharp, a Center for Documentary Studies instructor, did an independent study with undergraduate student Jack Anderson that culminated in his exhibition of nighttime black-and-white photographs, Hidden in Plain Sight: Architectural Reminders of Durham’s Vital Past. Sharp explores the world at night in her work, as does Anderson. “We talk like two old crusty sailors about shooting at night,” says Sharp, "and I’ve been out on the sea just a little bit longer.”
Anderson says that he “began this project with the goal of documenting the process of gentrification in the city, but it has a evolved into a more targeted examination of particularly significant historical sites in Durham that have declined through neglect or abandonment. These places deserve more respect than they have been given; this exhibition attempts to help us remember them. The homes, workplaces, schools, and hospitals that we have forgotten are highlighted here in order to recall both the beauty they once had and the function they once served.”