On January 23rd 2014, McKissick Museum is showcasing an exhibition that celebrates the history of South Carolina’s rural counties in a casing called Photography of the Rural South. The exhibit is comprised of photographs taken by USC students from a newly established southern studies course provided by the University of South Carolina. This course gives a chance to students with no prior experience in photography to express themselves visually while providing viewers a glimpse of geographic beauty that is often overlooked. Throughout this course students traveled through various parts of South Carolina gathering footage, meeting residents, and capturing history, and in the process turned a mere elective course into a class to remember.
Originated by Kathleen Robbins, a USC photography professor, this course embodies the pure essence and nature of documentary photography. From establishing a composition to changing the ISO and shutter speed to their preference, these students have been able to take their lens and make it an extension of their sight and mind. After walking through the gallery with Edward Puchner, Curator of Exhibitions, I couldn’t help but pay more attention to subtle beauties that surrounded me, to the things I couldn’t catch in the fast-paced life that our society is so deeply submerged in. I don’t want to use the cliché, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” if only because some of them were worth more. Photographs of dilapidated houses on a scattered street tell a story of towns that use to be festive and active. Now, they’re just a solemn reminder of when things were very different.
While making my way around the exhibit, Puchner explained to me the significance and history that some of these photographs possess. The Orangeburg Massacre, a protest in South Carolina history that will never be forgotten, took place at a bowling alley near SC State University and resulted in the death of three with nine injured. Citizens were protesting the absurdity of South Carolina’s segregation laws. Though half a century has passed since then, a student’s photograph taken of the alley’s worn and tattered sign serves as a reminder of where South Carolina was and how far it has come.
Capturing beauty in its simplest form can be difficult due to how fast society is evolving around us. Everything is just a pocket reach away when the “world” can be accessed in one’s phone. Rarely does one walk through a park to take in the atmosphere or stroll through a garden to absorb its aesthetics. However, walking around the McKissick Gallery reminded me of subtler times when one could just be their self because it was the only thing that life demanded.
Wesley Young, Jasper Intern
McKissick Museum will be opening Photography of the Rural South on Thursday, January 23, 2014, with a reception from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. The exhibition runs through May 10, 2014.