Thursday, 10 May 2012

Anderson Scott, Whistling Dixie

Atlanta-based photographer Anderson Scott has an exceptional eye, and an amazing sense of timing.

How else could he make images like the one above, or the one below, that say so much about the people involved, and about some of the more complex and crazy aspects of Southern culture.

He's been photographing Confederate re-enactors -- in the field and in battle, as well as hanging out around the encampment and attending the Jefferson Davis Birthday Parties and all the other attendant activities these folks get up to in the pursuit of their fantasy that the South won (or should have won) -- the Civil War.

Scott gets these folks just right in his comments for a portfolio of work he published in SXSE magazine last year.

Scott says, "reenactments involve several hundred to many thousands of (overwhelmingly white) people camping out in a facsimile of 1860s army life, with a mock battle or two thrown in.

"At the reenactment, I found a population that seriously believed that this world would have been a better place had the South won.

"I also learned that this population routinely acts out its beliefs in elaborate alternate-reality events, not just reenactments, but also many other public and private functions.

"These events seem to combine political magical thinking (“If I wish hard enough, the Confederacy will return”) and personal magical thinking (“Here at the reenactment I am the dashing Confederate officer I rightfully should be, rather than the functionary that I am at work”)."

These images suggest other kinds of magical thinking as well. Like the thoughts running through the heads of the two guys in the image above who are taking exceptionally un-paternal interest in the young blond woman sitting between them.

Then there is the look on the face of the young woman in the right foreground of the image at the top of this blog entry -- my guess is, she's asking herself how the hell did she let herself get dressed up in this silly dress and sitting on a toe-sack in front of that mean-looking white woman and that flag, and just when a photographer walked by.

This work represents, to me, the best send-up of Old South iconography, and its sad, desperate, fans since Susan Harbage Page's Postcards from Home project, her images of Klan hoods made out of gingham cloth and Wal-Mart shopping bags.

Scott's perhaps most truthful image in this portfolio is this one, of a frightened and pathetic little boy alone in the woods, with only his way-too-big gun to help him feel safe. It would kill him if he had to fire it, but for the moment he's safe in his sad fantasy that his gun makes him a real man. 

Scott is publishing a book of his images made while sojourning among the Confederate re-enactors, with the Columbia College Chicago Press, called Whistling Dixie, and its coming out in late summer of 2012.

I've ordered my copy. This one is clearly a keeper.

No comments:

Post a Comment