The Club is a private dinner dance club, cantilevered off the side of Red Mountain. Architect John Davis designed The Club, which was constructed in 1951. The sweeping panoramic view is visible from the slanted floor to ceiling windows of the multilevel circular ballrooms. Circular and parabolic forms are incorporated throughout the building including a rotating dance floor which served as the model for the floor in the movie Saturday Night Fever. The pervasive script, “The Club” appears on door handles and in neon signs throughout the building. The Club reflects a unique time of economic growth in the history of the city of Birmingham and it was a very active place during 60’s and 70’s which was significant for other historical reasons.
Thicker Than Water
Thicker Than Water, is a series of photographs that look at the complex experience of adoption from the vantage point of the adoptee. The project uses stories that shed light on relationships in families with non-biologically related family members. The stories are paired with photographs of momentos, a baby cup, a blanket or the inscription on the back of a photograph.
The biological and non-biological relationships illuminate a larger experience by recording the details and effects of adoption on the individual, the family and on remote players in the adoption circle.
The stories are written in the first person, although only a few are mine.
Dazzling is a series of portraits taken at the Platinum International Newcomer’s Pageant. The first Pageant was held in an improvised club in the town of Fairfield, Alabama, a previously white steel town outside of Birmingham, Alabama, whose population is now 90.23% African American. The portraits are of the men who compete, who come as dressers, make-up artists, judges, sound specialists and audience members for the Platinum International Newcomer’s Pageant.
There is an intricate social network that operates at the pageant and unlike the system that appears in white clubs, this system is colored by the racial history and culture of the Deep South mirroring the church community that has long been a haven for blacks in the area. The system provides an environment and support system for young men who may not have another place in the rigid society of the south and participants come from all over the region.
The pageant moved from the Phoenix Club to Club Obsession, Rainbow City, and The Back Door. The clubs by nature are makeshift, with black plastic partitions and handheld spotlights. The images illuminate the beauty and the vulnerability of the black men who are wrestling with their sexual identity. It is also a way to show their dazzling personas. They are photograph with a black backdrop and studio lights, taking the subjects out of an identifiable environment. The images are printed close to life size; the scale gives the subjects a sense of dignity and also makes the viewer feel as though they are with them in the room. It is a confrontational technique that encourages empathy from the viewer. There are transformations that occur— not just of sexual identity but a transformation into a complete personality with a totally developed character. Often times the identities are bigger and brighter than the fragile male persona that is present when they are not dressed.
The prints in the series Rally, pair the black and white images of a night-time Klan Rally taken in 1979 with digital color images of Alabama skies. The rally was held in Gardendale, Alabama a working class suburb of Birmingham on a Sunday night. Everyone was in full regalia, including children who were playing under trucks, running in the fields or eating ice cream cones. The adults held shotguns upright and out from their bodies because they were loaded. In the dark the cross was burned with a ritual circle, marching and chanting.
My eyes were wide open, I moved to a place in the United States that felt like another country. I began photographing this sense of culture, politics, and difference. I photographed the tiny elements of everyday things that were the surface elements of a darker humanity. But I also photographed the beautiful Alabama skies looking in all directions to try and make sense of the place.
Queen on the Nile
These portraits are taken in Camden, Alabama at a home on Broad Street just blocks from the center of town. The Federal style houses were built in the 1840’s and have broad front yards and property and barns in the back for livestock and gardens. The photographs were taken on Halloween, of children Trick-or-Treating. Some come from as far as 20 miles away. Camden is the largest town in Wilcox, County the poorest county in the state, and it is 38 miles from Selma. Arthur Rothstein and Marion Post Wolcott photographed in Gee’s Bend across the river from Camden in 1937 for the FSA. Rothstein photographed Artelia Bendolph, whom he often referred to as Queen on the Nile.
Camden was the locus for important civil rights activities, across the river from Gee’s Bend a community isolated in the curve of the Alabama River. In 1964 Martin Luther King traveled across the river by ferry from Camden to Gee’s Bend to encourage the descendants of slaves to vote. The ferry was closed in reprisal and didn’t re-open until 2006.The reopening of the ferry was a result of efforts of white community leaders who regretted their 1964 decision to have it closed.
The 2010 census lists the median income for a family as $22,100 and one out of four households has a female head with no husband present.
On Halloween children get to be what they want to be, a gorilla, a hooded ninja, a convict, a sparkle fairy princess before they grow up and find that these things mean something else. Siblings in this community care for younger family members, carrying them around this night. The children who go to different schools, blacks to the public school and whites to the private schools all trick or treat together and know each other in a way that is unique to small southern towns. On Halloween, the night is beautiful, safe and idyllic in a way that only a small town can provide.
Ashes to Ashes Sea to Sky
These photographs were taken at place where the sea meets the sky, one year after the death of GCR, October 10, 1997 shortly after 1:00 am. They are toned silver gelatin prints.
Honey who left the window open? 8x10 Polaroid Photographs