High to show new images of the South by Alex Harris

North Carolina–based photographer Alex Harris created new works focusing on filmmaking in the South for the High’s permanent collection 

by Andrew Alexander
September 17, 2019

Featured image: Alex Harris (American, born 1949), And the People Could Fly in Columbia, South Carolina, 2018, pigmented inkjet print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, commissioned with funds from the H.B. and Doris Massey Charitable Trust and the Picturing the South Fund. © Alex Harris.

The High Museum of Art will debut more than 60 new works by North Carolina–based photographer Alex Harris in the latest exhibition for its “Picturing the South” series: “Our Strange New Land: Photographs by Alex Harris” (Nov. 29, 2019 – May 3, 2020).

For his commission, Harris made photographs on independent film sets throughout the South to explore how the region is seen, imagined and created by contemporary visual storytellers. Born and raised in Georgia, Harris is a founder of Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies and lives and works in Durham, North Carolina. 

Over the past two years, Alex Harris traveled around Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas capturing both the scenes constructed for film productions and the activity that unfolded around and adjacent to the sets, often blurring the lines between staged storytelling and real life. Though he leaves clues, Harris never fully reveals which pictures are contrived for the cinema and which are documentary happenstance.  

Alex Harris (American, born 1949), Abducted in Waxhaw, North Carolina, 2018, pigmented inkjet print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, commissioned with funds from the H.B. and Doris Massey Charitable Trust and the Picturing the South Fund. © Alex Harris.

“I began this project believing that, by photographing on contemporary Southern film sets, I might, through the visions and imaginations of these filmmakers, show the South in a new light,” said Alex Harris. “Over the last two years I found myself approaching these imagined dramas much in the same way I took on earlier, more traditional documentary projects, following my instincts and editing my photographs not to tell a particular story — or to be faithful to the plots of individual films — but to discover the story my photographs have to tell. Gradually, I became interested in seeing how my pictures from widely different film productions resonated with each other. Now, in mounting this exhibition with curators at the High, I see a cumulative portrait, not only of these productions and of the South, but of an idea that has long been celebrated in literature, explored in science and conveyed by philosophers — that is, the ways in which we are all actors in our own lives, creating our sets, practicing our lines, refining our characters, playing ourselves.” 


Alex Harris (American, born 1949), Thunder Road in Austin, Texas, 2017, pigmented inkjet print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, commissioned with funds from the H.B. and Doris Massey Charitable Trust and the Picturing the South Fund. © Alex Harris.

Alex Harris (American, born 1949), Liberty in Miami, Florida, 2018, pigmented inkjet print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, commissioned with funds from the H.B. and Doris Massey Charitable Trust and the Picturing the South Fund. © Alex Harris.

Alex Harris (American, born 1949), The Funeral Band in New Orleans, Louisiana, 2018, pigmented inkjet print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, commissioned with funds from the H.B. and Doris Massey Charitable Trust and the Picturing the South Fund. © Alex Harris.

Alex Harris (American, born 1949), The Astronomers in Rock Hill, South Carolina, 2018, pigmented inkjet print. Courtesy of the artist. © Alex Harris.

Alex Harris (American, born 1949), Miner’s Mountain in Wilmington, North Carolina, 2017, pigmented inkjet print. Courtesy of the artist. © Alex Harris.

Alex Harris (American, born 1949), Greener Grass in Gay, Georgia, 2018, pigmented inkjet print. Courtesy of the artist. © Alex Harris.

“Our Strange New Land: Photographs by Alex Harris” will be on view in the Lucinda Weil Bunnen Photography Galleries on the Lower Level of the High’s Wieland Pavilion from Nov. 29, 2019 to May 3, 2020.


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