When people envision the South, they may conjure images made by photographers who stylized the “Southernization” of aesthetics during the last century. Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, Sally Mann and William Christenberry. There are the pastoral landscapes covered in Spanish moss; the storybook scenes of small towns and people whose lives have only known those small towns; historical images of segregation and stereotypical images impoverished Americans in crumbling homes. These images have had a lasting impact, but at a cost.
“The perception of the South in photography is 50 years behind the reality,” says Richard McCabe, curator of photography at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans. “It’s a place that’s shrouded in mystery and mythology and legend.”
TIME recently devoted a special issue to the changing South, with photographers who reflected a variety of voices that either showed us the familiar in a surprising way, or a subject matter that we had not seen before. Their work, and more, is included in two upcoming exhibitions: New Southern Photography (opening Oct. 6) at the Ogden, and Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South (opening Oct. 19) at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston. Both exhibitions explore the sense of time, place and identity of a region in flux.