For one weekend every year since 2003, tiny Concord, Georgia, population 336, becomes a photography mecca. “Slow Exposures” lures photographers, curators, and editors to look at pictures from the South, to discuss and debate them, and to exchange experiences, all thanks to the wonderful Chris Curry and Nancy McCrary, with the help of a staff of cheerful volunteers. Southern conviviality and hospitality create an ambiance that is most of all creative and communicative.
Chris and Nancy created the festival as a photographic center representing the rural South. It is a non-profit organization, with proceeds going toward the preservation and restoration of historic buildings and land in Pike County, and attracts devotees and newcomers for a full slate of photographic events: a juried photography show, an all-day portfolio review, and exhibitions, all in beautifully restored local buildings. This year, John Bennette, a curator, collector, and champion of artists, conceived the wonderful exhibition “Southern Memories: Part I” for the festival, on view in the restored Whiskey Bonding Bar, in Molena. The show is John’s subjective vision of the South, shaped by his memories—he grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and now lives in New York. Asking himself what is important in the South, he came up with four categories: the land, God, school, and Southern history; he believes that history—i.e., the Civil War—still drives Southern culture today. His show avoids the extremes of rich and poor and stays away from clichés. Many of the artists he included were discovered in earlier “Slow Exposure” shows, and were surprises to me.