In keeping with our current study of identity via place/memory, particularly as exemplified in southern photographers’ representation of the southern landscape, a look at up-and-coming photographer and recent PhotoNOLA Review Prize winner, Jessica Ingram, fits our topic perfectly.
Born and raised in Tennessee, Ingram studied both photography and political science and says her work is “motivated by her desire to understand how people relate, what they long for, and what motivates the choices they make.”1 Accordingly, her work merges the personal with a socially conscious and political point of view.
“Both of my parents were social workers and my father became a journalist. I was encouraged to be part of community. Through these influences, and through teaching, I am interested in using photography to answer questions and get to know and understand people, whether it’s people in my family, or strangers. I’m also interested in history, and thinking about the stories and history in landscapes, most recently, in the American South.”2 Although Ingram no longer lives in the South, she makes frequent visits to carry on an on-going project, “Pictures from Home.”
What is most interesting about Ingram’s work is her use of the personal to get to broader feelings about life in the South. As a fellow southerner, I immediately identify with the landscapes and interior spaces she captures and recognize the pictures that point to Sunday rituals and the ever present signifiers of that good ol’ southern religion. As you look through the portfolio you’ll notice a Bible here and there, “rapture talk” (as Jim White calls it in Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus) posted on billboards, and the endearing sequence of Ingram’s grandmother walking to church.
“I use photography and the experiences I have with people through photographing them, as a way to ask questions, and to gain entry. This is true of photographing my family as well. I wanted to really look at them, and understand my relationship to them, and ask questions…I’m still learning a lot about my family, and it’s a wonderful, and difficult, but ultimately worthwhile experience.”3
In “A Civil Rights Memorial” Ingram has crisscrossed the South to create a sort of reportage of both marked and unmarked locations of significant historical consequence in the Civil Rights movement. The pictures, when coupled with Ingram’s captions, are quite moving and balance wonderfully between the beautiful and the tragic through their embodiment of both a personal point of view and a sort of direct, documentarian matter-of-factness.
1. Jessica Ingram.
2. Nina Buesing Corvallo. “A Conversation with Jessica Ingram.” NYMPHOTO. 7 Aug. 2008.
3. Allison Zavos. “Q&A: Jessica Ingram, New York.” Feature Shoot. 23 June 2008.
4. Holly Stuart Hughes. “Portfolio Review: Orion’s Jason Houston on ‘A Civil Rights Memorial’ by Jessica Ingram.” PDN. 7 Jan. 2010.