INSTAGRAM THIS: MEMPHIS WANTS TO SHARE THESE PHOTOGRAPHERS + EXHIBITS WITH YOU NOW
Memphis is photogenic. (Ask anyone cheesing before the gates of Graceland or waiting for the right light to filter downtown.) Yet none of that explains the photographic talent connected to the city we’ll focus on today: Ernest C. Withers, Jack Robinson and William Eggleston.
Within the same medium and even in the same decade (the 1960s), the photographers’ subjects range: Withers shot the struggle; Robinson, the celebrities; Eggleston, the everyday.
Withers and Robinson have passed away, leaving their legacies in images. For his part, Eggleston continues working, dividing time between Memphis and Los Angeles. Here’s how you can study the men today:
View The Withers Collection on Beale Street. (We’ve been there in this blog before – remember? If not, read this and GO.) The collection displays some of the prolific (understatement) photojournalist’s highest-profile images: pivotal moments of the Civil Rights era beginning with stills from the Emmett Till murder trial; portraits from Negro League Baseball; these smiles from Elvis and B.B.:
The Withers Collection hours are Weds. and Thurs., 4-10 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., 4-11 p.m.; Sun., 4-9 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $7 for children. (No charge for children ages 3 and under, but consider what I said about sensitive images and what your child is ready to see and discuss).
Visit the Robinson Gallery in the South Main Art District (another spot we like to blog about). Though the gallery exhibits guest artists working in a variety of media, its staples are Jack Robinson’s street scenes, neon signs and those celebrity portraits that together read like a who’s who of 1960s pop culture (including Jack Nicholson, Tina Turner, The Who and Joni Mitchell, among others). Currently, you’ll find large-format canvas prints of Robinson’s work in the upstairs gallery, and his images of New Orleans and Mardi Gras downstairs. Robinson’s story is as compelling as his images, so be sure to read the info panels or ask an associate to share.
Robinson Gallery hours are Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and by appointment. Admission is free.
While plans progress for an Eggleston museum in Memphis, look for the photographer’s work at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. A dedicated wall in the lobby rotates images from the museum’s 279-piece Eggleston collection.
Fifty Works for Fifty States: While you’re at The Brooks, don’t miss The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works For Fifty States (through April 20, 2014). The Vogels built a close-to-5,000-piece contemporary art collection using Mr. Vogel’s postal-worker salary and out-of-the-box approaches to acquisition (there’s a story of the couple cat-sitting for Christo in exchange for a collage). They later partnered with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to gift their collection to the U.S. The partnership dedicated half of the collection to the National Gallery; the remaining 2,500 works were divided equally among the 50 states, deploying 50 pieces to one museum per state. Jackpot, Memphis!
…and two photo exhibits at The Dixon: If you can pull yourself away from desperately seeking signs of spring outside The Dixon Gallery & Gardens, you’ll discover two photography exhibits within: Color! American Photography Transformed (through March 23, 2014) and Wait Watchers (through March 30, 2014). Color! documents in 70-some images the integration and impact of color on photography in the U.S.; Wait Watchers depicts a social experiment by Haley Morris-Cafiero, head of the photography department at Memphis College of Art, in which she frames herself as reflected in the gazes of onlookers. Here’s a chromatic slap from Color!:
One to grow on: Jamie Harmon’s Amurica In 2011, Memphis-based freelance photographer Jamie Harmon fashioned a photo booth out of a 1959 teardrop trailer. Have your picture taken in it (and grab as many props as Jamie provides – hats, masks, baby dolls, plastic goats – on your way in). Follow Amurica on Facebook or Twitter to figure out when the booth, or an event in Harmon’s new-ish studio, will pop up next.
Are you always behind the camera or in front of it? Where’s your favorite spot in Memphis to pose or shoot?