Georgia on My Mind: A Beautiful Story Told Through the People and the Land

Photo: Alan and Friend, Vicksberg, MS 1983, Baldwin Lee, 1983, image courtesy of The Do Good Fund

This is the story of Georgia, the story of the people and the land, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies to form the United States of America. Established in 1732, Georgia was named for King George II, a man best known for his mistresses, his temper, and his family problems. Over the past three centuries, Georgia come into its own, acquiring a reputation that embodies the spirit of the South, for better and for worse.

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The gentile side of the Peach State has never masked a fetid core, a reminder that half the state’s population was enslaved up until the Civil War. Antebellum Georgia has been the setting for literary works as diverse as Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Both books were made into films, giving the world a look inside the dualistic identity of the state and providing narratives as different as night at day.

Road Trip, Georgia Rhodes, 2014, image courtesy of The Do Good Fund

Road Trip, Georgia Rhodes, 2014, image courtesy of The Do Good Fund

More recently, Georgia has gotten back on the map as Atlanta has risen again, becoming an economic and cultural epicenter of African American life. Over the past two decades, Southern Hip Hop came up with Outkast leading the charge. An entirely new sound and style arrived on the scene, a laid back funk combined with a bootie shaking beat, a flow all its own with lyrics that speak a dialect distinctive to the state.

Today, Georgia is nearly 60% white, 30% black, and 9% Latino, as almost half of the African American population left the state during the Great Migration. And while Atlanta continues to expand at a remarkable rate, the history of the people can be found across the countryside.

Woman in Hat, Lula, MS 1984, Baldwin Lee, image courtesy of The Do Good Fund

Woman in Hat, Lula, MS 1984, Baldwin Lee, image courtesy of The Do Good Fund

Land Inhabited and Works of Baldwin Lee, a new photography exhibition on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia, Atlanta, now through November 19, 2016, celebrates the people and the places that have made Georgia “The Empire of the South.”

Curated by Annette Cone-Skelton, the exhibition presents the 58 photographs from the collection of The Do Good Fund, a public charity based in Columbus, Georgia. The exhibition includes a large selection of works by Brooklyn-born Tennessee-based photographer Baldwin Lee, along with photographs by artists including Debbie Fleming Caffery, William Christenberry, Maude Schuyler Clay, Walter Pickering, Tamara Reynolds, Georgia Rhodes, Mark Steinmetz, and Susan Worsham.

Destiny, Grandmother's Roses, VA, Susan Worsham, image courtesy of The Do Good Fund

Destiny, Grandmother’s Roses, VA, Susan Worsham, image courtesy of The Do Good Fund

The exhibition looks at the relationship between Georgians and the land, exploring the way in which place becomes a metaphor for the past, present, and future. As Cone-Skelteon explains, “Some photographs speak to the remains of where humans once were and the history of those inhabitants. Others mark direct relationships between different people, the structures they have built, or both. The photographic documentation of the communities and histories in this exhibition truly show the essence of a land inhabited.”

The result is a poetic study of the politics of place and the relationship between representation and the creation of history. By focusing on the humanistic elements of life, of the pure, visceral ways in which we exist in the landscape, Land Inhabited and the Works of Baldwin Lee provides a profound space for contemplation of Georgia in its most humble glory.

Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.