"Capturing the South": A Book Event with Scott L. Matthews
Reception at 6pm, reading and book signing at 7 p.m. with Scott L. Matthews, author of Capturing the South: Imagining America's Most Documented Region, a recent book in the Center for Documentary Studies' Documentary Arts and Culture series with UNC Press. The event is cosponsored by UNC's Center for the Study of the American South, Duke's MFA in Experimental Documentary Arts program, and UNC Press.
Matthews' expansive history of documentary work in the South during the twentieth century examines the motivations and methodologies of pivotal documentarians, including sociologist Howard Odum, photographers Jack Delano and Danny Lyon, and music ethnographer John Cohen. Their work salvaged and celebrated folk cultures threatened by modernization or strived to reveal and reform problems linked to the region's racial caste system and exploitative agricultural economy.
Images of alluring primitivism and troubling pathology often blurred together, neutralizing the aims of documentary work carried out in the name of reform. Black and white southerners in turn often resisted documentarians' attempts to turn their private lives into public symbols. The accumulation of these influential and, occasionally, controversial documentary images created an enduring, complex, and sometimes self-defeating mythology about the South that persists into the twenty-first century.